To date, LinkedIn has allowed a small, editorially selected group of “Influencers” like Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Barack Obama to publish their thoughts and advice to its network as long-form blog posts. Now, that changes, as LinkedIn prepares to open up access to its publishing platform to all 277 million users on its network.
The company says the rollout is staged, with initial access arriving for some 25,000 English language users of LinkedIn, with a worldwide reach planned for a couple of months from today, give or take.
“One of our big, strategic bets for the company is for LinkedIn to become the definitive, professional publishing platform,” says Ryan Roslansky, Head of Content Products at LinkedIn. “We do this because we want LinkedIn to be the place where members can become productive, successful professionals – not just when you’re trying to find a job, or search for another person.”
In other words, LinkedIn needs a hook that would make it more of a daily or at least a weekly destination for end users, rather than a place you go to update your resume when looking for work.
The company first launched its “Influencer” network last fall with 150 “thought leaders,” and has since grown that to around 500 in the time since. That number will remain unchanged, though Roslansky tells us that the new open access to publishing on LinkedIn could potentially allow others to break into these more exclusive ranks by writing posts that find a wider audience engaging with and sharing their content.
Today, Influencer posts are well-trafficked on the site, he says, and see over 20,000 unique views, over 250 likes and 80 comments, on average. (Would-be-influencers, these are the metrics you’d have to hit to qualify for consideration, we’d wager.) The company is also adding a few new Influencers in conjunction with the wider publishing rollout, including Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, Financial Expert and CNBC host Suze Orman, and Summly founder and Yahoo! Product Manager Nick D’Aloisio.
Currently, LinkedIn’s publishing system lets the Influencers share text accompanied by images, with no limitations on word count. These posts are pushed out to the LinkedIn homepage, where featured items rotate between four top-level positions. The posts also appear in an email digest, in the flagship LinkedIn application and in the Pulse app (the news reader app that LinkedIn acquired last year).
For members who choose to participate, the posts will appear on their profiles where they will “live forever” as a part of your professional identity, explains Roslansky. To reach those who can benefit from that knowledge, LinkedIn will tap into its understanding of users’ industry and interests to better target the right posts to the right people.
“One of the great things about LinkedIn is when you create a profile on LinkedIn, we know a lot about who you are, your industry, your function in your company, etc. – we have great insight into the interests you care about,” he says. So for example, if LinkedIn sees you’re a graphic designer and it sees a piece of content algorithmically trending on the subject of graphic design, it will make the match.
Of course, just because a network builds a publishing platform doesn’t mean everyone immediately becomes a great blogger. Case in point: Medium, which proves that just like tech news sites, newspaper websites or personal blogs, there will be gems and there will be some serious crap. Roslansky isn’t worried about the “crap” problem, though, saying that LinkedIn pieces will be published by those looking to share their professional thoughts and opinions – insight that hasn’t been written yet because it exists only in people’s heads right now.
(That being said, you’d be surprised at what sort of content people can spit out and proudly attach their byline to.)
LinkedIn may be looking to deliver more personalized insights and increase user engagement, but the actual end result – given broad enough adoption of the pro blogging feature – will likely be better hiring decisions as companies get to know the person behind the resume.