LinkedIn Rolls Out Service for Serious Networkers

Monday Aug 8th 2005 by Dan Muse
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Now boasting 3.3 millions users, LinkedIn today announced a new premium service that allows recruiters and others to gently sidestep the relationship part of social networking.

LinkedIn Corp., one of the pioneers of social networking applications, reports that it currently has 3.3 million professionals among its members. Membership continues to be free and will always be free, according to Konstantin Guericke, vice president of marketing at LinkedIn. However, the company also recognizes that access to its database is a valuable tool for small businesses that focus on recruiting, financial advice, consulting and research.

Announced today, LinkedIn Business Accounts is designed to provide more powerful search tools to find the right job candidates and experts quickly and efficiently.The new service is aimed at the 12 percent of the users who send 80 percent of the messages, Guericke said. "For recruiters, this fits like a hand in a glove. This is their Excel."  By upgrading to for-pay service, recruiters and researchers can find job candidates and experts not just from their networks, but also from the complete LinkedIn Network.

In addition to tools to help you find the right contacts, LinkedIn Business Accounts also provides InMail, which is a new way to communicate with LinkedIn members. While contacting a user through introductions — the basic premise of social networking software — is still likely to yield the highest response rate, Guericke said, InMail is more effective once you are more than three degrees of separation away from the person you want to contact. "It's a limited personal network for the 3rd degree, but when you get to the 4th degree, it's no different than 8th or 12th," he said. "When it's a 3rd degree connection, you always know either the sender or receiver."


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Guericke said that LinkedIn recognizes the importance of protecting the privacy of its members, who don't want to spend time dealing with off-target messages. No contact information is ever shared with anyone on LinkedIn without a user's explicit consent, and the profiles of users shown in the LinkedIn Network results are kept anonymous, so users are protected from unwanted phone calls or e-mails, according to the company.

Guericke said LinkedIn looked at the question, "How do you make it fair? How do you make it work for recruiters, but also for users."

To help rein in potentially overzealous senders, LinkedIn has also added feedback ratings similar to what you'd find on eBay. Recipients rate the communications based on their interest and appropriateness. They can respond that it "was it of interest, not of interest but appropriate or not on target," Guericke said.

When users receive an InMail, they can review the sender's full profile including the InMail Feedback rating. If the recipient decides to pursue an opportunity received through InMail, the sender receives the recipient's name and contact information, and the sender's InMail Feedback rating gets updated to reflect the successful contact. "This will give the sender pause," Guericke said.

"We have to be careful," Guericke said, "We have people who choose be here versus being in a database they didn't even know they were a part of." To help make businesses who sign up for LinkedIn Business Accounts discerning, the $15 per month fee allows them to send only three messages. Or the $50 per month version allows up to 10 messages.

Today's announcement marks the fourth premium service from LinkedIn. In March, it launched LinkedIn Jobs, a service that allows recruiters and hiring managers to ask fellow employees and other trusted contacts for referrals and to conduct reference checks. In April, it announced LinkedIn Services, which is designed to connect professionals and business owners with local service providers, such as lawyers, accountants and technology services.

Last month, the company announced LinkedIn for Groups, a service aimed at alumni, professional groups and other organizations that want to help members stay in contact.

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com's Small Business Channel, EarthWeb's Networking Channel and ServerWatch.

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