Photo Credit: Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
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LinkedIn came of age as the staid social media platform for business professionals: reliable, utilitarian and, well, boring.
Unlike Twitter or Facebook, which are hives of message activity that attract constant monitoring, LinkedIn for years warranted little more than an intermittent update to a résumé, or a check on a job search.
Then, in October, LinkedIn began offering its own content, called Influencers, which consists of a select group of people in leadership positions posting their musings on life, careers and the secrets of success in both. Suddenly, LinkedIn was filled with New Age chief executive talk.
Bill Gates, Jeffrey R. Immelt and President Obama are among the more than 250 contributors, none of whom is being compensated with anything other than access to the site’s 225 million members. In recent weeks, users were encouraged to read a post by Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, who asserted that a personal assistant was better than a smartphone.
“While gadgets like smartphones and tablets certainly do have a huge positive impact upon my working life, it is the people around me who really make the difference,” Mr. Branson, a beach-blonde millionaire, wrote.
Others offering commentary included Meg Whitman, the chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, who explained why she listens to country music when she travels, and Henry Blodget, who wrote about why American corporations are like Scrooge when it comes to sharing their wealth. (Influencers also has several journalists who are contributors, including Adam Bryant and Charles Duhigg of The New York Times).
The clichéd nature of some of the observations (work at something you love), the fact that they sometimes come as neat lists (“7 tips for working more happily with your colleagues”) and the persistence with which the site promotes them has subjected the program to some mockery. “Why is LinkedIn emailing us about Mark Cuban’s 6-year-old colonoscopy?” The New York Observer asked cheekily in a February headline.
But Daniel Roth, the executive editor of LinkedIn, said that Influencers is catnip to executive-suite aspirants and is transforming viewer engagement on the site. Visitors viewed 63 percent more pages in the first quarter of 2013, ending in May, than they did in the quarter a year earlier, according to the earnings report. Mr. Roth said traffic to all its news products had increased eightfold since Influencers was introduced, although he would not say from what base it was measured. Top posts routinely record more than 100,000 views, according to the site’s own accounting.
With obvious delight, Mr. Roth conveyed what may be the most telling measure of success: “We have a long list of C.E.O.’s who are asking to get in,” he said.
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