unlocking linked in

Unlocking LinkedIn


LinkedIn – the dirt

LinkedIn behind-the-scenes…

Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn reveals a great deal of business information for their users, and about their users.

We all know that both these sites are collecting information about us but LinkedIn offers more insights than Facebook does. The average, or below average, user of LinkedIn likely thinks that LinkedIn is much like Facebook but it’s not.

Who’s viewed my profile


When you view my profile and make decisions, you are either making a positive impression or a negative one. When you view my profile, I can see that you have viewed my profile. Ah, you say, I’ll view your profile anonymously. Well you are not quite as anonymous as you might think (more on that later).

Whether you know it or not, your LinkedIn actions are speaking to the LinkedIn community about who you are and what type of business person you are. And your colleagues are also sending messages to the LinkedIn community about your business unit and by extension your company as a whole.

In many ways you are revealing how easy or difficult you are to work with.  Most LinkedIn users have no idea that this is exactly what they are doing. I would venture to bet that 99% of companies out there have no idea of the social image they are portraying to the business world and just how important social media really is to their company.

Your business presentation

The polished upper decks – Your profile picture and all that slickly worded stuff around it.


You likely have a carefully chosen image of yourself on LinkedIn:

• your best head shot, photographed by a professional photographer to show that you take business very seriously. You are a professional.

• a smiling face, to show how amiable you are

• a business suit with a tie, to show that you are professional and ready for serious business

  • a sports jacket without a tie to show you’re serious but not too serious. You know how to roll up your sleeves and pitch in.
  • a beard and/or a ball cap to show you’re savvy, you stay on point, and you’re part of what’s trending in the marketplace
  • no photo at all, just the default silhouette provided by LinkedIn to show that you use digital things like LinkedIn but digital things aren’t really that important to you
  • a black and white photo so you stand in contrast to the wash of color photos. Clean and simple, and you likely have an iPhone just to bring that point home, in case anyone is asking
  • a blurry image, that shows that you are not all that technically savvy, or on your last Sasquatch expedition someone inadvertently snapped your photo as the great beast passed by, and it was the best picture you had, so what the heck you uploaded it to LinkedIn
  • you’re leaning forward to show you’re interested and you have that ‘that’s fascinating’ look on your face.
  • the list goes on and on and on …

Using the proper language for your profile

Now most people are going to ensure that they use the proper language to show that they’re on point with the latest terminology. They’re going to ensure that they use terms like ‘innovative’, and ‘strategic’, ‘Millenials’ and ‘Digital’, ‘Coca Cola’ and ‘Apple’. They’re going to avoid words like ‘Bre-X’, ‘BlackBerry’, ‘Nortel’, and ‘sub prime mortgage’ because no one wants to talk about that.

Going deeper

But all of this visual information – the pictures, the buzz words, where you went to school, what your skill sets are don’t really tell me what you’re like to work with. They don’t tell me how open or closed-minded you are. They don’t tell me whether you’re a stapler holding conservative or a wildly innovative entrepreneur.

Shouldn’t there be some way for me to glean all of this information? Shouldn’t there be some means by which I can ascertain more about you as an individual? Shouldn’t I also be able to  ascertain more about the business unit you belong to; and by discovering this information determine what type of company you work for and its values?

I guess ultimately what I’m asking is, is there any way of going deeper than what the profile picture portrays? Isn’t there a way I can uncover more about who you really are and what you’re really like to work with?

Here’s where LinkedIn gets very interesting as a social media tool, and very few people pay attention to these little tricks and tips. It’s not about your presentation on LinkedIn, it’s more about your actions and choices on LinkedIn than anything else.

When people [ and the organizations they work for ] show you who they are, believe them!” –  Liz Ryan

These tips might help you go a little deeper into unlocking LinkedIn.

Hidden Treasure

1-up-offWhiteHow to send out blocks of invitations quickly and efficiently to unlock company culture

A great way to research and understand companies or business units within companies is to reach out to groups of people within them. Using this method allows you to sweep through a large number of people and uncover a lot of information about the company quickly.


If you use the built in search provided by LinkedIn, you can search by company name as shown in this screen capture. Once LinkedIn returns the search results, you are then able to rapidly send out invites to many people by selecting the ‘Connect’ option.

This process would be tedious and time consuming otherwise, as you would have to search by individual, find out their contact details etc, etc. A pain.

With the method to the left, you just need to browse the search results and click, connect, connect, connect, etc. Away you go!

Depending on how diligent you want to be, you might even want to keep track of the people you are inviting so you can monitor their responses: i.e. how quickly they respond; whether they check out your profile and do or don’t connect with you.

Of course, if the search returns display a lot of Send InMails, you’ve already received a lot of information about the individuals, or the business unit, or even possibly the entire company. Read on.


Search for people, jobs, companies, and more…

‘Send InMail’ vs ‘Connect’

Allow me to lay a little ground work before explaining the difference between ‘Send InMail’ vs ‘Connect’.

Each person on LinkedIn is able to choose who can send them invitations to connect on LinkedIn. This setting is within the communications setting under Privacy & Settings of your account settings.

Choosing who can connect to you on LinkedIn.

So, if I have chosen the first recommended option that everyone on LinkedIn can connect with me, then when you do a search for me on LinkedIn and my profile information appears, you will see a ‘Connect’ button next to it. You simply click ‘Connect’ and voila, we are connected.

Occasionally you might invite someone to connect. You click on the ‘Connect’ button and you see this:


If this screen pops up, it means that you will need the person’s email address in order to connect with them. So it appears that they are easy to connect to, but they are not. Essentially this person belongs to the ‘blocker’ group which I write about later in this post. This group of individuals is essentially the same as the ‘Send InMail’ group below; so let’s continue.

Now, let me define what the ‘Send InMail’ button means for those who might not use it. The ‘Send InMail’ button essentially means that you cannot easily connect to that person (they have chosen the second or third option in the screen capture above). You would have to have specific information in order to connect to them, or have elevated permissions on LinkedIn in order to contact them. Basically it means that the person you’re trying to connect with has set up their profile to prevent you from easily contacting them. These people have chosen to cloak their profiles so that you must know their email address or appear in their “Imported Contacts” list in order to connect with them.

The ‘connect’ button means that the person has made it easy for you to connect to them and add them to your network. It’s one easy step: click the ‘Connect’ button. The ‘Send InMail’ button means that the person has made it difficult for you to connect to them.

Got it? Yes? OK, let’s move on…

LinkedIn allows you to search for individuals, types of jobs, posts, and companies among other things. You can uncover a lot about an individual, an occupation, a business unit, or a company.

As an example, suppose I do a search on LinkedIn for people who work for the FBI. You would expect the people within the organization to be inaccessible. So a screen shot like this would be expected:


Notice all the “Send InMails”. I’m actually surprised that there is a “Connect” button for one. “The Send InMail” setting sends the message, “We’re a closed doors organization, so you better have a good reason for reaching out to me!” So if you choose to be contacted only via the “Send InMail” setting you’d better be sure your profile doesn’t use words like “forward thinking” and “innovative” because that’s not the message you’re sending.

As an individual member of the FBI, I can infer that you are a reserved, methodical person. Furthermore I can infer that your co-workers are too. Likely the whole organization is comprised of individuals, silos, and workgroups who share these traits, and I should expect a high level of bureaucracy. I should assume that the FBI moves slowly and methodically. Good for some organizations but if I were searching through members of a technology company and saw “Send InMails” come up, I’d conclude that the company itself is bureaucratic which would be bad for a technology company and I’d be wary of a company like this.


Notifications – sending out invites and your response.

‘Is now a connection’ vs ‘viewed your profile’ – Block and Flow

noConnectionSo let’s examine a scenario in which you’ve sent an invitation to a group of people within a certain field of work, or within a certain block of people at a company, or even a whole range of people working at a company. Soon you begin receiving replies to your connection request: some view your profile and ‘connect’ to you, others view your profile and do not.

Their choices convey their personality. The person who ‘is now a connection’ is conveying that they are open to new ideas and new people; and the one who ‘viewed your profile’ is conveying that they are closed to new ideas and people.

Furthermore, if you are reaching out to a specific person that you already know, or work with, expecting a prompt connection, and they view your profile but don’t connect, something has gone awry somewhere. That person’s perception of you has been tainted either by your actions or by some internal politics. Whether that perception is right or wrong doesn’t matter – that person’s perception is their reality. Welcome to the current House of Cards of blocker business. More about that later. But suffice to say some political drama has unfolded behind the scenes.

Most professionals on LinkedIn don’t just randomly choose to send an invite to someone without having some sort of common profession or interest. And one thing that’s becoming more prevalent in the new way of doing business that’s unfolding, is that you never know where a new idea is going to come from, so wouldn’t it be a good idea to have an extensive network of people who might challenge you to approach things from a different angle. You never know what kind of “aha” moment you might see. Those who have taken the time to view your profile but haven’t connected to you, are generally of the old guard. They protect their knowledge and who they choose to connect with. They are demonstrating a position of power.

Block and Flow

boulderInRiverI lump these ‘viewed your profile’ and ‘new connections’  into two types of people, into ‘block’ and ‘flow’ categories. What does this mean? There’s an interesting phenomenon unfolding in the workplace these days. There’s the old guard, and then there’s what is typically referred to as the disruptor. The old guard is holding firm, and trying to protect what they have. What they have and their business approach is slowly eroding away and dying out; and the disruptor is speeding by them with newer, faster, better and more transparent business practices.

In many ways the old guard is like a rock in the river. The disruptor, on the other hand, is a lot like the flood of the century. Depending on the size of the rock, the old guard can hang on for a while because, well, they’re big…think Nortel or BlackBerry. Big rocks. But it doesn’t really matter how big the rock is, if the flood of the century is beating down on them perpetually. You can do two things, go with the flow or resist. Either way change is coming, the question is will you yield and flow or resist and erode.

So if you send an invitation to one person, or many people, and you have some people who quickly check out your profile and connect to you, and some people who check your profile but don’t connect to you, then you can assume that the former group will ‘flow’ and the later group will ‘block’. Now, if you’re not a person who likes to flow, than going with the blockers is the way to go. I, myself, choose the ‘flow’ because I’m a technologist and a life-long learner, and I like exploring new possibilities.


For me, Jorg’s approach represents a best current practice on LinkedIn. I sent him an invitation. He viewed my profile quickly (3 minutes) and discovered a) I’m a real person b) I’m relevant to his field; so without hesitation he added me to his network and continued on. That is flow. Flow is not only the future of business, it’s already here.

Here’s where a big error creeps in: everyone thinks because you’re a baby boomer, you’re a blocker and because you’re a millennial, you belong with the flow group. That is simply not the case whatsoever. In my research I have found that you’re more likely to find blockers among the baby boomers but you will also find a great deal of blockers among millennials. I won’t fan that fire in this post – I will be writing about that another time.

So if someone has written in their profile that they’re innovative and collaborative and strategic but they have ‘Send InMail’ when you try to connect with them or they’ve viewed your profile but they haven’t connected to you, think blocker. If some has written about these traits of innovation etc., and they have ‘connect’ and have viewed your profile and have connected to you, think flow.

As I’ve researched this topic, I’ve found that there are more blockers than those that flow but blockers are slowly diminishing just like a rock in a current. I found this interesting quote from Web Designer, Brad Frost, “People’s capacity for bullshit is rapidly diminishing. People are finding ways to circumvent bullshit.” In essence this is flow. The blockers might have the upper hand right now but that influence is rapidly diminishing. Here’s my quant, my quantatative, i.e. here are the numbers:



 Stealth & Incognito

privateMode If anything signals a warning sign, it’s private mode. You might think, ‘well there’s nothing I can know about those who are viewing me in private mode.’ But you can actually discover quite a bit about these individuals if you’re just a bit savvier with how you send out your invites.

If you send out 15 invites and 14 of those invites come back as either ‘viewed your profile’ or ‘connect’ and you have one ‘these people viewed your profile in private mode’ or ‘someone at…’, then you know who the one person is because you have a list of the people you’ve sent your invitations to. It’s simple. Most people respond roughly around the same time and it’s easy to weed out who’s who.

I would suggest you don’t present yourself as incognito. I think this sends a negative signal, even if you’re a recruiter, and recruiters do browse around anonymously on LinkedIn a lot. For recruiters I would suggest you transparently surf LinkedIn.

Another reason people surf around LinkedIn in private mode is to glean information. I could write quite a lot about this but suffice to say if you’re sourcing material from someone, you should cite the author with credit. Passing someone else’s thoughts as your own rarely works if you don’t have the depth of experience to back it up.


Skills & Endorsements

I’ll finish with this. If you’ve done your homework, i.e. your research, on a company, you can also infer much from who’s endorsing who and who’s tagging who for their skill sets, both in their past and current companies.


All these practices can help you determine many things about many people and the companies where they work. Before you write off social media I suggest you pay heed to what you and your social media actions are really saying about you and by extension the company you work for.

Using social media creatively and effectively can help you to determine which individuals are the influencers, and which companies are on the rise and which are on the demise.

I’m sure others have tips and tricks such as these. I look forward to reading yours.

Steve Harrington

- not the douchebag one

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