LinkedIn recently announced a new feature, similar to Facebook's fan pages, that lets you "follow" companies on the professional networking site and keep track of their key developments, potential business opportunities and job leads. This tool is especially helpful for job seekers who want to keep tabs on businesses to which they've applied, and for businesses looking to monitor their competitors' announcements.

The feature, says Ryan Roslansky, director of product management at LinkedIn, can deliver insights into these companies that might surprise you. For example, he says, you can discover the pace of hiring at your nearest competitor or the start of a whole new industry.

Whether you're applying for a job at a particular company, or if you're looking for companies that interest you in your geography, there are two ways you can go about following them.

  1. If you come across someone's profile who either is currently employed at or was formerly affiliated with a company, hover over any of the companies listed and click the "Follow Company" icon from the bar that pops up to begin following that company.

  2. You can also follow companies by performing a search by choosing the "More..." tab on your LinkedIn toolbar and clicking "Companies." This brings you to the "Companies Home" page that lets you search for businesses by company name or keyword, and lets you set your location. This page also displays the companies you're currently following, and aggregates any news or jobs that company has listed.

On your "Companies Home" page, choose the "Following" tab to view which businesses you are monitoring and to change your privacy settings. You can click the "Stop following" link to remove the company from your list, or choose "Notification settings" to adjust what information you see and how often you see it.

Your privacy options include whether or not you're notified when employees join the company, leave it or are promoted, new job opportunities arise and when the company's profile is updated. You can also choose how you're notified of the news: via Network Updates or an email digest sent daily or weekly.