What Is LinkedIn?
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LinkedIn is a social network for the business community. Founded in 2003, the online site is a place for professionals to connect with past and current colleagues, increase their number of business connections, network within their industry, discuss business ideas, search for jobs and look for new hires.

LinkedIn users create professional, resume-like profiles that allow other site members to learn more about their business background, areas of expertise and groups or organizations they belong to. Once a user creates their profile, they can add other users to their network.

The profiles also include options for including status updates that let those in a user's network know what they're working on and when they might be traveling, or offer advice when needed. There is also a feature that allows those not signed in to LinkedIn to view parts of the profile the user deems allowable.

LinkedIn's main features include:

  • Keep In Touch: With people changing jobs so often, LinkedIn gives users the opportunity to stay updated on where those in their professional network are working and how to contact them.
  • Get Help: When a user's immediate network of contacts can't help with a business problem, Linked In's tools -- Answers and Groups -- lets them connect with experts through trusted introductions.
  • Search For Jobs: LinkedIn Jobs lets users search thousands of employment listings, with options for filling out applications directly on the site. The application and LinkedIn profile is then sent directly to the potential employer.
  • Hire New Employees: Hiring managers can use LinkedIn to find the candidate with the specific skill set and necessary experience.

LinkedIn currently has more than 160 million members in 200 countries. LinkedIn members include executives from all 2011 Fortune 500 companies, and its corporate hiring solutions are used by 82 of the Fortune 100 companies.

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at chadgbrooks@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.