LinkedIn is a social media platform designed exclusively for business networking. Once registered, users can build their LinkedIn profiles, establish “connections” with colleagues, peers, associates and professional organizations, and engage with relevant business contacts via LinkedIn’s “InMail,” a site-specific communications tool. Launched in 2003, LinkedIn has grown to more than 350 million users, with two new members joining per second. While more than 30% of LinkedIn users are in the U.S., the site has become a truly global marketplace, enabling members to find relevant professional connections worldwide.
The core feature of LinkedIn is users’ customizable profile pages, which chronologically and succinctly showcases work history including past and current employers, dates of employment, education credentials, certifications, professional associations, along with other key business highlights. After users input this core information, LinkedIn provides suggestions for “connections,” people the user may know based on his/her history. For example, based on employment and academic history, LinkedIn may suggest former colleagues, classmates, bosses or partners, and ask the user if he/she knows these individuals. If so, a connection request is sent and, once a connection is confirmed, the member will see real-time updates from the individual, directly in their homepage feed.
This connection process is unique to LinkedIn—unlike the majority of social networking sites, anonymous connections are not permitted. Instead, LinkedIn users must have some direct alignment with connections, either through pre-existing business relationships, school or has personally connected with online. Because of this mandate, users can only see three degrees of relationships—the user’s connections, their connections and those “friends of friends” connections. While LinkedIn is free, there are a number of paid membership options for individual users and human resources professionals which provide greater access to more potential connections, allows InMail between non-connections and, even, can facilitate introductions on behalf of the paying user. The exception to this connection policy is related to business pages—businesses and professional associations are able to launch branded pages, which are then open to the LinkedIn community. Any member can opt to follow a company page and, once followed, will receive real-time updates from the business in their customizable LinkedIn homepage feed.
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