By ELISABETH HOLBY, Three Ships Media

Editor’s note: Elisabeth Holby is part of the client accounts team at , a social media marketing company in Raleigh, N.C., and contributes to the company’s marketing by generating internal content.

RALEIGH, N.C. – group options expanded notably when were recently added to the social networking site, which now serves more than 70 million professionals.

The main changes enable users that are group members to connect, dialogue and follow conversations in a more personalized way than before, increasing the relevance of the site to the broader business and marketing community.

In an online community with more than 650,000 groups, the largest containing slightly more than 200,000 members, it is essential to simplify interactions between group members, and LinkedIn’s developments have made significant progress toward that end goal.

Group members can now follow threaded conversations within groups without the barrier to outside links that existed before, and with the added bonus of viewing profile pictures of those involved in the conversation, enhancing the face-to-face feel of the site.

Additionally, LinkedIn has picked up on a few of Facebook and Twitter’s successful attributes (which we discussed in our feature sharing article recently) by adding the option to “like”, follow and share within the online community.

LinkedIn has made it increasingly simple to navigate the conversations occurring, with options to view the entire thread if a user has just entered the group and the ability to follow a specific person’s participation and commentary.

By adding the ability to “follow another user”, “like” content and vote on shared content options, LinkedIn has given users opportunities to interact with other users more frequently. They’ve taken the opportunities a step further by adding incentives to get involved, by creating a “top influencers” tag for particularly active group participants.

Though these developments are forward thinking ways of integrating what has worked elsewhere, they seem slightly bold in the wake of recent privacy issues. Specifically, a recent LinkedIn member has landed in “legal hot water” with her previous employer due to an alleged violation of a non-compete agreement that occurred when she connected with the company’s contract employees on LinkedIn.

This raises the question of how much sharing, communicating and following is too much in the business world, and how much relationships built online should hold compared to those that exist outside of a world where they can be “followed”.

What is more notable, however, is the simple fact shown in this case that social network involvement is ultimately pervasive and a powerful way to connect with others. Companies and individuals not involved are missing a significant source of relationship-building and unparalleled access to global thoughts, opinions and expertise. Social network interfaces will continue to develop-

Twitter’s “friend find” now allows users to search their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles for those who are on Twitter- and as they do, they will only become more efficient ways to communicate broadly with the groups, customers and experts social network users may have never had access to before.

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