LinkedIn — a social network for the working world with 350 million users — has been taking several steps to build up its profile with educational institutions and specifically students that are making their way from the classroom into the workplace. Today comes the latest chapter in that strategy: LinkedIn’s target="_blank" href="http://addtoprofile.linkedin.com/">self-service widget — where people can add qualifications to their LinkedIn profiles without actually visiting LinkedIn — will now appear on websites for colleges and universities.
The institutions that have initially signed up for the program are Arizona State University; Kaplan University; University of California, San Diego; Villanova University; George Washington University; Full Sail University; UK’s University of Manchester; UK’s University of Cambridge; Universitas Indonesia; the UK’s Open University; Algonquin College; Keio University; and the University of Melbourne — 13 in all.
This is an extension of a program that was first launched last year with online learning sites like Lynda.com, Coursera and Microsoft. And it comes on the heels of the company making several other moves to cater to younger users. That has included opening special profile pages for higher-education institutions, lowering the minimum age for LinkedIn accounts to 13+, and giving those younger users a search tool to research and find schools to apply to and attend.
The effort seems to be working: LinkedIn tells me that there are now 40 million college students and recent graduates using its platform and that it is one of its fastest-growing demographics.
The new functionality getting announced today will allow colleges and universities to add a button to their sites and in emails that will let their students present and past add more credentials to their LinkedIn profiles, specifically in the education section.
The benefits of this new development work in three ways. First, on the part of the user, LinkedIn claims that addition educational credentials to your profile increases the views of it tenfold. In addition to having the credential there for posterity, you also get an alert sent out to your contacts whenever you update your profile, so that too gives you more visibility.
On the part of the universities, this will give them one more contact point with their current students as well as alumni. In the ongoing struggle for funding for higher education, anything that lets these schools continue their link with the latter group is a potential string that ties them in with their alma mater and potentially can be pulled by the school for future fundraising drives.
Or, as LinkedIn describes it, the widget “is a helpful service to offer students and a low-effort way to stay connected with them over the long term.”
Third and possibly most important is LinkedIn itself. The company continues to look for ways to engage users to continually update and refresh the content on the site, and to visit it more regularly. This is one way of doing that.
And at a time when we are seeing sites like Twitter and Facebook extend their ad and social networks off-site to third-party properties by way of embedded tweets and comment sections, the self-service profile widget is one way for LinkedIn to keep its oar in the waters for a time when it too might like to try to extend its identity graph further into other services. One potential area that LinkedIn could develop over time, for example, could be not just acting as a resume respository for logging qualifications, but a place where people could go to actually get those qualifications online.
This also helps LinkedIn amass more data about its users, which is can harness to improve other aspects of its business like Talent Solutions (recruitment) as well as advertising on the site. It’s telling that the widget, as with the earlier version, is free for colleges to implement.