LinkedIn’s Youthful Expansion

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Do you have a teenager in your family?  Well there is big news in the world of social media: LinkedIn is now available for high school users. Students as young as 14 in the US are welcome on LinkedIn’s social networking site as a result of their newly revised terms of service.  The allowable ages vary depending on citizenship. This expansion represents a major new area of opportunity for LinkedIn. Their fastest growing demographic for LinkedIn is currently college students and new grads. High School students will accelerate this youthful expansion.

LinkedIn has introduced enhanced features to attract the younger set. The new University Pages and Alumni Tool gives new insight for high school students considering colleges and career paths.  Ambitious career oriented students will love the ability to study career paths and their connections to alumni using LinkedIn. They can also look at notable alumni for some additional inspiration.

The LinkedIn data is different from what they might find at CollegeData, College Board, Naviance or Princeton Review. This information will arm them with very special career insights. Highly motivated students who have an early vision of their future career plans can now leverage the connections and insights from LinkedIn. Students can look to LinkedIn to help them answer these type of questions about their prospective colleges:

  • How many alumni work at Google or Goldman Sachs or GE?
  • How many alumni work in consulting? in Boston?

LinkedIn also shows sensitivity to the younger user and their families. Privacy settings are being tightened up. Default settings will mask last names and hometowns of teens. LinkedIn has also added special routing for customer support tickets of members under age 18. Now is the time for parents, and possibly high schools, to guide students on the proper use and etiquette for LinkedIn.

Some long term LinkedIn users are aghast at these decisions. A few are blogging about  the “end of LinkedIn” and the concern about the loss of professionalism. Some people are bemoaning the stress added to the young people in our society.

I have a different take on this. High school students are digital natives. They should learn that being online means maintaining a professional presence early on.  The generation before them, the Millennials, is still learning this lesson the hard way. Some of them are scrubbing up their online presence as we speak!

The advantages to the students far outweigh any drawbacks.  Students will be able to:

  • Get regular news updates from prospective colleges and companies
  • Explore careers and industries of graduates from various institutions.
  • Uncover the career paths from various majors and schools
  • Create a profile including awards, volunteering, skills, activities, jobs and internships, and personalized URL
  • Impress a potential employer or college
  • Start connecting with friends, relatives, neighbors
  • Start asking for recommendations and referrals
  • Network with and learn from alumni

Universities and colleges also stand to gain. So far approximately 200 universities are using the University Pages, but thousands more will be added in the coming months and years. This represents an entirely new marketing, branding and engagement opportunity for higher education.  Colleges and universities that are actively engaged on LinkedIn will be able to significantly impact communications with current and future students, parents and alumni.

Will we start to see colleges really leveraging their networks? What’s your opinion on LinkedIn’s youthful expansion?

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