LinkedIn changes: 8 tips to keep you up to date with this ever-evolving website

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There have been so many changes with LinkedIn over the past six months, you may have had trouble keeping up. If that’s the case, read below to get a summary of what’s new and what’s gone within the LinkedIn system. The most visible change was creating a new “simplified” look for profiles which were rolled out to the millions of LinkedIn members over many months. Less obvious changes include the removal of some features and the addition of new kinds. Let’s jump in!

WHAT HAS CHANGED

1) The Answers feature is gone. As of January 31, 2012, LinkedIn has removed Answers. This feature allowed LinkedIn members to seek advice from all LinkedIn users but more importantly, it allowed experts to shine. Thought leaders would answers questions and strive to be rated as the Best Answer, providing a spotlight on their expertise. One way around the loss of Answers is to ask and answer questions within your Groups. Though not as powerful, because Answers provided a much larger audience (every LinkedIn member), Groups provides a more limited but targeted audience. There are some other ways to work around this loss, provided by a blog post from Linked Strategies Group LLC . If you had ever used Answers, you might wonder where the information went. This post by Jason Alba explains that the history of previous Answers has disappeared.

2) Most apps have gone away, sadly Events is no more. A few still remain (such as Slideshare and Boxnet) but most have gone away. The omission I mourned was the loss of the Events app. Though some said they wouldn’t miss it, I think it was a great loss. Some people agree with me. Here is a post by Julius Solaris from Events Manager blog. Events allowed you to showcase conferences you had attended or would be attending, thereby displaying your commitment to your field. It allowed people to seek out others going to the same event, which encouraged taking on line networking to the personal level. If you were organizing an event, it allowed you to promote it (though I agree most people did not maximize this angle). LinkedIn suggested using Eventbrite and Meetup as replacements but these are inferior alternatives. Though both sites are useful for organizing events, they lack the ability to showcase where you will be going and where you have been right on your profile. For more information, here is a useful blog post by Jason Alba on the apps that went away.

3) Snapshot changes. In trying to create a more “simplified” profile design, LinkedIn has hidden some of the information that used to show up in your snapshot (the top area of information next to your picture). In this area, you must now click on Contact Info in order to see someone’s e-mail, Twitter handle or websites and only employer names show but not job titles. Websites can still be added and customized but most were dropped in the profile changeover so you should make sure yours still shows if you had any websites listed pre-changeover. One thing that is not hidden is your profile picture. In fact, the picture is now much bigger so keep this in mind. You may need to change or edit your previous picture to create the best possible impression. Also the font of your headline (the line right below your name) is bigger too.

4) Influencers and company pages. One major new feature is Influencers which allows you to Follow people, much like Twitter. LinkedIn started out with 150 people deemed as influential (think Richard Branson, Deepak Chopra, President Obama, etc.) and more are being added regularly. Company pages are not new but have been enhanced. The pages are better designed but still offer the same excellent research information as before. Be sure to use these company pages to see who you know at a company and to do your homework before an interview.

WHAT HASN’T CHANGED

1) Getting a vanity URL. You should still get yourself a “vanity” or personalized URL. This is essentially your internet address that can be used to get to your profile instantly. It’s free and very easy to do. To learn more about why you should do this and how, go to my previous blog post about getting a vanity URL.

2) Complete your profile. You should complete your profile as much as possible. Only adding your name and current title is not enough. You should have more than one job (preferably a few), a picture (this will increase the chances of people accepting your invitations and viewing your profile) and a summary (to give a professional but friendly “big picture” view of who you are). There are many other sections you can complete including education, certifications, languages and projects. The more you share, the more likely people will find you.

3) Connect and share. You should still network with others and use this platform to share useful information with others. Making LinkedIn connections (you should at least have 50) and sharing information with others is still one of the best uses of LinkedIn. Adding connections increases your sphere of influence, increases your ability to connect with others beyond your inner circle and displays your level of “connectedness.” To share, you can post activity updates to let others know what you are doing and post articles with timely information. Activity posts are more prominent in the new design of your profile and now the last few posts appear just below your snapshot. Use this to your advantage by posting more often.

4) Endorsements are here to stay. The endorsements feature appeared in September 2012. It allows your connections to “endorse” the keywords in your Skills and Expertise section. It was controversial at first and continues to be. On the down side, many people dislike the facebook feel of a popularity contest, question those who endorse strangers and think that the ease of which one can endorse lessens the value of it. On the upside, you can use the feature to your advantage by having colleagues endorse you for skills you want to promote. As a result you can be found by others based on your areas of expertise. Recruiters and talent scouts continue to use this keyword rich section to find those with the aptitude they seek. Here is a recent article by Patricia Kitchen that shares some ways to make the most out of LinkedIn endorsements.

So there you have it. You are now caught up on the most major changes with LinkedIn over the past six months. There are a few other minor changes I’ve noticed, but I didn’t mention them because I am hoping they are glitches that will soon be fixed by LinkedIn. Based on past experience, I am sure more changes are coming so maybe I’ll have to write another post like this in six more months? For now, please use this information to help you make the best use of LinkedIn and share any feedback. Which of these changes do you like? Which are driving you crazy?