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Follow the leaders: LinkedIn puts own spin on 'followers'

Users of the social network for professionals can now follow industry notables -- and subscribe to their posts -- as LinkedIn takes a page from Facebook and Twitter.


LinkedIn knows there's value in industry-focused content, so it has organized a network of professionals who have agreed to blog for the social network at no charge.

LinkedIn rolled out the new feature today, which enables people to follow selected industry leaders who will post original content to the site.

It may sound like LinkedIn is taking a page from Facebook, which (taking a page from Twitter) allowed subscriptions a year ago, but LinkedIn is doing it in the measured, grown-up way it's known for.

The social network has limited the number of people who can have followers to a select 150, though there are plans to expand that number. Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn's head of content products, refers to the members of the group as "influencers."

"We're got all these phenomenal influencers on LinkedIn and we see it as a natural evolution to let people follow those influencers," he said.

The "influencers" -- chosen based on how much interaction they have with their connections previously or how well-known they are -- include household names like Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, as well as people who are well known within their fields, such as chef Marcus Samuelsson, former Merrill Lynch President Sallie Krawcheck, and of course, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.

In addition to collecting followers, the influencers will publish original content for LinkedIn. The posts won't be edited, though there is a team of editors "to help review and give feedback," according to LinkedIn.

The posts may include entries such as one from Virgin CEO Richard Branson titled: "Five top tips to starting a successful business," or Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski's "The coming spectrum crunch? It's here and we have to move fast."

LinkedIn wants everything you read to give you a leg up in your industry, no matter what it is, Roslansky said.

Samuelsson plans to write about the intersection of poverty and nutrition. He said it is LinkedIn's network of 175 million members that makes him want to engage with followers.

"I wanted to work with LinkedIn because they are a respectable guide for job seekers," he said in a statement. "With so many followers and users, I thought this would be another great platform to find out what's needed in my industry as well as learn what's new in the field."

Followers can communicate with influencers by commenting on posts, which allows the influencers to add photo, videos, links and SlideShare files (LinkedIn acquired SlideShare earlier this year).

Rolansky expects these interactions to be less spammy or irrelevant (i.e. no trolls) than other social networks because people know it's a site for professionals.

"Your LinkedIn profile is becoming more and more your professional identity online -- people know that," he said.