10 New Need-to-Know Features on LinkedIn
If it's been a few months since your last visit to LinkedIn, you're missing out on a boatload of tools and other goodies the online business network has added since around the time it hit the 100 million member mark.
Make no mistake, LinkedIn still is all business, as many of its new features show. They include more ways to stay in touch with current and former business connections, track current events, find a job or, if you're a small-business owner, find help.
Here is a selective list of some of LinkedIn's newest features:
News. LinkedIn's beefed-up News section starts with LinkedIn Today, a personalized, online "newspaper" that launched in March. The page is composed of stories collected from sources such as CNN, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio and Bloomberg -- as shared by your LinkedIn connections. Members can customize the section's front page to show only stories from industries they're interested in. The News section also lets you share stories or save them to read later.
Status updates and Signal. You're probably familiar with the Facebook- or Twitter-style status updates that LinkedIn added to users' home pages so they can share what they're reading or working on with connections and vice versa. A new feature called Signal takes that one step further by allowing members to search their connections' updates by company, industry or location, and save the searches.
Share tools. If you spend much time on Facebook, LinkedIn's share tools look familiar. Think an article about a new, faster iPhone that a connection shared looks interesting? Use the tools to "Like" it or leave a comment. Or use the "Share" button to forward it to one of your LinkedIn Groups or via email to people in or outside the network.
Skills. LinkedIn tapped into the massive amount of information on job skills buried in its member and company profiles and Answers section to create a new resource called LinkedIn Skills. Type a phrase such as "software project management" into the page's search window and it pulls up a Wikipedia description of what that particular body of knowledge includes. Search results also include links to prominent LinkedIn members who list the skill in their profiles, companies that hire people with the skill and related job openings.
Embedded apps. It's been a while since LinkedIn first gave members access to non-LinkedIn software applications inside the network, all the better to flesh out their homepages and get more done while on the service. In the beginning, there were only a few of these embedded apps, including Twitter, WordPress, Box.Net and TripIt. Today, LinkedIn's Application Directory lists 20, including Google Presentation, Powerpoint-type presentation software; Slideshare Presentations, a web-based slide show presentation tool; Huddle Workspaces, secure project collaboration software; and Lawyer Ratings, from LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell.
Profile organizer. In addition to its free features, LinkedIn offers a handful of extras to people who pay for its premium services. One of those paid extras is InMail, which lets a member send a message to anyone in the network, regardless of whether they're a connection. A newer paid feature is the Profile Organizer. Hover your cursor over "Profile" on the main navigation bar and you'll see the Profile Organizer link at the bottom of the drop-down menu. That tool lets members search for other LinkedIn users and save information on people they find in the equivalent of an online address book. People can add their own notes to someone's file, making it handy for job searches, finding an employee or looking for a consultant or other service provider. The Profile Organizer is available as part of LinkedIn's premium membership, which starts at $19.95 a month.
Job-finding service. Looking for work? The Job Seeker Premium service, which starts at $19.95 a month, includes InMail and introductions to 10 companies you're interested in working for. It also puts a "Job Seeker" badge on your profile, and every time you apply for a job through the network, your name moves to the top of the list of applicants.
Employee-finding service. The Talent Finder feature is the flip side of LinkedIn's job-seeker services. Entrepreneurs pay $40 a month and up for access to InMail, names of people outside their circle of connections, and advanced database search tools to find job candidates with experience that matches what they're looking for.
Mobile apps. Download mobile versions of LinkedIn for BlackBerry, iPhone, Android or Palm Pre smartphones. If you use something else, check in via the network's mobile-optimized website, m.LinkedIn.com.
Education center. Keeping up with new features and everything else LinkedIn offers can be daunting, especially for newcomers. To help people get started, LinkedIn created a Learning Center that should be every new member's first stop. It's got a well-organized overview section, new-user guide and in-depth instructions for creating a profile. The resource offers separate user guides to help small businesses, entrepreneurs, job seekers, students, nonprofits, and yes, even journalists, get the most out of the service.
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