Select Page
7 Kinds of LinkedIn People

There are fundamentally 7 kinds of people you’ll encounter on LinkedIn. I’ve never seen an article which lists and explains all 7, so I wrote this. I hope you find it useful.


(1) Connection
(2) Follower
(3) Contact
(4) Profile Browser
(5) Group Member
(6) Influencer
(7) LinkedIn Employee


There are 3 types of connection on LinkedIn and only 1 of them is an actual connection of yours on the platform. LinkedIn defines connections by degree, 1st, 2nd and 3rd. 1st degree are actual connections of yours. 2nd degree are not connections of yours but someone you’re directly connected to is connected to them. 3rd degree are people on LinkedIn who only have connections in your 2nd degree network. Confused? Here’s a diagram:

Degrees of Connection LinkedIn

3rd degree connections could also be described as a friend of a friend’s friend but let’s just call him/her what he/she really is – a stranger. Why does LinkedIn have 2nd and 3rd degree connections? Mainly to get users thinking about concepts like proximity, reach and connectivity. They really want us to think about the possibility of somehow benefiting from not so distant strangers. Using degrees of connection (instead of separation) helps them to emphasize the potential of networking and connecting on LinkedIn.


Followers can be people on LinkedIn who have clicked the ‘follow’ button on your Profile.

How to follow someone:

(a) Click on the small black triangle next to the grey button that says “Send [1st Name] InMail” and select “Follow” or
(b) Click on their Publisher page (if they have one) and click on the big yellow “Follow” button.

With me so far? Here’s where it gets tricky. You can follow 2nd and 3rd degree connections but did you know that you’re already following your 1st degree connections? LinkedIn decided to make you automatically follow your 1st degree connections when it opened Publisher to the masses in Feb 2014. They did this to get us thinking about having a built-in audience for any content we may produce via Publisher.

How to see someone’s follower total:

(a) Mouse over the small drop down arrow next to “Send [1st Name] InMail” (or if the person is a 1st degree connection, next to “Send a message”) and
(b) Select “View recent activity”. You’ll be able to see how many “followers” that person has on the next page.

If a person has not published on LinkedIn, all of his/her followers are actually connections. LinkedIn’s long-standing practice of only showing a 500+ label for people with large networks, is now defunct. It’s now possible to see anyone’s total connection count on LinkedIn using the RA (Recent Activity) view. If they publish on LinkedIn, roughly 5-20% of their follower total is made up of actual followers.

How to distinguish actual followers from illusory/auto followers (connections) if you have published on LinkedIn:

(a) Click on “Profile”, “See more” in Posts, you’ll see xxx followers top right.
(b) Click on “My Network”, “Connections”, filter by “Connections only”, scroll down, you’ll see (xxx) in a floating bar at the top, this is your connections total.
(c) Subtract your connections total from your followers total (for me that’s 6559 – 5251 = 1308).

Almost 20% of my total followers are actual followers. It would be convenient to engage with these good folks in one place but LinkedIn doesn’t allow it. Currently the only way to see who your actual followers are is by going into your recent activity and clicking on “Followers” section. This is where I can see 1,308 people who actually followed me. You’ll be able to scroll through all of them (in big photo box mode) but there’s no way to message, tag or engage directly from this view. If you click on any one of them, it’ll take you to their Profile.

When is a follower not a follower? When they’re a connection….but also when LinkedIn fails to send them a notification that you posted a new long-form article on Publisher. After legions of users took advantage of LinkedIn’s offer to self publish on the platform in Feb 2014, all was well, newbie authors delighted in racking up views in the thousands and much engagement was had. Everyone seemed to be happy. LinkedIn then applied the brakes. Notifications heralding new posts suddenly dwindled to a trickle and views plummeted to double digits, triple if you were lucky. Most users shrugged and assumed that this was market forces, inevitable when millions of new authors compete for readers. Assuming this makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. I noticed the anomaly of users with very large networks getting tiny readership early last year. Fans suddenly stopped being fans because there were too many artists, yeah…that doesn’t make any sense. What really happened? LinkedIn began using an algorithm which had the immediate effect of throttling new post notifications. Why? Because they were ostensibly concerned about the potential nuisance of multiple notifications on the user experience. Some people speculate that they’ve turned off the tap and will turn it on again for a fee. We may see sponsored notifications or Publisher Ads. Oh the perils of publishing on rented land. A bot currently decides which of your followers and connections get notified when you post on LinkedIn. Those 1,308 people who followed me because of something I published? They can’t actually follow me. I’ve stopped writing original content on/for LinkedIn.


When you send/receive an invitation or a message/inMail to/from someone on LinkedIn, the platform automatically records this by adding that person as a “contact” on your contact list. But LinkedIn also records a “contact” when you interact with your 1st degree connections. Think of a contact on LinkedIn as a “touch”  or a record and it will become less confusing.

How to see your contact list on LinkedIn:

Click on “My Network” > “Connections” > Filter by “All Contacts”. Start scrolling down and a floating bar will appear, you’ll see a running total (mine is 7,929).

There’s nothing much to be learned from this running total of contacts. It’s merely the sum of all of your invitation/message based interactions on the platform. Unlike the follower page, LinkedIn does allow you to get some stuff done in this view – you can “Tag”, “Message”, “Connect”, “Hide”, and “Remove from Contacts”. Be careful with the “Message” option. A dialogue box may appear saying “You must integrate your email account to be able to send this contact a message.” Don’t click on the blue “Integrate” button – unless you want LinkedIn to sync with (gain access to) your email account.


There are 3 kinds of browser: non-anonymous, semi-anonymous & anonymous. I tell my clients to always choose to browse non-anonymously. Why? Because when you browse others on LinkedIn you ought to maximize your chances of being return browsed and you can only do this by choosing to be fully identified.

How to change your browser visibility options (non-anonymous, semi-anonymous & anonymous) on LinkedIn:

Click on “Account & Settings” >”Privacy & Settings” > “Manage” > “Profile” > “Privacy Controls” > Select one of the 3 options.

Why anyone would want to browse semi-anonymously on LinkedIn is a mystery to me. If you’re trying to hide, then choose the anonymous option, don’t half-ass it. One of the primary reasons I pay for a premium subscription is so that I can see 3 months of browser history in WVYP (Who’s Viewed Your Profile). I’m somewhat relieved that LinkedIn have now started to aggregate anonymous views (showing 1 icon representing x number of anonymous viewers) instead of showing every single anonymous browser – but I still gotta ask: what is the point? What are we supposed to do with that information?


The coolest thing about LinkedIn groups by far, was the ability to message any fellow group member. Was? LinkedIn decided last year that this was a bad thing so they restricted group messaging to 15 messages total, per month. Not 15 per group, 15 for ALL of your groups. LinkedIn prefers you to use InMails instead, which of course pad their bottom line. The good news however is that this blanket restriction was relaxed for Group Managers after they made the case that running groups would be very difficult without the ability to freely communicate with community members. Connecting with fellow group members was one of my favorite methods of building a “ties that bind” network. Unfortunately, the fellow group member connection option was removed in early 2015. No reason was given. Sometimes you just have to roll with the windmill punches.


LinkedIn launched the Influencer program in Oct. 2012 allowing 150 so-called “thought leaders” to share their original content directly with us LinkedIn plebs. They did this because their social news platform “LinkedIn Today” launched the year prior, was in dire need of something fresher than the soggy old news of aggregated content, which could be read and shared by members. The Influencer program soon expanded to (approximately) 500 leaders (with thoughts) and is flexible. LinkedIn says “We regularly evaluate existing Influencers to include only the most engaged, prolific, and thoughtful contributors and to ensure that their expertise matches our members’ interests.” So keep giving us the good stuff and earn your keep Mr/Ms Influencer. Don’t bother bothering LinkedIn to get on the list, they’ll call you. “We no longer accept Influencer applications.


They use the platform too. Watching what LinkedIn employees say and do can be enlightening so pay attention. Jeff Weiner*, LinkedIn’s CEO has been known to jump into discussions via comments, his RA (Recent Activity) is currently at “53”. I’m on LinkedIn daily and I’m at “59”, so he’s a moderately active user. Other LinkedIn professionals to watch are: Daniel Roth, Executive Editor (current RA: 79) and Koka Sexton, Content & Social Team (current RA: 174). Koka apparently doesn’t sleep.

How to see any LinkedIn user’s RA (Recent Activity) including your own:

(a) Find the big blue box to the right of your/their Profile Photo. Your box will say “View Profile as”. Connections will have “Send a message”. 2nd/3rd Degree will have “Send [First Name] InMail”. Click on the black/blue arrow and
(b) Select “View recent activity”.

Let’s not forget LinkedIn support staff who were prone to issuing unhelpful and frustrating boilerplate responses. I’ve had consistently supportive, customer friendly and genuinely useful interactions for at least 2 years now. Bravo!

How to reach customer support via the Help Center:

Click on your thumbnail photo > “Account & Settings” > “Help Center” > “Get Help”. You’ll have to jump through the does this answer your question? hoop before you can submit your question/issue.

Word on the street is that if you want a speedy response, tweeting your issue @LinkedInHelp is the way to go.

*Incidental fact: Back in early 2006, Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn’s mercurial Founder decided to look for someone to take over the day to day responsibilities of running LinkedIn. He offered the CEO role to Sheryl Sandberg who had just spent 5 years as Vice President, Global Online Sales & Operations at Google. She thanked him but turned him down, told him that she wanted to take a breath and have a second child. Wonder what LinkedIn would look like today with Sheryl “leaning in” at the helm of LinkedIn?

I’ve written a comprehensive guide which will help you to understand how content is treated on LinkedIn. Publishing on LinkedIn without adequately knowing how the algorithm works, is like sitting in a Volkswagen Beetle on a starting grid flanked by Porsches. The objective of this article is to put you in a Porsche, maybe even a Tesla. Start your engines. The LinkedIn Algorithm Explained In 25 Frequently Asked Questions

If you liked this article, you’ll love my LinkedIn coaching and advice. I can write your summary and headline, improve your entire profile and help to make LinkedIn work for you. Contact me now to get started