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The LinkedIn effect reminds us that making good connections is crucial for us to be successful in our careers.

Northeastern University in Massachusetts published the paper You Are Who You Know: Inferring User Profiles In Online Social Networks in 2010 and it was noted that:

“Online social networks are now a popular way for users to connect, express themselves, and share content. Users in today’s online social networks often post a profile, consisting of attributes like geographic location, interests, and schools attended.”

As of October 2015, 380 million professionals from all around the world are now part of one huge LinkedIn network.

So, what kind of marketing strategy did LinkedIn use get so huge?

1. LinkedIn made it extra easy to refer a friend or colleague to the platform

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The company put all the necessary tools in place from share buttons to leaving a space for personal notes that made reaching out as easy as pie.

Unlike traditional cold calling where everyone kept their barriers up, LinkedIn managed to promote a professional yet open vibe that often warrants an “accept” even when connecting with an acquaintance or with someone you haven’t already met in person.

2. LinkedIn gave everyone an opportunity to develop their professional brand

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Being surrounded by colleagues and peers (online network-speaking), LinkedIn members see the platform as a venue to build their own brand.

Whether it’s about showcasing your company, your achievements or your passion, you can easily do so professionally with LinkedIn as your tool. Ultimately, this is word-of-mouth marketing embedded seamlessly within the product.

Publishing articles and opinion posts became a natural activity for LinkedIn users, which is why it wasn’t surprising that engagement on the site spiked when the company started supporting long-form posts.

From LinkedIn’s blog:

“LinkedIn has become known as the definitive professional publishing platform around the world. In fact, more than 1 million people have published more than 3 million posts on LinkedIn on a variety of subjects from salary negotiation to what makes inspiration relative, pushing us to question what we can change in the world around us.”

Read next: 30 Tips To Build Your Personal Brand From 37 Experts [Infographic]

3. LinkedIn is redefining the hiring process, turning it into a social activity

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In this age, if you’re looking for a job, then you simply must have an updated LinkedIn profile.

As you view the job postings, you will notice that LinkedIn shows how you are connected or who you can connect with to possibly get referral for the role.

True enough, there’s a better chance to get noticed if someone from your network referred you to the hiring manager as opposed to sending your application together with 150 others.

Here’s LinkedIn on tapping people in your network for the next opportunity:

“Instead of starting your job search with job postings, start with the people you know. Where do they work? Where did they used to work? Who do they know? What advice and introductions can they provide?

The new LinkedIn Jobs makes this easy by showing you all of the companies (that are currently hiring) where you have LinkedIn connections. Just scroll down the main Jobs page to “Jobs in Your Network” and start browsing opportunities.”

4. Delivering a seamless mobile experience remained as LinkedIn’s focus

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One of the challenges of face-to-face networking is having limited time to make meaningful connections. With online apps, networking doesn’t have to stop when the happy hour ends.

In fact, you can now take it with you wherever you go, and do it 24/7 if you must, thanks to your smartphone. LinkedIn has been famous for dedicating a bulk of its engineering efforts to delivering seamless user experience on mobile.

According to this Mashable article on LinkedIn:

Creating a successful app experience is a major focus for [Kiran] Prasad, [senior director for engineering at LinkedIn]. User attention spans are shorter on mobile, and users who access LinkedIn via a mobile device tend to do so with more regularity, but in short stints, he said. Users who are new to the app, or even to the service in general, won’t stick around long if the app experience isn’t strong.

“If it takes five seconds for you to load the primary screen, that’s like a huge chunk of your experience immediately gone,” he [Prasad] said. “Especially in international environments where the carrier networks aren’t super duper fast, speed is going to be literally one of our primary primary concerns for mobile.”

Key takeaways

We can attribute LinkedIn’s success to the following reasons:

  1. Designed the product to be personal and customizable
  2. Seamlessly embedded word-of-mouth within the product life cycle
  3. Made the whole experience highly social and interaction-based
  4. Prioritized user experience as a core driver of usage and engagement
  5. Understood that mobile is the way to go

This is a perfect example on how product and engineering should go hand-in-hand in driving usage, engagement, and therefore shares. Product success does not stop at user acquisition, assisting the customer toward the right path for them to complete the funnel is just as important.

Photo Credit: Official LinkedIn Blog

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