Online network LinkedIn is to offer a new directory search, giving its members a new method of choosing business service providers based on recommendations.

In the new directory, LinkedIn users will be able to search for service providers among those recommended by friends, or else broaden the search to include friends of friends.

The site will also offer a global search option, which will search for service provides across the whole LinkedIn network.

LinkedIn spokesman Konstantin Guericke hopes the new service will offer users more value than traditional yellow pages listings:

“No one should be picking a lawyer from the yellow pages, recommendations based on personal connections are important.”

LinkedIn is the biggest social network for business users, and currently has 7.7 million registered users, a massive increase from 5 million in March.

The listings service will rely on members taking the time to write reviews for other users, so the amount of user participation will make or break the new service.

LinkedIn may also need to find a way to deal with gushing recommendations from service providers’ friends, or vindictive reviews which may unfairly affect their reputations.

In practice, as happens on eBay, a number of reviews will be necessary to give a true picture of a service provider’s competence.

For professional services companies (accountants, lawyers etc) this should work well as a source of leads generation. Perhaps less so for the local plumber / butcher.

Customer satisfaction has never been so important…