Most of us have a personal profile on LinkedIn, but what about our business presence?

LinkedIn may not be as popular as its peer social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc), but quality not quantity may count when it comes to designing how to incorporate it into your organisation’s social strategy.

In March 2012, LinkedIn reported it had reached a 3 million user milestone in Australia, representing approximately 60% of the working population. This gives LinkedIn tremendous potential for reaching an audience made up of working people, rather than teens or people who are online just to chat with their friends. Of course, this is only true if those 3 million users are actively using it for more than just an online resume – and that may just be what is happening

The LinkedIn home page, built around an activity stream, is quietly becoming the professional version of Facebook and the microblog for those that don’t either don’t like or get Twitter. While there is no technical reason why a consumer brand couldn’t engage with LinkedIn members, the tone of this social network is clearly professional . Like other social networks, LinkedIn members use it to share all sorts of different things – looking at my activity stream in LinkedIn this morning, mixed into the notifications about activity on LinkedIn itself, there are links to work-related news, events, videos and the occasional comment. What is missing is pictures of people’s cats or grumblings about what ever is top of mind.

Professional users may also take some comfort from LinkedIn’s relatively simple privacy controls on the home page – you are either connected to someone or not; updates can be shared only with connections, to specific groups or everyone.

This surge in use has followed a refresh of the LinkedIn site itself and ongoing improvements to its mobile apps in recent months. While the subject matter in LinkedIn remains professionally focused, this did not stop them from taking some hints from the design of consumer sites and a preference for visually rich sites.

The most recent changes to LinkedIn have included an update to company pages. Companies now have the option to include a large banner image to help attract attention to their business and have the ability to promote and feature updates. If you have managed a Facebook page, the leap to designing and managing a LinkedIn page will not be much of a conceptual leap. However, unlike Facebook, LinkedIn company pages encourage you to outline the services your business offers and career opportunities. Company Pages are also available on the iPhone, Android and iPad apps.

LinkedIn is also looking for new ways to take advantage of the vast pool of profile and activity data it manages and has launched a new tool, called the Talent Brand Index. This measures the percent of people who know about your company that also express an interest. The higher your index score, the easier it should be to recruit new staff through LinkedIn. This can be broken down further by job function and geography; companies can also compare themselves with their peers.

Looking at the snapshot list of the 20 most in demand employers in Australia released by LinkedIn, there may be a few companies who will be urgently looking at how well they are utilising the platform for recruitment. For example – looking at financial services, only 2 banks made the cut: NAB ranked 10th and Commonwealth Bank 15th – however, Westpac and ANZ missed out.

LinkedIn groups also remain an untapped opportunity for businesses using LinkedIn. However, historically they have suffered from poor community management. While value is often relative, without active moderation and curation by a community manager most groups in LinkedIn either quickly become ghost towns or full of spam.

As Deb has pointed out, many of the repetitive tactics used by brands on Facebook are already frustrating users who are looking for more relevant interaction. LinkedIn presents a great opportunity to engage differently with an audience that is interested in more than just the latest promotion.

I know we’ll be giving our company page a lot more attention moving forward.

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