For the longest time LinkedIn was just flat out lame – the boring social network, little more than a resume service, an environment filled with desperate people searching for work.

That was then. This is now.

LinkedIn – always so serious and … business-y… when compared to Facebook or Twitter, has flipped itself on its head, and now is driven by information and ideas. Yes, the job search part of it still exists, but last year’s redesign came with a commitment to content; the platform roared into 2013 declaring its intention of supporting content marketing – i.e., becoming a publishing tool and information exchange environment.

LinkedIn is turning itself into a news-focused network for businesspeople, and that means a significant opportunity for B2B marketers. Consider that there are more than 200 million professionals on LinkedIn, and when they’re on platform they’re in a business state of mind – searching for information about how to do their job, discover the latest thinking, or even, yes, looking for their next career move.

The new found stickiness of LinkedIn makes it a very viable channel for B2B marketers – your audience typically – or at least the savvy members of it – are aware that LinkedIn is now a place to find great content. They see the commitment to content and the fact that 200 big name thought leaders are creating original content for LinkedIn, so they’re heading there increasingly in order to be informed. If you choose to inform them, this is an opportunity.

Much More Social

With last year’s redesign, LinkedIn is now much more social – it’s easy to like, comment and share content. This creates a higher level of engagement and more robust conversations. And coming soon, LinkedIn will offer another staple of other social networks that makes it easier to interact with people and content – LinkedIn will be testing a new feature to add Facebook-style mentions of people and companies in status updates and conversations. This new feature adds a link to the person or company mentioned, and sends a notification to that account about their most recent interaction.

How Organizations Should Use It

Much like Web 1.0 websites, LinkedIn company pages used to be static information offerings that no one paid any attention to. Now, company pages are much more dynamic – a venue for content sharing and audience engagement that marketers should be using. By distributing content through your LinkedIn company page, you’re approaching your audience when it’s in the proper information-receiving mindset, initiating a conversation on a topic that is presumably of interest (provide you have great content), and creating a connection. The fact that your content will appear next to content by those celebrity Thought Leaders like Jack Welch and Richard Branson raises the value of what you’re distributing.

LinkedIn Discussion Groups are a mixed bag – some are spammy, silly, or even stupid. But that can be said of any marketing channel, and a review of the appropriate discussion groups in your industry should quickly tell you which groups are worthwhile and which ones are filled with pointlessness. Almost surely, some of the discussion groups will offer smart insights, allow you to engage in good conversations, and even to attract some new customers.

LinkedIn still lags behind Facebook and Twitter in rolling out new innovations – their engineers seem to take their sweet time updating the API – and it probably won’t ever be as sexy as the more consumer-focused social networks.

But it’s probably a great marketing opportunity for your B2B business. Better than those other social networks.