You may have seen a much smaller version of the symbol to the right on some people’s profiles next to their name and, generally, next to a Premium account symbol too. While it’s not that obvious, what it signifies is that the member is part of the OpenLink network on LinkedIn.
OpenLink is something that is available exclusively to Premium account holders and indeed, in my opinion, is a key benefit of these paid for business accounts. Essentially, it lets people who are members to find and get in contact with other professionals who are interested in meeting new people. It also opens up the ability for anyone to contact you and makes certain that anyone can see your full details in the search results, whether the searcher is part of your network or not. Let me explain …
Letting any LinkedIn member message you
For many people on LinkedIn, the goal is to find relevant people (and/or be found by them) and then make contact. Openlink directly helps in one aspect of that process by allowing all LinkedIn members to contact you directly. Normally, to send a message to someone outside of your direct network (your 1st level connections) or who you do not share a group with, you would need to use an Inmail which costs $10 a time – useful but undoubtedly too expensive for everyday situations.
Openlink takes away that cost for people looking to contact an Openlink Member. To use myself as an example, I have paid for a Business account and have activated the Openlink status – as a result anyone on LinkedIn can send me a message … anyone. All they need to do is go to my profile and then click on the ‘Send Inmail’ link on the right which will now have ‘free’ next to sit. (Try it out if you like on my profile! )
For me, that is quite an additional benefit – so long as people are aware of it – because it takes away one of those first barriers to people just getting in touch which is the first key step to developing a relationship. This has taken on particular significance given the change earlier this year by LinkedIn where they removed the ability for members to send a free message to all members of their network (ie. 1st, 2nd and 3rd level connections) and restricted it instead to 1st level connections and shared group members instead.
Be more visible to those “out of your network”
A second key feature relates to your visibility to those members searching for people (or the skills, services or products they offer) on LinkedIn. That’s to say 90% of the people of there!
When using LinkedIn’s search, the details that people can see about you will vary according to the closeness of your connection and also the membership level of the person doing the searching. Essentially though if you not in someone’s network (in LinkedIn terms, that means your 1st level, 2nd level and 3rd level connections) then they won’t be able to see your name, just your job title and will only see a reduced profile for you. Even 3rd level connections will only see your first name and the first letter of your surname.
However, with Openlink, that changes and now all of your details – full name etc. – are visible no matter what your relationship with the person searching. Another really powerful benefit for those who wish to ensure they are easy to find on the site.
There are some other elements associated with it as well – one is that, within the Advanced Search function, you also get the ability to narrow down your search to only people within the OpenLink Network. This means that, like yourself, they are Open Networkers and so are likely to be open to receiving messages from you freely.
So all in all, an underused and yet very powerful option I feel in LinkedIn making you both more visible and accessible to people that you are not already connected to – exactly the group of people that we are looking to tap into.