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If I had a dollar….my clients have asked a lot of the same questions over the years and I’ve been dying to write an unofficial FAQ type post to address these common questions in one swoop. Took me a while to put this 5,000 word guide together, if you find it useful, please share it.

(1) Who should I connect with?

Totally up to you. I have a system which works pretty well for me. I look for things in common and a ‘tell’. (1) 500+ Connections – tells me they’re likely to connect (< 500 implies they don’t connect with strangers). (2) Shared location – likely to connect based purely on proximity, the coffee potential. (3) Shared contacts – if we have 5+ connections in common, we run in the same circles. (4) Shared field/function – we’re in the same business or the same role, the career bond. I go into greater depth on my connection strategy here:

(2) How much time should I be spending on LinkedIn?

Well technically it’s ‘in’ LinkedIn, that’s why it’s called Linked..In but I’m splitting hairs. Time spent on the platform varies from user to user. There’s a widely held perception that there are fundamentally 2 types of user, one ‘light’, one ‘heavy’. In 2014, Forbes found that over 50% of LinkedIn users spent more than 2 hours per month, 26% spent between 3 and 4 hours on the site every month, and 11.8% spent more than eight hours on the site every month. So you’re either checking your profile weekly, nosing around other profiles, maybe making new connections, or on LinkedIn daily to interact with people/brands, comment on articles/posts/industry news, and aggressively building a network. I expect whether you are a light/heavy user has a lot to do with your job satisfaction, career prospects/trajectory.

(3) Is my picture OK?

The mere fact that you have to ask probably means that you suspect it is not the best representation of your likeness. So if you threw it on thinking, this will do, it probably won’t. Go with a professional headshot or a high quality, well lit picture of your face which actually looks like you today and use LinkedIn’s built in photo tools to get rid of anything unflattering, weird or distracting. Your face should almost fill the circle, because you want people to recognize you in even the smallest version. Don’t bother trying to squeeze the company logo in the background, there’s not enough space. White is the best possible background because it makes people focus on your face and white goes well with LinkedIn’s color palette. There are sites which promise to crowdsource opinions (Photofeeler) or apply machine learning to your pic (Snappr) but separating you from your money is the true objective, so don’t waste your money or time. If you can’t decide or just need a 2nd opinion ask your friends for their trusted/honest feedback. I’ve seen some terrible headshots on LinkedIn over the years, I’ve featured some of the strangest examples in this post:

(4) I have a duplicate account. What should I do?

You can merge both/multiple accounts by going to Settings and merging. Merging dupe/multiple accounts identified with your name ought to be a priority though. When people search for you and find multiple accounts, apart from making it more difficult to find you, what impression does that give?
(5) What is ‘People Also Viewed’?
PAV is a weird list displayed on the right of your profile of 10 random people that have looked at you (maybe) or looked at other people similar to you and have not looked at you at all (maybe) sprinkled with influencers (like Tony Robbins) to inflate your ego and encourage you to look at some of the people featured. LinkedIn wants you to (a) spend as much time on the site as possible and (b) bump into (browse) as many people as possible. PAV is part of that strategy. I tell my clients to turn off PAV. Most don’t realize that it is possible to switch it off.

(6) Should I only connect with people I know?

No. Though the LinkedIn User Agreement (8.2.g) states “You agree that you will not: Invite people you do not know to join your network” everyone knows this is both unenforceable and contrary to a major premise of LinkedIn. The big selling point of LinkedIn is the ability to grow yourself a network by connecting virtually with people you have not met and you don’t know, yet. Only connecting with people you know in real life is the equivalent of building an imaginary wall around your profile and ignoring all of the engagement and information sharing going on around you. Or you could just join MySpace.

(7) Should I always switch off notifications when I make changes to my profile?

No. This is an imaginary salve. Concocted by a LinkedIn marketer to make you think you’re always broadcasting and your network is glued 24/7 to your every update. it simply isn’t so. Don’t worry about switching it off when making changes. Have you ever seen a notification giving you a heads up that someone in your network had changed x on their profile? Me neither. Don’t believe the hype.

(8) What is anonymous browsing?

Something you do when no one’s watching. There will be times when you don’t want someone to know that you peeked at their profile. The only way to do this is to go into settings and change your browsing status to anonymous (or as LinkedIn calls it ‘private mode’). You should be aware that when you switch to private mode and you are not paying for premium membership, LinkedIn penalizes you by not showing who visited you while you were wearing that mask of anonymity. So don’t forget to switch back after you’ve finished snooping.

(9) Can I make my profile private?

No. Understand that you are the product. Your data is valuable. Hiding that data is not in LinkedIn’s interest. Sure, you can try to hide by inserting ‘Private Company’ or ’Stealth Startup’ instead of naming your employer, or you can call yourself ‘Jane D’ to disguise your identity. But doing this would mean that you don’t benefit from being found and being invisible/hidden on an engagement rich professional discovery site like LinkedIn doesn’t make much sense.

(10) Should I hide my network from people I’m connected with?

No. Part of my connection request communicates that we’ll be connecting directly but that I’m also providing access to my network. I think that’s the right thing to do and I hope the open networks approach is reciprocated. When my clients talk about keeping their network hidden from their connections, they’re usually worried about competitors seeing who they know. If that’s the issue, simply don’t connect with the competition in the first place.

(11) Should I prune my network to get rid of dead wood?

No. I had this debate recently with a fellow LinkedIn trainer, he was a proponent of the prune. He advises his clients to periodically go through their connections and disconnect from people they felt were no longer worthy of connection status. Who has the time to do this? I say disconnect when someone gives you a reason to. Reducing the size of your network for no apparent reason seems anal, shortsighted and willy nilly. Spend your valuable time doing stuff which engages, builds your profile/network and shines a light on your professional strengths and abilities.

(12) Someone is harassing me. What can I do?

Block ‘em. You can block up to 250 people on LinkedIn. Don’t worry about them seeing you when you go to their profile to block, LinkedIn will wipe all traces of your visit. When you block someone, the effect is 2-way; they won’t see you or anything produced by you and you won’t see them or their digital dust. To block a LinkedIn member, go to their profile on your computer. Click the three dots located to the right of their profile picture. This will open a menu where you can choose to block or report them. Choose ‘Block’ and you’re done. You can see/manage everyone you’re currently blocking in your settings panel.

(13) Should I publish on LinkedIn?

Yes. I’m a big fan of publishing on LinkedIn, even though there’s an algorithm which throttles the distribution of your content, even though you’re writing on ‘rented land’, publishing on LinkedIn still has major upsides. By writing about what you know or what you feel, you’re painting a multi dimensional portrait and seeding engagement. People may dig what you write or disagree with your views but the advantages of being a public scribe on the largest professional forum in the world far outweigh any disadvantages. Writing on LinkedIn is still a great way to build your profile, find your tribe and influence others. I advise my clients to flex their intellectual muscles – get writing.

(14) What are Long and Short Form posts?

LinkedIn publisher posts can be up to 40,000 characters (long). LinkedIn updates max out at 1300 characters (short). When LinkedIn launched publisher (2015) and let everyone write long form posts, views were driven by notifications which went to all of your network when ever you published. Authors loved this but LinkedIn worried about people getting pissed off by loads of notifications. So instead of fine tuning notifications (which came much later) LinkedIn inserted an algorithm which meant that a tiny proportion (2-5%) of your network was notified when you published. Authors hated this and stopped writing. These days the preferred mode of publishing is via updates which are ‘shared’ not written. It’s the twitterization of LinkedIn publishing, with slightly more characters. Don’t get excited about all those views, they don’t mean much. Every refresh of the home page where updates are shown counts as a view including your own. To write (share) an update click on the top of your Home Page, where it says ‘Share an article, photo, video or idea’ and click ‘Post’ to publish. You can edit your post after it has been published. Don’t forget to engage with your audience via comments and thank everyone who shares your post.

(15) What are Followers?

Hangers on. Followers dig what you have written or like the cut of your jib on LinkedIn. Following someone on LinkedIn does not mean that they will get notified when the person being followed writes/shares (that would be too logical). Followers were born after LinkedIn publisher launched (Feb 2014) in an effort to encourage budding authors to think of their network as a built-in audience for their content. When you connect with someone you automatically follow them too. Everyone who follows you is potentially interested in connecting with you. Ask them!

(16) How much space do I have in my Headline/Summary?

120 characters (headline) 2000 characters (summary). For a while you could get 220 characters if you edited your headline on the mobile app. Don’t feel you have to use all 2,000 characters for your summary. Here’s a link to 3 ‘stunningly good’ summaries And another link for a comprehensive list of all maximum character counts for LinkedIn text fields

(17) What is “Rich Media”?

Rich Media is an attempt to make a potentially boring, text heavy LinkedIn profile “pop” with multimedia (video, audio, slides etc.). I have 3 rules when it comes to adding RM to a profile: (1) It ought to be relevant to the section that you add it to (2) you should ensure that the still image is compelling (click worthy) and (3) don’t truncate the title, people won’t click if they don’t know what the RM is. The most common mistake I see with RM is tiny text and boring visuals. Often it’s a resume [snoozzzzzzzz].

(18) What is the ‘Home Page’?

It’s the main page where you can see a long list of content shared by other LinkedIn users from a variety of sources: 1st degree connections, posts from people you’re not connected with and sponsored company crap. It’s also the place where you write your updates (at the top of the page). You’ll also see a little box on the left which shows 2 stats about you, # of people who have viewed your profile (monthly) and # of people who have viewed your latest post/article, if you’ve shared/written.

(19) Are Endorsements important?

Kind of. Endorsements are the equivalent of a professional thumbs up for a particular skill listed on your profile. People endorse other people for a variety of reasons, often it’s just an engagement tactic or it’s reciprocal. A plethora of endorsements simply means that the endorsee has a social network that is supportive. Endorsements are a very loose form of professional feedback. Recruiters tend to give more weight and credence to actual work testimonials i.e. recommendations. Only ‘featured’ skills are initially visible on your profile, you should therefore ensure that your top 3 skills are core to what you do professionally. Yes, you can re-order your skills, move ’em up or down.

(20) What are L.I.O.N.S?

Linkedin Open Networkers (LIONS) are LinkedIn users who are primarily focused on growing the largest possible network. Their connection strategy has no strategy beyond connecting with anyone and everyone. While there are clear advantages to having a large rather than a small network on LinkedIn, you could have all of the advantages and none of the negatives of an open network strategy by not advertising your LION/Open Networker status. I won’t connect with a LION because I think it’s a dumb strategy but also because I prefer to connect with people who have carefully and methodically built their circle of trust. Connecting with LIONS weakens my network and potentially exposes people within it to random/bothersome connection requests and spam.

(21) What is an ‘All Star’ profile?

It’s a carrot approach to encourage you to add some key information to your profile. There are currently 3 levels: Beginner, Intermediate and All Star. You can reach All Star by providing: a photograph, headline, summary, work experience and 3 skills. Only you can see your (LinkedIn profile completion) status.

(22) Are LinkedIn groups worth my time?

Yes. LinkedIn groups are fundamentally 2 things: databases and communities. You can join up to 100 groups. Why wouldn’t you want access to as many different databases as possible? The trick is finding groups (communities) which have kept spam at bay, have great dialogue and supportive/active participants. Over 2m to choose from. Groups are a great way to find kindred spirits, market yourself and conduct research on people, issues and organizations. LinkedIn have tried many different techniques over the years to improve the LinkedIn groups ‘product’. The fact is that groups are not a revenue earning part of the business so until that changes, they will never be a priority. I continue to be bullish on groups because they’ve been around for so long and technology could change the current group landscape for the better. A good example of this is the recent introduction of video and snapchat like geo-filters on LinkedIn.

(23) What is the “Commercial use limit”?

It’s LinkedIn nagging you to upgrade to premium after you’ve exhausted a set limit of searches. You have 3 choices: upgrade, stop searching until your limit re-sets, continue searching via a dupe profile.

(24) Is LinkedIn Premium worth the money?

Yes. Premium Career (formerly ‘Job Seeker’, the chart below needs updating) is the cheapest premium plan at $29.99 p/m (only you can see the type of plan that you have) and it’s the one I recommend to all of my clients. Career provides the most value in terms of features that everyone, regardless of what they want to get out of LinkedIn, will benefit from. One of the features I use daily is ‘Who your viewers are’ which allows me to see all of the folks who have looked at my profile listed by day, going back 3 months. Knowing who’s looked at my profile is an essential part of my networking strategy. Without it, I’m flying blind. How can you engage with someone if you don’t even see them coming into your store? There are a handful of other features included with Career (3 InMails/4 Premium search filters/300 profiles per search/5 saved searches per month) that I would categorize as ‘nice to have’ rather than crucial.

(25) Can I withdraw a connection request?

Yes. Click on ‘My Network’ and click on ‘Manage all’, click on ‘Sent’ and then click on ‘Withdraw’. Withdrawing prior sent invitation requests is smart because you add them back to your allocated request pool and minimize the risk that these folks could click IDK. When a lot of folks click IDK, it puts you in connection request limbo and harms your ability to build your network.

(26) What are InMails?

If you have a premium package you’ll get an allowance of InMails. These are messages you can send within LinkedIn to people you are not connected with. In an effort to reduce misuse of InMail, LinkedIn introduced a credit system (Jan 2015) which essentially rewards people who use InMail properly; you get an InMail credit for every InMail message that receives a response within 90 days of the send date. A reply back or a “not interested” response both result in a credit.

(27) Is it icky to like my own content/comments?

No. I used to think so but I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided that it’s a good idea to click ‘like’ on your own stuff because it encourages others to like and gets the ball rolling. I can always click again and it will remove the like. Every time you click like, a notification goes to the author of the content you liked. It’s the least work you can do to engage, sharing/commenting takes a little more effort/time.

(28) Why are there fake LinkedIn profiles?

Mainly because LinkedIn is a target rich website where people share a lot of data and let their guard down for people who seem credible or look like they can help them (i.e recruiters). There are numerous fake profile strategies, from intel gathering, to blatant phishing. Most people connect with fakes because they don’t know how to spot them or they’re too busy/preoccupied to care. You can report them to LinkedIn and LinkedIn will delete their accounts if they agree that they are fake. I show you how to spot fakes here:

(29) What is tagging?

Tagging is a way to bring another LinkedIn user into a discussion by adding @ and typing their name. The tagged person will get a notification and it’s a great way to spark engagement. LinkedIn recently fixed tagging, sometimes it was impossible to tag someone and really buggy, now LinkedIn defaults to the post author or the person you’re replying to. Still not perfect, works most of the time though. If the person you’ve tagged doesn’t engage, take that as a hint going forward, don’t be a tag pest.

(30) Can I remove recommendations?

Yes. Go into your recommendations section, click on the blue ‘edit’ pencil and click on ‘Given’, then click on ‘delete’. The recommended person can’t delete a recommendation he/she has received but they can hide recommendations.

(31) Is the mobile version any good?

Yes. The LinkedIn mobile app has improved by leaps and bounds, it is possible these days to do pretty much everything you’d usually do to manage your profile and run your account. Where desktop currently has the edge is for heavy use keyboard stuff like writing long form posts or recommendations. Some things (connecting with people who insist on you knowing their email or getting an elongated headline) are only possible on the app. It’s conceivable that new technology will make the app even more useful i.e geolocation at conferences or voice to text transcription. I envisage a future where having LinkedIn in your pocket is all you need.

(32) Why does LinkedIn order connections by 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree?

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 LinkedIn emphasize the potential of networking and connecting on LinkedIn. There are 3 types of connection on LinkedIn and only 1 of them is an actual connection. 1st degree are actual connections of yours. 2nd degree means someone you’re directly connected to is connected with that person. 3rd degree connections don’t have any mutual connections in the 2nd degree group.

(33) How can I get my LinkedIn content to go viral?

Statistically, it probably isn’t going to happen for you. I got lucky and wrote something that landed on the first page for a popular and germane google search (LinkedIn summary) which has brought well over half a million visitors to my website. Writing on LinkedIn used to catapult content which dominated google, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. After an initial rush by everyone to publish on LinkedIn, the reality of low and uncertain circulation soured it for many potential writers. I read somewhere that if you want to get a lot of people reading your stuff, 20% of your time should be spent writing and 80% on promoting it. A lot of people either don’t get that or don’t want to/don’t know how to put in the leg work. Content views on LinkedIn are inaccurate, a vanity metric and pointless since we can’t interact with the viewers because we don’t know who they are. You’ll know if you wrote something good by measuring the likes and shares. I’d focus on always writing your best stuff, in your own voice (write like you speak) and engage with your fans. As my buddy Bruce Johnston says “Views are good for the ego. Engagement is good for business.”

(34) When I publish a post, will all of my connections see it?

Unfortunately no. “Your connections’ feeds are personalized for them based on people they follow, their connections, and their engagement on LinkedIn.” according to LinkedIn. In other words, an algorithm determines who gets notified when you publish/share. There’s no way of knowing who sees your content on LinkedIn. The only way you’ll know is if they interact with it (like, share or comment) or you tag them, or they tell you. Currently even if you follow someone, there is no way to automatically get notified when a specific author publishes on LinkedIn. Conversely, there are multiple options to “delete”. “mute”, “unfollow”, or “turn off” content/authors. That seems topsy-turvy to me.

(35) What is that blue space at the top of my profile?

It’s called a Header, also know as a banner/hero image. Caps the top of your profile page and is a prime swath of screen real estate which you should customize to hint or show what you do professionally. Adding a city skyline, pretty flowers or cliffs may look pleasing to you but if you’re not an architect, florist or sailor you’re missing out on a branding opportunity. I show how 9 LinkedIn Influencers have utilized their Headers over time:

(36) What is a Company Page?

It’s a profile page for companies where they can advertise products, services and job openings. Company pages can be followed and visitor traffic to the page can be analyzed and content can be sponsored. Showcase pages are mini Company pages attached to the main page which can be utilized to present specific products or services, campaigns or initiatives etc.

(37) What’s the quickest way to get LinkedIn support?

Tweet them @LinkedInHelp

(38) Can someone delete my comment?

Yes. If you comment and someone, not just the author of the article/post wants to, they can “report” it and it will vanish from the view of the person who reported it. LinkedIn will review the comment and decide whether it should be removed or not. When you report a comment, you have 4 potential reasons to report it (inappropriate, spam/scam/fake, from a hacked account or “something else”). The author can delete any comment he/she wants, without needing to report it.

(39) Is it possible to download all of my LinkedIn contacts and their details?

Yes. LinkedIn offers to export an archive of your data, which includes full name, email address, current employer, and position of all connections. Don’t expect every contact to have an email address, I’m not sure why that happens.

(40) Should I use 3rd party software to automate my LinkedIn profile?

No. Too risky. If you’re caught using auto/bot software which does stuff like visiting other profiles automatically, you could be banned from LinkedIn for life. Some of the available auto tools will undoubtedly make your life easier and could supercharge your engagement/marketing efforts but I think the risk far outweighs the reward.

(41) As a job seeker, should I say that I’m “currently available” in my headline/summary/profile?

No. It’s a common mistake to advertise your status on LinkedIn as a “job-seeker” “currently available”or “looking for next challenge” anywhere on your profile. You are creating an opportunity for people to ignore/dismiss you. It’s never a good idea to ask for something/seem desperate up-front on social media. It’s a much smarter strategy to: (a) create a memorable headline and a stunningly good summary which sells your ability/skills/experience and tells the reader specifically what you can do for them (b) take the time to learn new skills, volunteer and network (c) don’t hide the fact that you are currently unemployed. As long as you can demonstrate that you’ve used your time out of work wisely and you’ve been proactive, your next employer will give you the benefit of the doubt. Recruiters just want to see the last period of gainful employment and evidence of you keeping busy/relevant in the interim. Be prepared to explain exactly what you have done with your time “off” at interview. Teach yourself new skills (so many great moocs out there: leverage your existing network and continue to build new relationships. Set goals throughout the week, treat every day like a 9-5 work day, plan and execute. Don’t give up. You may have lost a battle but you’ll win the war.

(42) Will my employer know that I am job hunting if I change my LinkedIn profile?

No. Even if they do notice that you’ve made some changes recently, so what?! You should have the attitude that it’s in everyone’s best interest to present well on LinkedIn. Just because you updated or changed something doesn’t necessarily mean that you are marketing yourself and job prospecting. It’s smart career move to keep your profile current and constantly build your network, better to dig your well – before you are thirsty. I’ve worked with many clients in transition, the vast majority of them had bare bones LinkedIn profiles and less than 500 contacts. Being moderately active on LinkedIn; checking in, sharing or liking content, contributing to group conversations, making new acquaintances should be a regular part of your online life. If you get laid off, and you’ve made LinkedIn part of your virtual social routine over the years, you’ll have a network that knows and cares about you rather than having to build a support mechanism from scratch.

(43) Is there a way to find out if someone disconnects from me?

Yes. Browse their profile. If they are a 2nd degree connection and they used to be 1st, chances are they disconnected from you. It’s unlikely a ‘bug’ caused it, just saying. If you can’t seem to find them on LinkedIn, they blocked you or deleted their account. There used to be software (Friend Check) which made it really easy to see if someone disconnected but it was rendered useless by LinkedIn’s strict control of their API. Boooo.

(44) Should I go for the largest possible network, or keep it small?

These days large social networks are becoming the norm. Most people understand that the bigger your net, the more fish you’ll catch. Reid Hoffmann, Co-founder of LinkedIn has a “small gifts” approach when building his network; he tries to do something nice for each connection (i.e giving advice or an intro) and doesn’t expect anything in return but he thinks there are big payoffs over the longer term by adhering to this altruistic and nurturing technique. Clearly, the larger your network, the more difficult it is to try to do something nice/helpful for everyone consistently. I think there’s another approach which has the best of both worlds; help when asked but keep on expanding your list of connections on a just in case basis. One of the reasons we join LinkedIn is for the unparalleled access to fellow professionals all over the world and the ability to conduct unlimited research on current and relevant data. There’s some interesting research by British sociologist Robin Dunbar (Dunbar’s Number) who reckons we can only keep friends with 150 people. I think he’s onto to something

(45) Should I connect with recruiters?

Yes. I never understood any reluctance to connect with recruiters. They could approach you with options or they could do the same for your connections. So where is the harm? So what if they want to nosy around your network, doesn’t hurt you at all, could help in a big, career-changing way.

(46) What should I measure on LinkedIn?

Not a lot you can measure. Profile views, which are measured separately from content views, is the only non content metric that is provided. LinkedIn used to give a historical chart but now it’s been dumbed down and relatively meaningless. Views go up by a percentage when you are active (write, share, like, comment, browse) and down when you don’t. I focus instead on the people rather than the percent; if someone has browsed you, you should find out why. Maybe it’s a precursor to connecting or doing business together? Consistently low viewership is a good indicator that you have a life outside of LinkedIn but as I said previously, maintaining a balance of being present/active in real life and virtually, is what you should aim for.

(47) What are introductions and how do they work on LinkedIn?

Introductions are what friends do for each other on LinkedIn. Asking someone you know for an introduction to someone they are connected with is like a mini conference, good for engagement, mutual support and network cohesion. Read this for a great example of a warm intro by Mike Kunkle:

(48) How important are keywords?

It annoys me more than it should when I see a LinkedIn “expert” blather on about the importance of adding keywords to your profile. It’s inadequate, frankly amateurish advice which has no factual basis. When LinkedIn provides actionable data about specific words and what exactly they are doing for you in search and bringing visitors to your profile, I’ll change my tune. Read this post for more of my pragmatic, clear eyed analysis:

(49) How much info should I share on my profile?

These days your LinkedIn profile is your online resume, so my advice is to share everything you’d normally share on your CV without sharing anything commercially sensitive. You should have a brief description of your role for each work experience entry and use bullets to showcase specific achievements, ideally with facts and figures attached to those bullets.

(50) Should I get professional help (with my profile)?

Yes (quelle surprise!). Because as trite as it sounds, you don’t know what you don’t know. I’ve worked with clients at all stages in their career and at all levels, talented and successful professionals who are on top of their game. All have chosen to work with someone like me because they understand the importance of getting it right on LinkedIn. You don’t get a second chance to impress on LinkedIn. I recommend you work with someone who knows LinkedIn inside out, understands how to market via the platform and can write.

What common LinkedIn questions have I missed? Please tell me via comments, thanks!

If you need help with your LinkedIn profile, summary, headline or LinkedIn strategy/goals/aspirations, email me I’m currently accepting new clients.