More than a decade after its humble beginnings, LinkedIn has become the unchallenged -- and dominant -- social network for professionals worldwide.
With 433 million members in 200+ countries, and with two new members joining every second, LinkedIn has become a sales and marketing powerhouse for B2B-themed interactions that remains unrivaled online.
No longer just a "jobs" site.
Sure, you can still find a job or hire employees using LinkedIn, and indeed a large part of its revenue still comes from paid recruiting and job posting services.
But if you still think LinkedIn is little more than a glorified version of an online job board, you haven't been paying close enough attention.
Listen to LinkedIn's stated goal from 2014: "Beginning the next decade of LinkedIn, we sought to create a map of the digital economy, its participants, and every facet of opportunity linking these nodes together."
The key here is the phrase "every facet of opportunity."
As you're about to see, LinkedIn is spending billions of dollars to get its hands into seemingly "every facet of opportunity" that exists in the business world right now.
Below are just three examples, and each one offers you a unique opportunity to build your business or brand as part of the process.
1. Online training courses.
LinkedIn dropped $1.5 billion in 2015 to buy online training website Lynda.com for a very specific reason: Teaching sells.
And while the transition has been quiet so far, we're soon going to see much more of a direct presence on LinkedIn in terms of online training courses being offered both free and for purchase.
To put into perspective how big online learning is, consider that in 2011, about $35.6 billion was spent on self-paced e-learning worldwide. In 2014, e-learning was a $56.2 billion industry,and that number was expected to double by the end of 2015.
In addition to buying Lynda.com's existing catalog of courses, I can see LinkedIn offering to let you and me upload our training programs as well -- of course with LinkedIn running and hosting everything on its network.
2. Freelance marketplace.
LinkedIn recently (and quietly) launched its new ProFinder service a few months back, and it's quickly gaining momentum.
Modeled after popular freelancer-for-hire sites such as Fiverr and Upwork, LinkedIn's ProFinder matches customers looking for a specific type of product or service with a qualified professional.
Because of its treasure-trove of user data, LinkedIn is able to quickly and easily show you the best prospects for a freelance project or ongoing service you need based on keywords, categories, or search terms you type into ProFinder.
LinkedIn can even filter search results based on your network (who you're already connected to at a first- or second-degree level), recommendations those professionals have, their physical location (if that matters) and more.
It's by far the most frontal approach I've seen LinkedIn take when it comes to encouraging members to do direct business with others via the platform.
3. Publishing / content marketing.
Along with distributing and sharing professional content thanks to partnerships with top industry news publications and outlets, LinkedIn is also encouraging crowd-sourcing on a massive scope.
In fact, LinkedIn now gives you the ability to publish native blog posts along with embedding everything from podcasts to tweets to training videos right inside the platform.
It should go without saying that in today's online marketplace, you have to earn the right to ask for someone's time and attention.
Content is the key to earning that right, and LinkedIn wants you sharing as much of your own as possible right inside the network, promising to reward the most well-liked, highest-engaged content by featuring it on its "Pulse" news channels, thus exposing your work to massive audiences you hadn't even dreamed of reaching.
Best of all, LinkedIn's detailed analytics show you each and every individual who is engaging with your content, giving you the ability to cultivate warm leads in a fast, efficient, and targeted manner.
Where it's all heading:
As I said at the start of this post, LinkedIn is poised to expand in a huge way based on how these ambitious initiatives play out in the months and years to come.
But regardless of what happens, LinkedIn is becoming more interesting and intriguing by the week -- something you'd never expect to see from what many critics often call a "boring" social network.