LinkedIn follows Twitter's lead to hold user attention

2 Oct 2012
Richard Branson profile

Professional social network unveils new feature, similar to rival sites

LinkedIn is following Twitter's lead, letting its users "follow" and receive updates from people outside their personal contact list.

The new feature takes a page from other popular social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, where users can check for updates from political leaders, celebrities and others with large numbers of followers.

Until now, LinkedIn's 175 million-member social network was more closed, mainly serving people who select their own network of business contacts and others, often using it to hunt for jobs. Users of LinkedIn could only share information with their immediate circle of contacts on the service.

The new feature means that celebrities and ordinary LinkedIn users alike will be able to post messages, share photos and links to news articles that can be read by a broad group of people.

The ability to have followers will initially be available to only 150 LinkedIn users the company has pre-selected, including Virgin Group's Richard Branson, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney are also among the initial group. Eventually, any user on LinkedIn will be able to have others follow them, the company said.

LinkedIn is hoping the change will spur people to spend more time on the site, allowing the company to generate more advertising revenue.

LinkedIn's US users spent an average of 20.6 minutes on its website in August, compared with an average of 402.9 minutes for Facebook users, according to data analytics firm comScore. And LinkedIn users made an average of 5.4 visits to its website in August, compared with 35.6 visits by users on Facebook.

The move also comes at a time when LinkedIn is facing competition from rivals that offer similar professional networking and job-searching services directly on Facebook's social network, such as BranchOut, which said in April that its Facebook app had 25 million users.

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