I’ve noticed over the 16 years as a LinkedIn user that, though LinkedIn has and offers some of the best practices, sometimes its interface doesn’t make following those best practices intuitive. In fact, some of its best features are hidden.
Cases in point:
1. Personalizing invitations
LinkedIn’s Quick Help resources advise and warn you: “To uphold LinkedIn’s trusted community, we encourage you to only connect with people you know. By sending fewer and more thoughtful invitations, you can help us keep LinkedIn a trusted space for everyone… We’ve found that most people ignore invitations from people they don’t know. A large number of rejected invitations could result in limitations on your LinkedIn account.”
Then, on another page, it tells you how to personalize your invitation, but doesn’t tell you that many people ignore boilerplate invitations. When I mean many, I mean that I personally know hiring managers, other LinkedIn experts, other career services professionals, executives, and speakers/authors who all intentionally ignore invitations without a personalized message.
(Here are 4 great reasons to ALWAYS personalize your invitation.)
Yet the easier thing to do is click connect. You have to click again on “Add a note” to personalize your message. On the phone apps, the ability to send a personalized invitation took a surprisingly long time to become a feature. It was hidden for a while, and now it’s more visible, but still just under “Connect,” which sends a boilerplate invitation. Importing your other contact lists sends a generic invitation in bulk.
Every…single…expert will tell you to ALWAYS personalize your invitation, and here are four good reasons why. So why wouldn’t sending and personalizing your invitation be the default option?
Groups are one of the most powerful features of LinkedIn that help you increase your visibility, promote your expertise and brand, and engage directly with people who can be new network connections that help you expand your network. There are three ways to get directly to groups from your desktop homepage, but none of them are obvious. LinkedIn only points out one of them. The other is by using the search bar, but groups usually show up last among the search results (this is the only way I have found to get to groups from the iPhone app.) The third is the 9-dot “work” drop-down in the upper right corner.
3. Knowing your contacts
LinkedIn says, ”We recommend only inviting people you know and trust because 1st-degree connections are given access to any information you’ve displayed on your profile.” They have taken steps over the years to inhibit super-connectors from expanding their networks unchecked. The LION (LinkedIn Open Networker) subculture has their reasons for accepting all invitations, but once they hit or were imposed with limits, they have to then remove people they don’t know to add people they meet and for whom have genuine reasons to stay connected. They then had to tell people, “Sorry – I’m at my limit.”
I have openly heard their side, however, I have found that by knowing my network, my efforts to connect with or connect other people are often successful and my network has grown into a healthy community of over 1400. I am “found” by many people (enough for my bandwidth) and my search results are rich with relevant people, even without an upgraded account. Here are other reasons I have chosen to fill my network with people with whom I have personally interacted and what I do when I receive an invitation from someone I don’t know. As we’ll discuss in a bit, invitations like these are a good sign.
Some of the changes that LinkedIn has made have penalized people who have added too many people. However, they don’t leverage their navigation or user experience to prevent this. You used to have to adjust settings to only allow people you know a certain way to invite you, and when you sent an invitation you used to have to select how you know them. Certain selections would require you to put their e-mail address. However, people have multiple e-mail addresses and not all of them may be connected to your LinkedIn account. This might be why this is gone, or it could be because the super-connected LIONs are connected enough to be a threat and have successfully influenced interface design to make it easy to connect with anyone, whether you know them or not.
Sidebar: You’ll find Steven Burda and Jason Alba, both quoted in the article linked above on LIONs, in my network because I have had real-world interactions with both of them. In fact, Steven was my neighbor. Our daughters are in girl scouts together. Jason and I connected years ago about his job searching software. I was the 2nd guest on his podcast, Ask the Experts.
Whether you have a free or upgraded account, LinkedIn shows you how many people viewed your profile and posts. Views alone, however, are not a great way to measure the effectiveness of your profile content or activities on LinkedIn for what you probably want to achieve – professional opportunity. What is more relevant is how many invitations you receive in proportion to profile views. This will tell you if your profile brand and content is compelling. This is a quantitative measurement, but qualitatively, if you want to know if your brand is effective, evaluate how well the people who invite you align with your target audience(s) and profiles.
Something else LinkedIn will show you in notifications is when people interact with your dynamic content – status updates, posts and comments. It will show you, again, how many views, but with each interaction that takes a bit more effort, you can see how effective your posts are at increasing your visibility (because more engagement means more visibility as other people’s networks will see their activity in relation to your post and it may even show up on other people’s home feeds as a result), promoting your expertise, and engaging with people who have a high probability of adding value to your professional goals, as well as the goals of your other connections. Likes are the easiest to give. LinkedIn has now added other reactions (that sometimes don’t work for me) and takes just slightly more effort. Commenting, now that LinkedIn has autosuggestions, takes about as much effort, but obviously making a custom comment requires thoughtfulness – a large increase in effort. Tagging others doesn’t take as much effort, but is a great testament to the value of your content and does an even better job of increasing views of your content. Again, though, more views without engagement can be more of a sign of content that could use improvement, such as a call to action.
LinkedIn will count post and status update comments, but remember to evaluate your qualitatively as well. Analyze your results so that you can continue to improve how your content and activity supports your professional objectives.
What are some great LinkedIn features that aren’t so obvious?
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Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play.
While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales.
Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.
She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.