LinkedIn has had a busy 2013, with two recent acquisitions, major updates to its mobile apps and the launch of a brand-new standalone app called Contacts.
According to Joff Redfern, head of mobile products at LinkedIn, the company is expanding far beyond its former identity as an online networking and job hunting resource to become a one-stop shop for professionals who need news, expert insight, productivity tools and more. Since the launch of LinkedIn's new apps in April, it has seen a significant upswing in user engagement, experiencing an increase of more than 40 percent in likes and comments per user.
Mobile is a crucial part of the company's growth. Fully 30 percent of LinkedIn's unique users now access the platform through mobile apps, compared to 19 percent a year ago. What's more, nearly 30 percent of job views were coming from mobile devices as of the fourth quarter of 2012. People are now using LinkedIn at every time of day, starting with their morning coffee and continuing on the couch at night. LinkedIn needs to cater to these 'round-the-clock users with productivity tools and useful content "to help them be more informed and make smarter decisions about their work and career," Redfern says.
To that end, LinkedIn released last month the first major new versions of its iOS and Android apps in almost two years. Among other new features, the apps offer an improved content stream that features updates from your network, news articles and posts from influential LinkedIn contributors such as billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson. The goal, says Julie Inouye, LinkedIn's communications director, is to "make sure the stuff relevant to you is bubbling up to the top."
In addition to its namesake apps, LinkedIn has developed or acquired other standalone mobile apps. LinkedIn plans to cultivate a small number of apps for specific demographics and uses rather than "creating a jumbo sized app that tries to do it all," Redfern says.
In April, LinkedIn acquired Pulse, a news-reading app. The Pulse team is already embedded in LinkedIn's Mountain View, Calif. headquarters, says Inouye, and the fruits of their integration are becoming apparent. Following the sale to LinkedIn, Pulse updated its app so that users could easily share content from Pulse to LinkedIn. A new Pulse channel, Influencers, was created and tied to LinkedIn's Influencers platform, so that Richard Branson, Jack Welch and other figures who write for LinkedIn can now be followed on Pulse.
Pulse will continue to be supported as a standalone app. Also in April, LinkedIn launched an app of its own, Contacts. Redfern says the idea was to create an app that feels like a personal assistant. It brings together all your calendars, email accounts and address books, keeps them updated and reminds you of important dates like a colleague's work anniversary. It even tells you "what you have in common with the people you are meeting each day," says Redfern.
Contacts is designed for a specific kind of LinkedIn power user, whom Redfern describes as "professionals who are on the go and always meeting with new people as part of their jobs." As such, it illustrates LinkedIn's willingness to spin off apps to serve particular segments of its user base.
Another recent LinkedIn acquisition is Maybe, a social polling startup founded last summer. Except for the founder, the Maybe team -- four engineers and one designer -- is now working in LinkedIn's mobile division. Although LinkedIn would not say just how it is putting Maybe's talent and technology to use, their addition to the company can only strengthen its grip on mobile.
Indeed, the Contacts launch was the first time a LinkedIn product launched for mobile at the same time as desktop, and it indicates a new company-wide outlook. "Every product person at the company is now thinking about mobile opportunities," says Inouye.
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