LinkedIn has expanded beyond its roots as a professional connections network to include a blogging platform for 150 influential thinkers, ranging from Barack Obama to Arianna Huffington, Mashable’s Pete Cashmore, and Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group. The move into editorial content is a shift for LinkedIn—the company has traditionally concentrated on helping its users search and apply for jobs. Since October 2, LinkedIn’s 175 million members can add posts by “thought leaders” to their LinkedIn homepages to be commented-on and shared.

The sharing and commenting helps members of LinkedIn demonstrate to potential employers that they are engaged in certain topics, Julie Inouye from corporate communications told CJR. “Because these activities on LinkedIn are directly associated with your professional identity, recruiters, potential business contacts and others will have an easy way to see what topics and issues matter to you and gives them a good representation of your interests and expertise,” she said.

Many of the posts also offer advice and insight into the job market.
First-week content by “thought leaders” include Huffington’s “Success, Power, Ulcers, and the Need to Redefine Success,” President Obama on how to increase jobs in America, and Branson’s top five tips for business.

Of the “thought leaders” signed up, Branson currently has the most LinkedIn followers at almost 300,000, and his post has been shared almost 12,000 times. Branson told CJR that he joined the LinkedIn platform to help him reach the a target audience of business leaders. “We want to interact with our customers and also attract new ones,” he said. “The business-savvy style of LinkedIn is a great fit alongside the other social networks.”

LinkedIn will add to the number of “thought leaders” over time in the hope that VIP bloggers will continue to build relationships with their audiences on the new platform.

According to head of content Ryan Roslansky, LinkedIn members are also invited to submit applications to blog.

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Hazel Sheffield is a former assistant editor at CJR. Follow her on Twitter @hazelsheffield.