The bigger these social networks get, the more similar they all start to look. As Facebook (s fb), Twitter (s twtr), and LinkedIn (s lnkd) figure out what keeps users engaged and coming back for more, their products are converging.
LinkedIn recently rolled out something that Twitter started and Facebook copied: A follow button. You can sign up to track updates for a person that hasn’t accepted your connection invitation. According to ReadWrite, a user’s more personal news won’t reach you — like if they make a job move or profile change — but when they post links to articles and status updates you’ll be in the know.
The move pushes LinkedIn even further down a path it’s been following doggedly: Social sharing. Whereas the network was once known for its privacy standards — you couldn’t even request a LinkedIn connection without knowing a person’s email address — in recent years it has relaxed such rigid walls.
At the same time, it has ramped up its content efforts, introducing LinkedIn influencers and, later, allowing users to follow 25,000 other important people for content. When the latter feature was announced in February 2014, LinkedIn said in a blog post, “We’ll be steadily expanding the capability to all members in multiple languages over the next few weeks and months to come.”
That day has seemingly arrived. ReadWrite reports the follow button appears to be part of everyone’s profile, albeit a bit hidden.
Click the down arrow next to a user’s “Connect” button on their profile, click view recent activity, and you’ll find the yellow follow button.
Given LinkedIn has buried the follow button deep inside profiles, it’s clearly not yet ready to unleash the tool on the masses. Either that, or perhaps it’s running an experiment to see how smart its users really are? It’s an easter egg test people, get on it.
LinkedIn’s newsfeed stream drives decent traffic to news and media sites, so adding the ability to “follow” other users who provide makes sense. Perhaps, just like Facebook, LinkedIn has found that its users spend longer chunks of time on the site when there’s content to read, and it wants to encourage that behavior.
Whatever its philosophy, it’s doing something right. Thursday LinkedIn’s second quarter earnings results far beat analyst expectations, with the earnings per share coming in at $0.51 when it was expected to be $0.39 and revenue, at $534 million when it was expected to be $511 million.
The stock surged 13 percent after the news, settling down to 8 percent in after hours trading.