LinkedIn has appointed the founders of RedBalloon and Freelancer.com as the two Australians in its 150 world's most influential thought leaders, a new feature of the networking site.
RedBalloon's founder Naomi Simson and Matt Barrie, founder of Freelancer, join the likes of US president Barack Obama, Virgin's Richard Branson and acclaimed author and physician Deepak Chopra as part of a new professional "Influencer" project launched last night.
The campaign is designed to share unique knowledge and professional insights from some of the world's top business leaders with the professional networking site's global membership of 175 million.
Simson, who writes a regular blog for SmartCompany, says she is flattered and "humbled" by the opportunity and was blown away that her story had captured the imagination of a big corporation.
She says her name was put forward by LinkedIn in Australia for the role.
"They were looking for people who can write – although my English teacher is probably rolling in her grave – and who are prepared to have an opinion," says Simson.
Simson's first post for LinkedIn, "Is happiness at work a 'dirty' word?", looks at how businesses can promote an environment of fun, gratitude and celebration, to promote increased productivity.
"In the first day there are 7,500 followers and it has only been launched 24 hours ago, so it does put me in line with the other global thought leaders," Simson says.
Simson says she uses LinkedIn to identify international trends and to establish her brand as an employer.
"I don't look to LinkedIn for news; for news I look to local sources like SmartCompany and Business Spectator. But I am interested to know about big trends, like Google launching something. So it is more the international trends I am picking up from LinkedIn," Simson says.
She says she has been using LinkedIn "for years" and when she has a speaking engagement she encourages people to stay in touch with her through LinkedIn, as well as using the professional network through its special interest groups function.
"There is no doubt it does provide a very interesting connection for people of like-minded thought," says Simson.
RedBalloon has a profile on LinkedIn but Simson says the business does not necessarily use LinkedIn as a recruitment tool.
"It is important for our employer brand and we definitely use it for finding customers for our corporate business and finding out who's who in the zoo," she says.
The launch of the influencer project by LinkedIn comes as the network seeks to expand its reach from not just a website for individuals, but also for businesses keen on marketing themselves in the B2B space.
It recently adopted a recommendations function where individuals can recommend other individuals for their areas of expertise. Businesses are also being urged to fix up their LinkedIn company pages after the network announced a design update.
SmartCompany contacted LinkedIn and Barrie but both were unavailable for comment before publication.
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