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LinkedIn Today isn't about content sharing

Deep Nishar, LinkedIn senior vice president of products & user experience, introduced LinkedIn Today, by saying users "will spend five minutes in the morning and be more informed and better equipped professionally."
Written by John Hazard, Contributor

Deep Nishar, LinkedIn senior vice president of products & user experience, introduced LinkedIn Today, by saying users "will spend five minutes in the morning and be more informed and better equipped professionally."

I guess that would be an improvement. Right now I probably spend a solid 30 to 60 minutes daily trolling Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter and reading a handful of "morning roundups" e-mail newsletters like Media Bistro's News Feed.

But can it replace all of those sources? If not, it will be one more to check.

The company also announced LinkedIn Signal, essentially a search tool that allows users to search keywords in LinkedIn status updates and filter by attributes including your network, company and geography. For example, the feature would allow a user to see the conversation happening around the iPad2 at say Google or Microsoft.

LinkedIn Today, a social news source based on your network and industry and one of four new products released today by LinkedIn, is part of the product team's strategy to make the LinkedIn suite the "professional profile of record" and the "essential source of professional insight." LinkedIn Today is slated to fulfill the insight portion of the strategy, but it must rely on the "profile of record" portion of the product to be successful. Here's why:

Today is powered by user referrals, like Google News, TechMeme and any number of news aggregators, displaying the top ten stories in your network (first-degree, second-degree, etc.), by company or within a given industry or geography. Future releases will allow you to filter and slice the view even closer to include title (editor, project manager) or function (sales, marketing). It promises to show you what the important stories of the day are according to what the people in those groups are sharing.

But, you say, many aggregators already do that well using a much larger network than the 90 million members on LinkedIn; those morning news roundups are well curated; and my Twitter feed is a barometer of the must-know headlines of the day plus commentary from people you consider influencers.

Luosheng Peng, CEO of GageIn.com, a social networking platform for businesses that helps co-workers share relevant content about other companies, said LinkedIn's efforts "may be in vain."

"Most people use LinkedIn to find a job, or stay connected to their network for when they'll need a job," Peng said. "Unlike Facebook or Twitter, on LinkedIn content is an afterthought and always has been. If you really want to motivate users to share, comment on and collaborate around content, it needs to be the network's focus."

LinkedIn Today may not be about content after all. It may be about getting a job and using content to demonstrate your influence. Part of the reason people enthusiastically share news headlines and commentary on Twitter, and, to a lesser extent, Facebook, is that they want to make their mark. They want the peer colony to know that they are up to date on the latest news; they're out in front of it because they already have a comment on it.

Nishar said his team wants to make LinkedIn the "profesional profile of record" for all, and two of the four products released today are aimed at that:

  • InMaps, a network map visualizer
  • Skills, a "homepage" of sorts for various skills listed by users that will display which companies are using those skills, the demand and prevalence for the skill, and ranked "influencers" from among those listed as possessing the skill.

LinkedIn didn't reveal any detail about how intends to rank the influencers in the field other than to say the ranking engine was built on Hadoop, one of the technologies behind IBM's Watson. One could speculate that influence rank would be derived by the users' peers, like the number of followers with the same listed skill or number of contacts, Like on status updates or comments.

If the influencer ranking begins to matter (and it is likely it will because whatever the general public thinks of LinkedIn, recruiters are devoted), you will suddenly care about cultivating not just a network, but followers and making more connections than the invite and no further contact.

Now you have a reason to be sharing news on LinkedIn. Of course, the Twitter API already connects to your status update, but I won't be able to see the network chatter in the slice that matters outside LinkedIn. Don't get me wrong, LinkedIn wants to be your professional home page, but that may not drive as much usage as the need to be popular.

To twist Nishar's own words again, LinkedIn doesn't need to be your "essential source of professional insight;" it just needs to be where you demonstrate your insight as your "professional profile of record."

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