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LinkedIn Looks to Get More Facebooky

Professional network adds more visuals, revamped algorithms to improve personalization

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LinkedIn currently has 175 million users who follow at least one of the 2 million companies who maintain official Company Pages on the business-centric social network. But a lingering problem for Linkedin has been that too few of those users ever interacted with much of the content on those pages.

So poof, those layouts will be history. Starting on Thursday (Sept. 6) LinkedIn will begin rolling out new Company Pages designed to be more streamlined and applicable to each individual user who visits it.  “Users now will be better able to focus,” said Jonathan Lister, LinkedIn’s vp of global marketing solutions.

The first thing users will focus on with the redesigned Company Pages is a large image toward the top of what used to be a text-heavy layout. The visual addition seems to borrow from Facebook’s Timeline layout, which added a similarly large horizontal image to its brands’ and users’ profiles. As LinkedIn’s global product marketing director Marc Bishop explained, the hope is for companies to fill the space with images that “express a brand’s presence and a brand’s personality.” That is, this is not the place to just paste a company logo.

Beyond a brand’s personality the new Company Pages aim to emphasize two things: a business’s Linkedin content feed and its products and services, said officials. The feeds have been streamlined to eliminate clutter; for example,  instead of seeing each and every new hire, position change or job opening, users only see the one or two listings deemed most relevant to that person.

Linkedin employs an algorithm to determine what content an individual is likely to care about based on thier own work history and title, explained LinkedIn’s senior product manager Mike Grishaver. That sort of feed selectivity is also not unlike Facebook's strategy.

Meanwhile, the changes to Linkedin's products and services are way more noticeable. Under the old format, products and services were relegated to a single tab atop a company’s page which users may or may not even see. Now LinkedIn has added a products and services module near the top of the right rail.

The Linkedin makeover is in part the result of user feedback. Members have repeatedly told the company “on LinkedIn I’m looking for product information, I’m looking for breaking news from the company,” said Grishaver. LinkedIn also solicited input from an early access group of ten or so companies over the last few months, Bishop said.

That sounds a lot like what Facebook has done recently. Bishop insisted Linkedin's kitchen cabinet of marketers approach was different, though a formal Facebook-esque council is in the works.

Linkedin has clearly been trying to court more brand interest. In June’s the company introduced new targeting options (advertisers can target individual users via criteria such as job seniority, job title, geography, company size, industry and employee tenure. Going forward, the hope is that by making Company Pages and the content each page contains more tailored to individual visitors, Linkedin will see more content sharing Bishop said.

The company is rolling out the new design slowly to a select group of companies at first and then extending it to others with new features being added along the way. Grishaver wouldn’t go into detail on what features LinkedIn plans to add post-relaunch but gave a few hints. “Imagine possibilities for sharing new types of content or for integrating other LinkedIn products seamlessly into the page,” he said.

One feature that slipped into a demo of the new Company Pages and will eventually move beyond the testing phase is the addition of a module suggesting other companies for a user to follow (again, sort of like Facebook does).

As for whether companies would be able to pin targeted status updates atop their pages so that when a product manager views a page they’re greeted with a post that differs from one viewed by a C-level executive, Grishaver said “not at the day we turn [the redesign] on” and Bishop added that “it is something we acknowledge is very important for our members.”