A new series of platform updates, robots(!) and more are about to make your ability to connect and engage sales prospects on LinkedIn even easier.

If you were thinking of asking Santa for a robot that would give you the right words to type as you network with others on LinkedIn, schedule meetings and make reservations – looks like can take it off your list.

Microsoft’s $26.2 billion investment in LinkedIn earlier this year carried the promise of an enhanced user experience, including making it easier and more efficient to do business and network with other professionals on the platform.

I, Robot

A recent article on Inc.com highlighted several new LinkedIn features, which include a chat bot that is supposed to assist you with tedious, time-consuming tasks like scheduling meetings and finding open calendar slots when networking with others live or online.

Chat bots are a hot new feature in the consumer tech world, where companies like Facebook, Apple and Google are already racing to offer useful services based on artificial intelligence. As a first step, LinkedIn says it will soon introduce a bot that could help someone schedule a meeting with another LinkedIn user, by comparing calendars and suggesting a convenient time and meeting place.

The new bot will be part of an online messaging service that LinkedIn is gradually expanding to make it easier for users to communicate without opening a new screen or switching to email.

Messaging Made Easy

The new LinkedIn desktop interface, which has already rolled out in beta mode to several power users and is rumored to be released to all 500 million worldwide members any day now, features a complete overhaul to the messaging experience.

For instance, your LinkedIn inbox will appear as a chat box window, allowing you to remain on a page reading long form articles, listening to podcasts, watching webinars or consuming other content on LinkedIn while you send and receive messages.

The smart messaging window also adapts as you navigate LinkedIn, to help you communicate with relevant contacts specific to the current context. LinkedIn demonstrated some of these features on video during a recent press conference.

For example, you might be reading an article you like on LinkedIn, and want to send it to a colleague, because perhaps the article gave you some ideas about generating more business for your company using LinkedIn. You can message him or her right from “inside” the article, without having to leave the page or go into your LinkedIn inbox.

Another example: Perhaps you’re looking for a job opportunity, so you click on “Jobs” and see one that might be a good fit. As you move deeper into the posting, LinkedIn’s messaging tool will overlay on the page, pulling up a list your specific connections within that specific company, then place the job posting into your message, automating part of that networking process for you. The messenger will even suggest phrases to help you craft the perfect message to that contact who works at the company you want to apply for a job with.

Meet Me on LinkedIn – Robot Style

If your goal is to set up a meeting with another LinkedIn member, the bot will enable a search of both of your Google or Microsoft calendars and schedules to find a meeting time and place that works to carry on the conversation.

You will also receive a push notification 15 minutes before your meeting with some insights about the person you are meeting with – what school he or she attended, what he or she has written about recently on LinkedIn, and so on.

This level of automation follows along the same path as some of the existing, third party automation tools out there like LinMailPro, which allows you to automate AND personalize your invites and messages with prospects you encounter on LinkedIn.

Real Talk

All robot jokes aside, this recent move means that LinkedIn wants its users experiencing more “real-time” conversations on the network.

Like the new, chat-like inbox for messages, LinkedIn’s new desktop rollout will also show people in real-time typing messages back to you, and the messages will pop up on your profile page so you can chat in real-time.

It will make it even easier to personalize your 1-on-1 interactions with your ideal sales prospects on LinkedIn, and to move your business forward with setting up meetings, demonstrations and so on.

It’s a welcome move, and one that ensures LinkedIn is doing its best to keep pace in today’s “always-on” business environment.