The highly successful social media network for professionals announced in August that U.S. teens ages 14 to 18 will be allowed to create accounts and will have access to LinkedIn University Pages.
This marks a significant shift for what has long been the most buttoned-down of social media networks. Since its launch in 2003, LinkedIn has remained primarily an adults-only network that has grown to 240 million professional members.
Allowing younger users seems to make sense for LinkedIn from a business perspective – the company can lock in a whole new generation of members long before they become working professionals. LinkedIn also stands to become a force in the college recruiting and admissions game. According to LinkedIn, the new policy is “the cornerstone of our strategy to help students at every critical milestone from campus to fulfilling, successful careers.”
But does LinkedIn make sense for Junior? While LinkedIn says, “We’re trying to provide real value for prospective students,” Huffington Post contributor Kim Garst expressed some reservations. Garst questions whether 14-year-olds should be using the same LinkedIn as professionals looking to network. While she supports the idea of helping students build professional relationships, she adds, “I am just not convinced this is the right vehicle to do it.”
While others have weighed in with concerns the change could potentially turn LinkedIn into another version of Facebook, that is probably unlikely. Younger Americans are well versed in social media and will likely have a decent sense of what is appropriate on each network.
Ultimately, it’s hard to see how LinkedIn University has any major drawbacks, and the upside potential for students is significant. It holds the promise of helping students use a medium they are familiar with to engage with potential colleges. And students can start building a professional network far faster than they could have – or would have – through traditional means.
Members will be able to visit a University Page to see whether the alumni work in their field in large numbers and at which companies’ graduates have a significant presence. University Pages also will have a Notable Alumni tab to scroll through on schools to see which business leaders went to a university.
LinkedIn has become an influential force in the business world without any serious competition in sight. Young adults focused on their education and career could benefit by jumping on board. That is, as long as they keep pictures of their new tattoo and what they are eating for dinner on Facebook where they belong.