If you are like many people, you may have been making plans and goals for your business this year.
One of those goals may have been to make better use of LinkedIn’s ability to network or generate new leads and sales. If you are a more advanced LinkedIn user, perhaps you want to finally figure out how to put all of LinkedIn’s many changes during 2013 to good use.
Whether you are a new or advanced LinkedIn user, you are sure to find a number of their recent changes to be beneficial to your plan for LinkedIn in 2014.
The changes to LinkedIn over the past year ranged from cosmetic changes to the addition of new features and functionality. The year saw a complete redesign of LinkedIn’s look and global navigation to create a cleaner and more streamlined experience. To go along with this look, they updated and in some cases, completely modified several of their pages and features.
Here is a summary of the best and most useful changes to LinkedIn this past year that will help you strengthen your presence and better leverage relationships on the network.
1. LinkedIn Contacts Page
Probably the most noticeable and significant of the changes for the entire LinkedIn community are the changes to the Contacts Page. Before the changes were rolled out, this page mainly served as a directory for your LinkedIn connections. The page was most often used by members with a large number of connections or advanced users who made use of the ability to segment their contacts into different lists using the original tag feature.
The modifications the page underwent have made it one of the most valuable tools and resources on the platform. Both free and paid members can now save other LinkedIn members (even if they are not directly connected) into their new Tag feature, which is mix of the old Tag (for all members) and Profile Organizer (for paid members) and now acts as a way to save members into useful lists. Accessible from both the Contacts Page and Profile Page, you can add any LinkedIn member within your network to any number of tags (up to 200) to help you organize your contacts. Once you have added your contacts to the appropriate tags, you can then sort them on the Contacts page by Recent Conversation, Last Name, First Name and New.
ADVANCED TIP: A quick way to learn whether you are directly connected on LinkedIn with a connection you have tagged is by the color of the little “in” box located on the right side of every contact on your Contact Page. If the box is blue, you are 1st degree connection. If the box is grey, you are not directly connected.
As well as the ability to filter your contacts by Tags, you can also now filter them by All Contacts (if you have linked your account with your email or an app), Connections (your 1st degree connections), Company, Location, Title and Source (contacts imported from a specific app or email source) as well as Saved, Hidden and Potential Duplicates.
The Contacts page also offers several other features. When you hover over each profile, you will be able to directly send a message to the connection, hide their profile or delete them as a contact.
Boxes will also appear at the top of the Contacts page when one or more of your contacts have a significant event happening such as a job change, work anniversary or birthday.
ADVANCED TIP: The event alert boxes at the top of the contact page are a great way to reach out and stay in contact with your LinkedIn connections, keeping you top of mind.
2. LinkedIn Profiles
With the new Contacts page also came a number of connected additions to Profile Pages. Just below a member’s image and headline is the Relationship and Contact info box. In the Relationship area you will find a timeline of your messages and relationship with a connection including the date you connected. From here you can also place your connection in the appropriate Tags and add any Notes, Reminders (can set for 1 Day, 1 Week, 1 Month and Recurring) and How You Met.
ADVANCED TIP: Use the Relationship section for each of your connections to easily keep track of any important information about them as well as to set reminders to follow up with them in the future.
Profiles have also gotten more visual with the addition of Rich Media. In fact, since its addition, it has become an extremely popular and useful feature. LinkedIn states:
“Over 10 million stunning images, compelling videos and innovative presentations have been added to LinkedIn profiles.” (Source)
Depending on your profession and skills, you can showcase things such as your achievements or creations whether they are images, videos, PDF files or Slideshare presentations, right within your profile. You can easily upload or link to a file in each of the sections from the Edit Profile screen.
This addition has become even more important recently with the removal of the Activity Feed from the Profile Page, which was another way you could make your Profile Page more interesting and up-to-date.
ADVANCED TIP: Make your profile standout and be more engaging by incorporating images, videos, PDF files or Slideshare presentations using LinkedIn’s new Rich Media feature. You can also add Rich Media to your updates on your Home Page.
3. LinkedIn’s Inbox
The end of 2013 also brought a number of changes to both the look and features in LinkedIn’s Inbox, which are still in the process of being rolled out. One of my favorite additions to the Inbox is the ability to preview the content of each message from the main message area. Another important new feature is the ability to “star” important messages.
Even with all of the great changes made, the one change that I believe should have been made but wasn’t is the “Allow recipients to see each other’s names and email addresses” box to be automatically unchecked. This means that if you are sending messages to more than one person, you must still remember to unselect this box.
The Invitations Page in the Inbox also received a number of changes. LinkedIn has now made it easy to see connections you share, when you are viewing a connection request. They have also added the option to Reply (don’t accept yet). This means that you can reply to or ask a question of people who send you a connection request without having to connect with them first.
ADVANCED TIP: While you can still send bulk messages to up to 50 connections at once, you are no longer able to access your LinkedIn Address Book when composing a message. You now must either type in the names of people you want to add or go to your Contacts Page and select the contacts you wish to send to from the appropriate tag list.
4. LinkedIn Groups
Groups underwent a couple of changes during the year. The changes started with a new, cleaner look and some major modifications to navigation. The rotating hero image and manager’s choice posts at the top of the Discussions Page was one of the most valued additions after the first set of changes to LinkedIn Groups was made. This addition not only increases the exposure of popular or important posts chosen by the group administrator but also allows for more streamlined branding within the group.
ADVANCED TIP: Quickly locate discussions you have started, are participating in, following or that are pending approval on the Search Page, in the menu options available below the search box.
There was a particularly useful feature added to Groups later in the year called Top Contributors. This feature is meant to improve the quality and quantity of content and interactions within groups. Regular interaction in the form of posts and comments will raise a member’ standing in the group while promotional, spam, negative or inappropriate content will drop their contributor level. The levels are recalculated each day and include:
- Getting started
- Finding an audience
- Making an impact
- Building influence
- Top Contributor
ADVANCED TIP: Achieve Top Contributor status by posting great content that is relevant to the group on a regular basis as well as taking the time to read and engage thoughtfully with other posts and group members.
5. LinkedIn Company Pages
Company Pages received many helpful additions and changes in 2013. The most important new feature to LinkedIn’s Company Pages was Sponsored Updates. Sponsored Updates are simply company updates that you pay to promote so they will be shown to LinkedIn members that are not already following your company page. The sponsored updates are targeted and can greatly increase the exposure and reach of your company page.
Options you can narrow down your target audience with include:
- Company name
- Company category (industry, company size)
- Job title
- Job category (job function, seniority)
- Schools attended
- LinkedIn groups
ADVANCED TIP: When creating an update that you plan to use as a sponsored update, ensure that you have a catchy headline and a clear call to action. Keep in mind that updates with links can drive 2x the engagement and images generally result in a 98% higher engagement rate.
Company Page Analytics for page administrators has been helpful in determining the value and engagement of each sponsored and regular post as well as the page’s overall reach, engagement, follower demographics and how the page compares to similar pages.
Other updates to Company Pages include the addition of a banner image at the top of the home page, featured groups and Showcase Pages. Showcase pages provide companies with the ability to focus their message and share content and updates that are created for specific audiences. This allows LinkedIn members to follow a specific showcase page that is of interest to them without having to follow the Company Page. Showcase Pages also have their own separate analytics.
Three More LinkedIn Changes
Three other changes to LinkedIn this last year worth mentioning include the Who’s Viewed Your Updates feature, LinkedIn Pulse and the redesign of the mobile LinkedIn app.
Who’s Viewed Your Updates is found in a box on the right side of your LinkedIn home page. It shows you how many people have viewed your most recent updates as well as how many likes and comments each update has received. The benefit of this feature is that it illustrates not only the views and interactions of your 1st degree connections but also your 2nd and 3rd degree connections as well.
Previously known as LinkedIn Today, LinkedIn Pulse is an excellent way to find new and relevant content to keep updated on topics of interest or to share. You can access LinkedIn Pulse via your home page feed or the Pulse App on mobile devices.
The LinkedIn mobile app is now available for most devices and provides an easy way for members to gain access to their contacts and calendars wherever they go.
ADVANCED TIP: LinkedIn members with large networks may want to think twice before downloading their LinkedIn contacts list into their iPhone address book.
I have shared with you only some of the changes made by LinkedIn over the last year. These are the ones I feel are most useful for professionals, business owners and sales people. What is your most or least favorite change on LinkedIn during 2013? Have I missed any changes that you think are useful? Share in the comments below.