It was hinted yesterday in TechCrunch that LinkedIn was about to make headlines, and seeing that today is the 1st day of SXSW 2011, the timing of releasing a new application makes sense. I have already been receiving Industry News update emails from LinkedIn for several weeks and thought they were useful. What I had no clue was that they were the precursor to their roll-out today of the amazing social news application called LinkedIn Today.
I am one who understands why LinkedIn is more valuable than Facebook. If you are a B2C brand looking to get into the heart of every American consumer you want to embed your brand deeply into the Social Graph which Facebook has acquired and is strengthening with every new user and interaction. What people take for granted is that LinkedIn has slowly been building up the Professional Graph, which is not only essential for B2B social media marketing but also represents some of that same Social Graph for decision makers and high wealth individuals who probably are spending more serious time on LinkedIn than on Facebook. On a side note, within the Professional Graph there is immense value in a Relationship Graph that I see Hashable potentially taking the lead in. And then using Social CRM applications like Nimble to use as your communications dashboard within the Professional Graph. These will be subjects of future blog posts.
Today's so far previously unannounced appearance of Today begins to show the power, and value, of the Professional Graph. We are all consuming more information online yet at the same time are confused as to where to find relevant information because of the democratization of content creation and distribution. We try to follow others on Twitter, StumbleUpon, Delicious, and Digg and join Groups and Pages to try to find sources of information that are relevant to us. Not that we don't need to do that anymore, but Today truly provides us a user-generated and customizable online newspaper that will become as valuable to active social media users who consume lots of information on a daily basis as the Wall Street Journal is to some.
So what exactly IS LinkedIn Today?
If you remember my blog post on LinkedIn Signal you will recall how powerful it is that we can now search through tweets and status updates that are created from within the LinkedIn community and filter them through the Professional Graph as represented by the Advanced People Search in terms of company, industry, location, et. al. Signal provides immense value to sort through who on LI is talking about what and then use that data point to connect with them on LinkedIn or Twitter. Today now takes the actual content of a shared link and displays the most popular news that is being shared on LinkedIn and Twitter (of LI users who have integrated their Twitter profile) by industry. This means that, if I am in the Online Media industry for instance, I can cut through the chase of social conversations that are prevalent on social media sites and simply see the news that is being most shared by LI users in my industry. In other words, I can read the information that LI's Professional Graph has determined important, and I can't think of any more relevant filter that exists to cut through the noise.
Here is a link if you want to get started using Today. Based on my initial analysis, here are the main features that make it a compelling reason to check out every day to find either the latest news in your industry to get caught up with or to help you with your content curation as part of your social media marketing strategy:
1.) The top 5 most shared articles from all of the industries and sources that you follow appear at the top of the page.
3) Selecting "SEE ALL" from any industry either from within each industry news module or on the top navigation bar, which is conveniently updated with industries you follow as well as those LinkedIn feels you might be interested in, will give us a look at the Top 10 most shared articles by professionals from within that industry. And that's not all: To my pleasant surprise, a "Powered by StumbleUpon" widget appears on the right giving you popular reads from my favorite social bookmarking service which might not have appeared on Today. I LOVE this collaboration between LinkedIn and StumbleUpon! But wait, there's more: Additional widgets appear below the StumbleUpon one for "Novel & Newsworthy" as well as a "From Your Connections" module to give you even more news to look at. Brilliant!
4) Here is where it starts to get cool. For each news item you can see how many people shared it as well as who shared it. Selecting the number will show you this "Who Shared this Headline" screen which allow you to see who shared it, what comments they made about it, and then give you the ability to search through the people who shared it by Company, Industry, or Location.
5) Today gives you the ability to do much more sophisticated searches if you know where to look. On the righthand sidebar, under the modules recommending Top Sources and Suggested Industries is a very low-key "Search any Topic" search bar.
Entering any keyword here will give you the ability to search through all of the updates ... in fact, if you think you've seen this screen before ... it's LinkedIn Signal!
6) For any article that you read, you now have the ability to share it or save it by selecting the appropriate icons in the top right-corner of each article.
Once you save the article, you can access them from the "Saved" menu at the top right-hand corner of the top navigation bar. Saved articles will look like this:
Now, IF we have the ability to tag these saved articles as well as search through our own, as well as other's, saved articles, you now have something that could potentially replace Delicious and even my beloved StumbleUpon as the ultimate social bookmarking application. For me, LinkedIn Today has already replaced social news sites such as Digg and Reddit as a democratic way of finding and filtering through content that is extremely relevant to me and has been vetted by the Professional Graph of LinkedIn. It will be interesting to see where they take this product. Although LI says that Today is available on their iPhone app which will allow us to even see Today from our smart phone, the current LI iPhone app as of right now is still not displaying Today. When this happens, though, it will make LinkedIn's mobile application a truly usable one for the first time in my eyes (although I have used In Person before and must say it can be useful as well, but not on a daily basis.)
For more information about Today, check out LinkedIn's official page of videos.
Now it's your turn: What do YOU think about this new social news application?