LinkedIn Homepage as Intelligence Agent – 3 Tips

I really like LinkedIn’s Company Follow feature, which allows you to monitor developments at any company via their corporate profile. From the LinkedIn blog:

The new feature lets you tap into key goings-on at nearly a million companies that already have their company profiles on LinkedIn and more that are being created every day.

Most importantly, this feature can deliver insights you may be surprised at – such as the pace of hiring at your nearest competitor or the start of a whole new industry…

Indeed, “Company Follow” is the latest in a series of enhancements to turn your LinkedIn homepage into an invaluable, personalized source of insight and business intelligence.
 
LinkedIn turned seven this week. Long gone are the days when all that mattered was your public-facing profile – what others learned when they Googled your name and found your LinkedIn professional listing.

Among other things, the LinkedIn homepage has evolved nicely into an aggregation of important business intelligence from multiple sources (not only limited to connections and groups).

LinkedIn is not just a place where others can learn about us (via profile and connections), but also where we can learn from others (via our distinct, network-driven homepage news streams). This makes it an extraordinarily useful business tool in today’s noisy online landscape.

Here’s a look at how to start making the most of it.

1. Status updates

No brainer, right? But a critical addition to the homepage: line-item updates of what your professional connections are doing/interested in right now.

Screen shot 2010-05-06 at 2.01.42 PM.png
Like Twitter and Facebook, updates are as varied as the people who provide them. Generally you can expect to read timely professional news or links to interesting, business-related content – and, as the screen shot shows, each update can start a conversation (via “Comment”) that might continue well after the update has been replaced by newer ones.

LinkedIn recently integrated Twitter into status updates. Luckily, connections are able to share only those tweets they deem worthy for a LinkedIn audience (ie., ideally, mostly tweets with a professional focus).

2. Discussions & Group Updates

Undoubtedly by now you’ve heard that you simply must join groups on LinkedIn (or create your own) and that’s all very true. Do it; be proactive; put yourself out there. As it happens, the aggregation of group and discussion activity on your homepage also has broader value for business intelligence.

Screen shot 2010-05-06 at 2.19.41 PM.png

From the constant stream of group activity and network discussions on my homepage I have been able to learn breaking news, measure buzz around topics that matter to JD Supra’s business, follow the professional interests of my network, discover new websites, attend worthwhile webinars, discover new groups I probably would’ve missed otherwise, and so on…

Call it professional voyeurism, call it business intelligence, this particular aspect of my LinkedIn homepage helps me to tap into the broad interests of my diverse network of professional connections. That’s a good thing.

3. Applications

LinkedIn’s suite of applications further enables any of us to aggregate/curate/filter/stream business intelligence that matters, one way or another.

I use Company Buzz to monitor mentions of JD Supra on Twitter. Sure, I can do the same on a Twitter client, but as my LinkedIn homepage has grown as a daily source of more signal, less noise, I’m happy to stay on top of Twitter conversations from LinkedIn. It’s called Company Buzz, but you can monitor any Twitter search from the app – including conversations that matter to your clients.

I’ve only goofed around with Polls (answer mine here, please) – but the app strikes me as a convenient way to solicit on-the-ground input on any subject, including insights into client interests. You’re as limited as your imagination with this one. The Polls app also allows you to reach outside your network, for a fee – useful for anyone who wants to hear directly from beyond their immediate connections on the world’s largest business network.

Another great app: “Answers” – which enables you to monitor Q&A on LinkedIn and jump in whenever it makes sense to do so. “Answers” is not available in the app directory, but is easily installed from the “Add an Application” drop-down menu included in other apps on your page.

[Update: happy to say, you can now include Legal Updates on that list of good business intelligence apps from LinkedIn. Powered by JD Supra, Legal Updates brings a feed of legal commentary and guidance to your homepage, and automatically matched to your industry or profession.]

More signal, less noise – three ways to tap into the business intelligence gathering power of the LinkedIn homepage. How are you using your page? Let us know; leave a comment in this post. (And while you’re at it: connect with me on LinkedIn.)