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LinkedIn unveils new option that will allow accountholders to share posts in lengthier format

SAN FRANCISCO - LinkedIn is hoping to unleash more wisdom on its professional networking service by giving its 277 million accountholders more space to share their experiences and insights.

A new feature rolling out Wednesday will free LinkedIn users from restrictions that have limited posts to a maximum of 300 characters. Those limits had been in effect since the service began allowing status updates in 2009.

LinkedIn users will now be able to share essay-length musings about their industries or jobs. The lengthier posts will only be displayed within the author's network of LinkedIn connections, but could be distributed to a broader audience if the content is popular among its initial audience.

"This will allow people to showcase who they are professionally," said Ryan Roslansky, Linkedin's head of content products.

The option to share lengthier pieces initially will be confined to users posting in English, though LinkedIn Corp. may introduce the feature in other languages.

The expansion is part of LinkedIn's efforts to build upon its 10-year-old service's role as a digital Rolodex. The Mountain View, Calif., company has steadily been adding more features to entice LinkedIn's accountholders to visit the service even when they aren't looking for a new job or adding a new accomplishment to their resumes.

LinkedIn's calling cards include an "Influencers" section, introduced in 2012, that offers advice from business luminaries such as Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Several new contributors, including CNBC host Suze Orman and Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, are being added to that elite class, which consists of about 500 people.

By allowing all its accountholders to write longer, LinkedIn believes it will generate more helpful information about the 147 industries covered by its service. If the service can bring back its users more frequently, LinkedIn will have more opportunities to sell advertising. The company currently gets about 25 per cent of its revenue from ads, with the rest coming from the fees that it charges headhunters, employers and other people for special access and analytical tools.

LinkedIn appears to be having trouble holding its users' attention, despite its efforts to become more compelling. LinkedIn's average number of unique visitors and the average pages viewed on its site have been gradually declining since the middle of last year.

The downturn in traffic is one of the reasons LinkedIn's stock has fallen by 25 per cent since hitting its peak of $257.56 last September. The shares closed Tuesday at $191.92.

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