LinkedIn Profile Updates Are Pretty, But Are They Useful?

Posted by · October 17, 2012 11:23 am

Yesterday, LinkedIn announced some updates to its user profile pages.  Profile pictures are now more prominent, as is user activity (the articles and status updates shared on LinkedIn); and people’s background, skills and connections are displayed in a much more visually interesting way.

According to LinkedIn Product Manager Aaron Bronzan, the updates will help people “tell their professional story, discover people and opportunities and engage with their network in new ways.”  While there’s no doubt that these updates are aesthetically pleasing (and according to comScore, social media users ARE very visual), the question LinkedIn users should really be asking themselves is whether or not the updates will truly augment their professional networking capabilities or merely increase the time they spend clicking around on yet another social media site—or neither.

A closer look at the LinkedIn Profile updates

In order to properly assess the value of these updates, let’s break them down one by one:

1.)    Updated profile header– Instead of just a thumbnail image, users can now enlarge their profile picture and prominently display their title, location, company, previous experience, education and number of connections.  LinkedIn says this helps make a great first impression.  There’s no doubt that the new profile header is less cluttered than the old one, but whether or not people will view profiles more or less because of the update remains to be seen.

2.)    Recent activity added to the top of your profile– Should users choose to post status updates or share articles on their LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn will now prominently display those updates at the top of the profile page.  From a user engagement perspective, this is a smart move. People will immediately be able to see—and click on–what folks in their network are interested in and posting about.  (Editor’s note: A quick sweep of my nearly 300 LinkedIn connections shows that only 13 of them posted a status update or article to their LinkedIn profile in the past 48 hours.)

3.)    Cleaner background section– This is probably the least interesting update, but one that will greatly improves the user experience and makes it easier for potential employers to find out information they need to know about people.  Instead of boring, cluttered, plain text all the way down the profile page, the new background (e.g.- resume) section of your LinkedIn profile has been jazzed up with some snazzy icons and fonts; and the skills and expertise section now looks like a neatly organized tag cloud.

4.)     Connections you can actually see– The bottom of the new LinkedIn profile page displays thumbnail images of people’s connections, making it easier to see who’s in your network and navigate to their profile.  In his blog post, Bronzan said that the new connections section will make it easier to see who works for what company and what you have in common with people in your network:  “The new profile shows you rich and visual insights on the people and companies in your network. These insights also make it simpler to discover people outside your network and quickly establish common ground to make more meaningful connections.”

Finding the true value of LinkedIn

In addition to the profile facelift, LinkedIn has made a number of other updates in the past few months including the promoted followers feature  and the ability to “endorse” people (yes, this is different than recommending them). However, just because people are spending more time inside the LinkedIn network doesn’t mean their interactions on the site are actually more meaningful, much less advancing people’s careers.  The true value of LinkedIn is found in its ability to help folks maintain professional contact with people they don’t see on a regular basis and provide people with more information about someone than they could find out through exchanging business cards.

For example, why not connect with someone on LinkedIn immediately after meeting them at a networking event or conference? Or, instead of letting that stack of business cards languish in your Rolodex, why not sort through the cards and reestablish a connection with old contacts via LinkedIn?

In closing, here’s a personal example of how I recently used LinkedIn to find speakers for a TEDx conference I planned in my area: When looking for speakers for TEDxSanLuisObispo, I perused my LinkedIn connections to find people who might be able to speak intelligently about the event’s theme “The Power of Community.”  I noticed that one of my LinkedIn connections not only possessed the experience and skills necessary to speak at TEDxSanLuisObispo, but she was also connected (on LinkedIn) to a number of other people I did not know but would like to have speak at the event.  By reconnecting with this one contact on LinkedIn, I was able to connect with three other fabulous women who ended up being a great addition to the speaker line up at TEDxSanLuisObispo.

The bottom line is that if used to its full potential, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for reconnecting with professional contacts and forging connections with new ones. Whether the site looks pretty or not is just a bonus.