If you look at the right side of your LinkedIn profile, you'll see an intriguing text box: Who's Viewed Your Profile, the networking equivalent of catching someone checking you out on the subway. And if you know how to use the feature right, it can land you business or a job.
When LinkedIn decided it was time to update their Who's Viewed Your Profile, Udi Milo, the product lead on the redesign, was faced with a riddle: how could he help LinkedIn's 277 million users make valuable connections happen?
The task required making casual users--who see the feature as a way of keeping score--act more like power users and use the feature to advance their work. For instance, some of the most fearsome of power users saw Who's Viewed Your Profile as a way to drum up sales leads--if they caught you looking at their info, they'd make an inquiry.
"What we saw in common was that viewing somebody's profile was like knocking on somebody's door," Milo says. "You view me, I view you, and then we have some common ground to talk about."
The predecessor to the current Who's Viewed Your Profile acted like a simple version of Google Analytics. Basic users got a peek at the last five people who looked at their profiles with a line graph illustrating profile views over the past few weeks and the percentage change of how much you showed up in searches over the last seven days. Premium subscribers got a bigger sample size.
With the redesign, you're not only seeing the number of people clicking on your name, but you're also getting demographic info about them. You can see what industry your viewers come from, where they live, and how they found you--through Google search, a LinkedIn keyword, the school you attended, or a company you worked for.
"The actual why they searched for you I will never know, but what I can show you are proxies of that why," Milo says. "What I'm trying to give the viewer are a lot of dots and they have to connect the dots themselves."
Milo suggests connecting the dots when someone at a company with a presence on LinkedIn looks at your profile. This is a great opportunity to see if that company has an opportunity in your field that matches your skill set and reach out.
Milo sought to address this question by using users' data to recommend actions they could take to attract more interest.
"We look at your profile--which is the number-one driver of engagement with your identity--how complete it is and then we look at what you've done so far and what we think you can do better," Milo says. "We look at 277 million members and project what the best thing is you can do based on everyone else in the system."
To make the value of taking actions obvious to the user, there's a predicted increase in interest percentage below every action: Add a skill, get a 15% bump in anticipated interest. Join a group, gain a 10% increase. Add a summary, nab another 15%.
Milo believes these tweaks drive interest, and that interest in turn drives opportunities. He says he saw this happen in his own circle of contacts: a friend of his used Who's Viewed My Profile to predict that his company was going to get bought.
"A month and a half later, the [acquisition] announcement came," he says. "These are the insights we want to give to members so they can see what's coming and they can actually guide the boat."
[Image: Flickr user William Brawley]