LinkedIn unveils smarter messaging with bots

Having trouble networking? LinkedIn's new bots will help you start conversations, set up meetings.

LinkedIn on Thursday rolled out new tools, designed for both enterprises and individuals, that will help people make the connections and build the skills they need to advance their careers.

One of those tools is a smarter messaging system that incorporates bots.

"Our focus is really to help our members unlock the power of their networks through smarter and more productive conversations," said Mark Hull, head of product for the LinkedIn messaging team, in a presentation.

If a user is looking at a company where they'd like to work, LinkedIn's messaging box will show that user a list of friends who work at the company whom they could connect with. If the user doesn't know what to say initially, "we give them the words to say to help them with that conversation, just to kick things off," Hull explained. The smart messaging system would also add a link to the relevant job listing, giving more context to the conversation.

Now that they're in a conversation, these two friends can call up a bot to scan their Google calendars and find a time that works for both of them, without leaving the messaging box. LinkedIn will also look at where both parties have gone previously and suggest a location for the meeting.

Finally, on the day of that meeting, LinkedIn will send the users a push notification with information on their calendars about the other person so that they're prepared.

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The new messaging tools come after a year of significant growth for the platform. Since LinkedIn introduced its new mobile app and finished its last overall of the messaging platform last year, the company has seen a 240-percent increase in the number of messages sent. Half of LinkedIn's active members are using its messaging platform every week. More broadly, messaging apps are expected to increasingly serve as a commercial gateway and a portal to the internet.

Along with a new messaging platform, as well as a new educational product called LinkedIn Learning, the company announced Thursday that it has redesigned the desktop version of its sign and refreshed its feed.

LinkedIn has already seen positive results from its update of its mobile app: along with the increased messaging use, the company has seen a 30 percent year-over-year increase in mobile daily active users and a 40 percent increase in weekly engaged feed sessions.

However, LinkedIn's vice president of product, Ryan Roslansky, explained Thursday that the mobile app still "feels very disjointed with our desktop experience".

The new desktop design, explained LinkedIn Senior Director Amy Parnell, is focused on consistency, simplicity, and confidence. Users, she said, "want to know that they look their best and that they're leveraging the platform to the best of its ability."

She added, "We found with our mobile experience when you clean up the interface... this gets people more engaged."

The feed, meanwhile, relies on three components, explained Senior Director Tomer Cohen: "signals", algorithms, and human editors. The signals look at indicators from a person's profile such their skills and the other users in their network. "Editors are helping us curate and cultivate the best stories out there," Cohen said.

Later this year, LinkedIn will start sending its users push notifications relevant to their careers. The push notification will take the user to an "interest feed" about the story. Once in the feed, a user will be pivoted onto different media types or will drill down into subtopics.

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