LinkedIn Groups Gets Facebook Flavor to Improve Social Chops

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-06-22

LinkedIn began rolling out several changes to its Groups service June 22 that improve the social conversation quotient for the professional social network.

Groups lets LinkedIn's 70 million users join a smaller network of contacts within LinkedIn. Users can click the Groups tab at the top of the LinkedIn homepage and click the Groups Directory option to join a group formed around an industry or shared interest.

Users who don't see what they're looking for right away can search by industry or career-oriented keyword to find a group and begin sharing information with others in the field.

Once a user is accepted into the group, he or she can start conversations and post links to content in the share box at the top of the group page. Users can click on their own profile photos to see a log of their updates, as well as changes in discussions they've begun, joined or are following.

Conversations now aggregate original comments and shared news articles within the context of a specific thread on a topic. Moreover, the profile photos of those participating in a discussion are on display to provide a more face-to-face-feeling interaction between participants in a group thread.

LinkedIn users can now mouse over the images of the last three participants in a thread to preview comments they've made, or click on their pictures to go directly to their comment thread within the discussion Webpage. Users may also comment in line, something that Google Buzz eventually offered after users requested it.

One of the more enjoyable new features in Groups is a content carousel. After sharing content, a user can click on the carousel to scroll through posts, RSS items and links shared by group members. Users can of course "like" or comment on discussions similar to the way they could join conversations or contribute information on Facebook.

Some users will want to see discussions in chronological order. They may click the "See all new discussions" link on the homepage for this view of group content.

Some users may also want to be alerted when users in a group like or comment on something. LinkedIn users can follow specific users' updates by clicking the "Start following" icon below each profile photo in any thread on the Groups homepage.

Again, these features recall features in Facebook, which sends users e-mail alerts when someone has liked or commented on a post of a user in their network.

All this is to say LinkedIn was clearly looking at the consumer social network space for inspiration for these features. The socialization of the Groups section comes after LinkedIn began letting users update Twitter from LinkedIn and vice versa in November 2009.

LinkedIn is also making big bets on the mobile space for professional social networkers, rolling out applications such as LinkedIn for BlackBerry.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner told BusinessWeek the company expects to acquire companies to fortify its mobile position against Facebook and newcomers, such as with its Chatter application.

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