LinkedIn APIs explained

What is an API?

An application programming interface is an interface implemented by a software programme to enable it to interact with other software. To those of us who do not like complex computer jargon and language, think of an API as like a tow bar on your car – it enables you to use your car to move other cars, trailers and caravans (apologies for the lame metaphor, I’ve been watching the Caravan Channel).

So the LinkedIn API

Is a nifty (that’s right, I’m bringing nifty back) little extension to the LinkedIn network that enables it to interact with other pieces of software.

How do I use it?

You don’t.  Unless you’re a software developer, you won’t be able to ‘make yourself an API’. However, you can benefit from the partnerships LinkedIn has with other software providers.
Basically, what LinkedIn has done, is put a tow bar on its network, so that those people (developers) who have built your other favourite software resources can make them connect with LinkedIn to enhance your whole user experience. Don’t worry, they benefit too from the partnership (as they make their tool more attractive to potential users and their users can spread the word about their great resources to their connections on LinkedIn).
For example, look at the button to the right of this blog inviting you to view my profile on LinkedIn. That’s because WordPress (which is where this blog is posted) connects with LinkedIn through the LinkedIn API, so my blog (and others) can interface directly with LinkedIn. So to maximise the value you get from LinkedIn, look out for where it integrates with other online tools you use. Can you connect your LinkedIn account to your CRM system? Or can you have a LinkedIn button on your website to direct people to your company page (and all the wonderful recommendations you have)?