The 7 Uses For LinkedIn

(just pretend there’s a seventh candle. Thanks)


(…and how useful it actually is for each one)

Profile Reference Check

People typically come to your profile to answer these questions:

  • Just who is this person?
  • Are they who they say they are?

What it amounts to is people are looking at your profile as a kind of reference check. They are curious about you and they want to know more.

When someone comes to your profile the implied question they have is “What can this person do to help me?”

And there you go. Those are the questions your profile needs to answer:

  • What can you do for your ideal reader?
  • What benefits can you provide?
  • What questions are you uniquely qualified to answer?

LinkedIn works really well for this, but most LinkedIn users don’t work their profiles really well. They have skinny one line descriptions of current and past job descriptions. They don’t bother with the “About section” at all. They have no articles or featured content in their profiles. They neglect especially the Skills and Recommendations sections. A LinkedIn  profile can be a personal showcase that is open 24/7. It takes some effort to set up, but then it just takes a little maintenance to keep it up to date.

Increased Reach

You can use LinkedIn for increasing your Reach, that is the number of people who are aware of you, but it is not easy. You have two things working against you when you want to use LinkedIn to increase your reach:

  • The first is the LinkedIn algorithm. Most people see the algorithm putting their content in front of new people and think that is good. And it is. But the quality of those people is suspect. Your connections and followers may for the most part fit nicely with your ideal reader or prospect demographic, but their connections and followers will likely start wandering away from being a good fit. And oddly, the more LinkedIn spreads your post out there, the less likely those new people fit.
  • The second fact is that you are competing with millions of other people and companies vying for attention on LinkedIn. A search on Sales Navigator reveals that 24 million people posted on LinkedIn in the past thirty days. That’s a million people every day, and that does not count any of those people posting more than twice in the past 30 days, and that does not count company page posts, of which there are something like 60 million company pages.

Using LinkedIn for reach gets tougher all the time. I am starting to work with some of my clients on using LinkedIn advertising if they want increased reach, because it is the only way of ensuring their message gets put in front of exactly who they want to get it in front of.

Increased Credibility

On the other hand, LinkedIn is awesome for increasing credibility. You can call it thought leadership, which is trendy, or consideration, which is what LinkedIn calls it in their advertising context, but regardless of the label, LinkedIn is really good for it.

However, some ways are better than others. I recommend writing articles or newsletters if you want credibility. There are three reasons for this:

  • They can be inserted as feature articles and prominently displayed on your profile
  • They are saved long term by LinkedIn. I have articles that are over six years old that are still on LinkedIn
  • They get indexed by Google. People searching Google can be directed to your article. I know this happens because it has happened to me tens of thousands of times.

These days, prospective customers do a lot of research. They identify who the players are for their requirements, and they set about doing the preliminary parsing by themselves. They will often come up with a small group of finalists before they ever contact any of those finalists. LinkedIn is a great way of establishing your credibility and making the list of people or companies that should be considered.

Finding People and Companies

LinkedIn is outstanding for searching and there are two reasons for this. The first is because LinkedIn is a database that updates itself. When someone gets promoted, they change their LinkedIn profile. When someone changes jobs, they change their LinkedIn profile. Heck, when someone loses their job, they change their LinkedIn profile.

So LinkedIn is the most up to date database of info there is.

Secondly, LinkedIn has the tools to search that database. You can look for specific companies, or within industries, or at different company sizes. You can search by geography. You can look for people via those parameters plus function (like purchasing for example), seniority and specific job titles. And you can search using any combination of these filters that you want.

I used to say to one client that with LinkedIn search you can have “total market knowledge”. You can find everyone. All it takes is a little imagination.

However, to get maximum utility out of using LinkedIn Search, I suggest you consider getting Sales Navigator. The additional filters, search results, and saving abilities make it worth the money.

You Can Be Found

This is another aspect of LinkedIn that needs a big asterisk. Yes, you can be found on LinkedIn. And every week LinkedIn sends us a notification for how many searches we appeared in that week. But there is a world of difference between being “found” in a  LinkedIn search and having LinkedIn display your name prominently in those search results.

If you are an American, and I perform a LinkedIn search and specify the United States, one hundred and eighty-nine million people show up in the results. You are one of them. But what are the odds of me actually “finding” you in those results?

The biggest factor in where you appear in search results is your relevance to the searcher, that is how connected to them on LinkedIn you are. When you get a lot of results in a search, LinkedIn will usually list them in rough order of how connected you are – first level connections first, second level second and so on. The bigger your LinkedIn network, the more likely you are a first level connection, or more likely, a second level connection to the searcher.

The bottom line though is that appearing in search results if a pretty hit and miss proposition.

Research For Both People And Companies

There is a wealth of information available to us on LinkedIn. We just need to find it, and in some cases interpret it.

For example, on a linkedIn profile we can find:

  • Current experience section for responsibilities and accomplishments
  • Previous experience to get an idea of their career path
  • Their “About” section can show how they see their career progression themselves
  • Recommendations given and received.
  • What their skills reflect (sometimes the order someone puts their skills in can tell you a lot)
  • The companies and people they are following and the groups they belong to.
  • Their recent activity (if they have any) on LinkedIn. Is he or she  posting? How often? What topics? Are they interacting with other people’s or company’s posts?

Now if I we are looking at a company:

  • Examine the company insights LinkedIn provides very carefully (you do need a premium subscription for this). Hiring trends, headcount, and turnover by department all give clues as to how the company is doing. A company growing at 20% a year is very different from one that has had headcount go down by 20% in the past year.
  • This is an opportunity to pull a list of company employees and look for active users in all parts of the company. You can often find people who are active LinkedIn users where you normally wouldn’t expect them (this will be important when we want to contact people at the company in question).
  • Lastly I will look to see if we have any connections who might know people at this company. I look to see if there are any company employees with a “2nd” beside their name.

Using LinkedIn For Direct First Contact

LinkedIn can be the absolute best method to contact prospects in preliminary outreach. Sometimes…

That’s because at its core, LinkedIn is a database, not “the social network for professionals”. Out of 900 million members, maybe ten percent of them log in to LinkedIn at once a week or more often. So if we send an outreach message or connection request to a prospect, odds are roughly one in ten that that person will have an opportunity to see it in the next week. The odds of us getting a response from users who come around less often are pretty low for two reasons:

  • when they finally do show up, say three months from now, they will have a pile of messages waiting for them. Good luck with yours getting any quality time with your traget.
  • The less often someone shows up, the less value they attach to LinkedIn and the less likely they are enthusiastic – and amenable – to receiving messages from strangers.

Now there are people who tend to use LinkedIn a lot – salespeople, marketers, human resources people, consultants and solo practitioners of all kinds. If these people are in your target demographic, you will likely do a lot better using LinkedIn to send outreach messages. And you can also use LinkedIn to make offers on your profile and generate sales leads.

But other professions will be worse than ten percent. I ran an ad for a client where the targets were engineers last summer and the results suggested that only a couple percent were showing up at least once a week.


LinkedIn is an excellent tool for search and research. It is outstanding for establishing or improving your credibility, and for providing an avenue to establish you have the answers to your ideal target’s questions via your profile.

LinkedIn is more hit and miss for increasing reach, being found, and for first outreach.

Set your expectations accordingly.

(* the two Sales Navigator Searches I mention were conducted Tuesday morning, May 16th, 2023.)

I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains one or two articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month.