LinkedIn, the most staid of the major social networks, is about to get a little more lively. But only in that buttoned-down kind of LinkedIn way, in which the height of excitement is the fact that you’ll soon be able to add a header image to your profile.
The company announced a handful of new features for premium subscribers today, but the biggest—and most obvious—change will be available to everyone in the coming months. LinkedIn is taking visual cues from other social networks, and will soon allow users to choose from a gallery of profile background images, or create their own.
Now, the Big Four social networks look eerily similar. Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn all encourage you to post a small profile photo aligned left, and a rectangular cover photo that spans your profile page.
Historically, LinkedIn positioned itself as the anti-Facebook. It’s technically considered a social network, but people don’t use the service to fraternize; it’s more a way to connect and engage with other professionals.
When LinkedIn introduced the profile photo in 2007, it was for the sole purpose of helping people recognize their classmates, colleagues and professional acquaintances by sight instead of trying to connect faces to names from memory. That made sense—it’s easier to recognize someone at an interview or meet up by their face, and not have to struggle to read a name tag. But since photos were considered more of a social feature, LinkedIn, and its members, were wary of introducing them.
“LinkedIn had this opinion that wasn’t that popular—the professional identity is a really big deal, not impacted by personal attributes,” said Adam Nash, a former LinkedIn product director who led the photo rollout back in 2007. And while Nash said the company debated adding other photo options at the time, the company decided to limit things to a single headshot.
Now, though, LinkedIn really wants you to get personal. The service hopes that adding a cover photo will “help members to stand out,” a representative for the company told me.
It’s a yet another step away from the company’s traditional, professional roots. Not to mention the notion that when recruiters are looking at a candidate’s LinkedIn profile, they’re really looking for are accolades and a professional history, not a pretty picture.
Promoting Paid Members
LinkedIn also announced some new features available only to paid subscribers who are aiming to increase their visibility among potential employers and other industry peers.
A larger profile listing, twice the size of unpaid subscribers, will help paid members stand out in search results, and those members will also get suggestions tailored just for them to help optimize their profile in searches.
Additionally, an “open profile” feature now lets every LinkedIn member contact paid members for free, and paying members will get a 90-day list of “Who’s Viewed Your Profile,” plus the top 100 results for the Hunger Games-esque “How You Rank.” The open profile feature is opt-out—anyone will be able to email paid subscribers by default.
The new features are meant to entice users to pay up—from a new premium membership package of $9.99 per month to $49.95 per month—and receive full LinkedIn capabilities.
Paying members will get “early access” to the custom backgrounds. But, if you wait a few months, free members will be able to personalize their professional lives a little more, too.
Lead image by Flickr user Coletivo Mambembe, CC 2.0; screenshot image courtesy of LinkedIn