LinkedIn, the popular social network for business professionals, has a new feature for its service titled Classmates. Similarly to how the site encourages you to connect with business colleagues you have worked alongside throughout your career, Classmates wants you to expand your connections across fellow university alumni.
The longer it has been since college graduation, the more will have changed. Your classmates will have entered the business world, received promotions, changed jobs, switched industries, and moved across the country, maybe even overseas. Despite their current situation, your classmates will still share a natural connection in your alma mater.
LinkedIn wants you to take advantage of these connections through the use of the Classmates tool. Classmates gives you insights into where fellow alumni work, what field they are currently in, and where they live. This data is displayed in a simple fashion at the top of the page. By clicking a label on the charts, users can filter the results of the alumni for more specific browsing.
LinkedIn thinks Classmates will give you a sense of career possibilities, inspire you to take advantage of your current network, and embolden you to reconnect and make new connections with alumni. In its current form, Classmates only lets you view networks that you list on your LinkedIn profile.
The Classmates tool definitely helps finding specific alumni to connect with much easier. Especially with the ability to sort by graduation dates and specific year, it is easy to filter search results to a very narrow range of people. I can see many users taking advantage of the tool to find long lost friends, to ask for advice, and, for the ambitious, to make new friends in a new city.
I like that LinkedIn is trying to develop new tools to create a richer experience to keep its users coming back to the site. However, Classmates is simply another way to use LinkedIn and, beyond browsing other users, it doesn’t bring much else to the table.
This isn’t to say that the new feature will not be useful, but there really aren’t that many uses besides searching. In fact, while the displayed data, like how many alumni live in the Los Angeles area, may be interesting, nothing can be done with it.
I’d like to challenge LinkedIn to bring a new experience to its service. Just how Facebook completely reinvented its profile and Wall with Timeline, LinkedIn should be trying to do the same. In fact, a more visual display of a user’s LinkedIn profile, similar to Timeline, would be a great addition, and help the service compete with other sites dedicated to accomplishing the same task.