By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Professional social network LinkedIn Corp will let its users "follow" and receive updates from people outside their personal contact list, a move that could entice users to spend more time on its website.

The new feature, which LinkedIn announced on Tuesday, takes a page from other popular social networks such as Twitter and Facebook Inc, where users can check for updates from leaders, celebrities and others with large numbers of followers,

Until now, LinkedIn's 175 million-member social network was more closed, mainly serving people who select their own network of business contacts and others, often using it to hunt for jobs. Users of LinkedIn could only share information with their immediate circle of contacts on the service.

The new feature means that celebrities and ordinary LinkedIn users alike will be able to post messages, share photos and links to news articles that can be read by a broad group of people.

The ability to have followers will initially be available to only 150 LinkedIn users the company has pre-selected, including Virgin Group's Richard Branson, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson and Huffington Post President Arianna Huffington. President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney are also among the initial group. Eventually, any user on LinkedIn will be able to have others follow them, the company said.

The change could spur people to spend more time on LinkedIn, allowing the company to generate more advertising revenue.

LinkedIn's U.S. users spent an average of 20.6 minutes on its website in August, compared with an average of 402.9 minutes for Facebook users, according to data analytics firm comScore. And LinkedIn users made an average of 5.4 visits to its website in August, compared with 35.6 visits by users on Facebook.

The move also comes at a time when LinkedIn is facing competition from rivals that offer similar professional networking and job-searching services directly on Facebook's social network, such as BranchOut, which said in April that its Facebook app had 25 million users.

LinkedIn, which had revenue of $522 million last year, makes money from selling ads and premium subscriptions, as well as from offering specialized services to recruiters.

Shares of LinkedIn, which finished Monday's regular trading session at $117.94, are up 87 percent this year.

Earlier on HuffPost:



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  • Buckingham Palace Guard Canned For Allegedly Calling Kate Middleton Names

    <a href="http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2011/04/buckingham-palace-guard-fired-royal-wedding-kate-middleton-stupid-stuck-cow" target="_hplink">As reported by Radar Online,</a> an 18-year-old Buckingham Palace Guard was fired from his post ahead of the royal wedding after he allegedly slammed Kate Middleton in a Facebook post. <a href="http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2011/04/buckingham-palace-guard-fired-royal-wedding-kate-middleton-stupid-stuck-cow" target="_hplink">According to Radar Online</a>, the post, which was removed, read, "Hur and william drove past me on friday n all a got was a sh***y wave while she looked the opposite way from me, stupid stuck up cow am I not good enough for them! posh bitch am totally with u on this 1 who reely gives a f about hur."

  • Homeless Shelter Worker Fired For Calling Job "Spooky"

    An employee at a residential facility for the homeless was <a href="http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202518321075&slreturn=1" target="_hplink">fired after posting on Facebook about an overnight shift</a> and apparently making light of the fact that many of the residents are mentally ill. <a href="http://op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/id/ldue-8k6pyz/$File/Martin House - Facebook.pdf" target="_hplink">According to a National Labor Relations Board document, she wrote,</a> "Spooky is overnight, third floor, alone in a mental institution, btw Im not a client, not yet anyway." The post was reported to the managers of the facility by a former resident who was Facebook friends with the employee.

  • Gay High School Coach Fired Over Facebook Photos

    A water polo coach at a California high school has filed a discrimination complaint against the school district after being fired over his Facebook photos. <a href="http://www.sgvtribune.com/news/ci_19069184" target="_hplink">According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune,</a> a parent sent copies of the photos to the school's principal along with a letter declaring him "unfit to coach." The photos showed the him "posing with two drag queens" and "about to eat a corn dog," <a href="http://www.sgvtribune.com/news/ci_19069184" target="_hplink">writes the Tribune</a>.

  • Bank Employee Let Go For Posting About Superior's Salary

    Stephanie Bon, a former HR assistant at Britain's Lloyds Banking Group, <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1373723/Bank-worker-Stephanie-Bon-fired-Facebook-post-Lloyds-boss-4k-hour-salary.html" target="_hplink">was fired after posting a comment</a> about the fact that her boss made more money than she. <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1373723/Bank-worker-Stephanie-Bon-fired-Facebook-post-Lloyds-boss-4k-hour-salary.html" target="_hplink">According to the Daily Mail</a>, her controversial Facebook status update read, "LBG's new CEO gets £4,000 an hour. I get £7. That's fair."

  • Doctor Fired For Posting About Trauma Patient

    <a href="http://articles.boston.com/2011-04-20/lifestyle/29451939_1_social-media-patient-emergency-room" target="_hplink">According to the Boston.com</a>, a 48-year-old Rhode Island doctor was fired after she posted information about a trauma patient on her Facebook page. While Dr. Than didn't reveal the patient's name, <a href="http://www.health.ri.gov/discipline/MDAlexandraThran.pdf" target="_hplink">the hospital board concluded</a> that she had posted enough information that people who knew the patient would know who Dr. Than was talking about. Not only was the doctor fired and reprimanded by state regulators, but she also had to pay $500 and attend a continuing education class.

  • Teen Fired For Complaining About 'Boring' Job

    A British teenager was fired after updating her Facebook status with comments about how bored she was with her job as an administrative assistant at a product development and sourcing company. "[A]ll i do is shred holepunch n scan paper!!! omg!" read one of her comments, <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1155971/Teenage-office-worker-sacked-moaning-Facebook-totally-boring-job.html#ixzz1aP7zuSQ7" target="_hplink">according to the Daily Mail</a>. "I think it is really sad," the teen said of her termination, <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1155971/Teenage-office-worker-sacked-moaning-Facebook-totally-boring-job.html#ixzz1aP7zuSQ7" target="_hplink">per the Daily Mail</a>, "it makes them look stupid that they are going to be so petty."

  • Cop Canned After Resident Complains About Profile

    <a href="http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2009/01/18/449207/2-officers-lose-jobs-over-online.html" target="_hplink">According to Wasgington's Tri-City Herald</a>, state police officer Matt Blahut was given the option of resignation after a resident complained about photos on his friends-only profile that showed him drinking. The local father became alarmed when he saw his daughter looking at Blahut's profile, <a href="http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2009/01/18/449207/2-officers-lose-jobs-over-online.html" target="_hplink">he told the Herald</a>. "He's saying he's drunk. It shows him in uniform ... Law enforcement's supposed to set an example for these kids," <a href="http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2009/01/18/449207/2-officers-lose-jobs-over-online.html" target="_hplink">the man said</a>. Within days of the complaint Blahut was given his walking papers. "If we see this kind of judgment early on in somebody's career, what's to come?" <a href="http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2009/01/18/449207/2-officers-lose-jobs-over-online.html" target="_hplink">State Patrol Captain Jeff DeVere told the paper</a>.

  • Cop Fired For 'Compromising' DUI Checkpoint

    <a href="http://www.fox16.com/news/local/story/Shannon-Hills-Police-Officer-fired-over-Facebook/VBd65bX4Jkybk5YkXb4Clw.cspx" target="_hplink">Fox 16 reports</a> that an Arkansas police officer Scott Chaloner was fired after posting the following on his Facebook page: "If you live in Alexander and you're drinking and driving, get yourself a designated driver. If you don't and you're out on the streets, you'll wish you had. just a word to the wise." While the officer's superior said his post compromised a planned DUI checkpoint, Chaloner maintains that the statement was merely a public service announcement, <a href="http://www.fox16.com/news/local/story/Shannon-Hills-Police-Officer-fired-over-Facebook/VBd65bX4Jkybk5YkXb4Clw.cspx" target="_hplink">according to Fox 16</a>.

  • Professor Fired After Posting About Student's Test Scores

    Jason Liptow, a professor at a Michigan community college, <a href="http://www.themorningsun.com/articles/2011/07/07/news/doc4e14e00d92218189097398.txt?viewmode=fullstory" target="_hplink">was fired after using a failing student as a cautionary tale</a> in a Facebook status post, <a href="http://www.themorningsun.com/articles/2011/07/07/news/doc4e14e00d92218189097398.txt?viewmode=fullstory" target="_hplink">according to Michigan's Morning Sun</a>. "Student emailed me wanting to know how he could pass the class, he hadn't been there and failed three open-book tests," wrote Liptow, <a href="http://www.themorningsun.com/articles/2011/07/07/news/doc4e14e00d92218189097398.txt?viewmode=fullstory" target="_hplink">per the Sun</a>. Liptow claimed he was let go because of his plans to form a teacher's union and not because of the status update.

  • Firefighter Facebook Fired For Allegedly Bigoted Posts

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  • Teacher Fired For Joking About Drowning Her Students

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  • Woman Fired For Calling Boss A 'Complete Tool'

    Leila Goodman of North Carolina was fired after calling her boss a "complete tool" because the company she worked for had decided not to allow employees to work overtime. <a href="http://www.wxii12.com/news/25761585/detail.html" target="_hplink">According to an attorney interviewed by WXII12.com,</a> the firing was legal since Goodman's comments fall under insubordination and not protected speech.

  • Woman Calls Boss A Mental Patient, Gets Fired

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