While LinkedIn is notorious for tinkering with their website on an ongoing basis, and I routinely experience “wow, that’s different than it used to be!” moments in working with the tool, the latest round of changes they’ve made bears calling out — since some of the latest tweaks they’ve made are fairly significant.

For those who haven’t yet heard, LinkedIn overhauled several key aspects of the site just a few days ago, specifically involving the functionality made available to those users with  “premium” accounts.  This move is obviously designed to boost their revenues (which of course is their prerogative) and to convince more members to convert from free to paid usage of the site.  Here’s a quick rundown of the changes that have been instituted:

  • There’s now a new “Open Profile” option for paid users (if you’re a premium user, you’ll see it on your Privacy & Settings menu) where you can allow anybody on LinkedIn to contact you for free without first needing to go through another contact or to use a paid InMail credit to do so
  • On the same Settings screen, you can also check a “Premium Profile” box that will allow you to add a personalized background to your profile, as well as have your profile show up in a larger format on search results screens — given it more exposure than free profiles receive
  • Additionally, the powers-that-be at LinkedIn have created a new “Premium Spotlight” account type that will give you many of the benefits of other paid accounts, aside from the InMail feature, at about half the cost ($9.95/month) of their other offerings
  • You also now have the ability to track a 90-day history of “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” if you’re a premium user, in addition to having the site share “profile optimization” tips with you where they’ll proactively suggest keywords you might have overlooked

So I just wanted to give everybody a heads-up on these new changes, for those who haven’t seen them mentioned elsewhere, and if interested you can find a full article from LinkedIn here describing these changes in detail.

As for the big question, which is whether a premium account is worth it, it’s a little too soon to say how much value (if any) the new features above will add to the average person using the system.  So for now, I’ll stick to my historical answer to this question, which is my belief that most people should first learn to use the free features of the system — since you can do almost all of the important things on the site (at least in a job search context) without paying a dime — and then once you get the hang of it, it might be time to upgrade to one of their paid packages to gain a little more bandwidth and some advanced functionality.  For users just learning the ropes, however, the free version will still allow you to accomplish some amazing things…