Parsing LinkedIn User Types To Guide Outreach Tactics

Today’s newsletter is longer than you are used to from me at 1300 words. It will take you 4-5 minutes to read, but these ideas will change the way you perform outreach on LinkedIn.

I have talked often about social selling and how a modified version of the Pareto Principle applies to LinkedIn. As a quick refresher, 60% of LinkedIn users show up less than once a month, and of the 40% that do, perhaps half of them show up once or twice a week. Where this is imporetant to outreach is that trying to contact people that don’t show up very often is not a winning strategy, while outreach to people who do use LinkedIn often is a good strategy.

Some of the comments and interactions I have received on this idea got me thinking: What if I could further refine that 60/40 split? And if I could, how could that information be used to our advantage on LinkedIn?

And that’s when I thought about the applicability of the 90-9-1 rule to this case. Often called the “90-9-1 rule of internet participation”, it hypothesizes that one percent of the users in an internet community publish the content, nine percent of the users engage with that content and ninety percent of the users just lurk in the background.

This rule appears to apply to LinkedIn. Ever wonder why LinkedIn groups don’t work? A large part of it is you need a large number of group members to get the ten percent that will provide and engage with the group content (and I am not talking about people who post and run in groups).

So here’s my hypotheses as this rule applies to LinkedIn.

  • 1% of LinkedIn users are very active and create and publish content.
  • 9% of LinkedIn users are active, showing up and engaging with that content at least once a week.

Then I split the remaining 90% into two subsets:

  • 30% are lurkers. These are people who show up at least once a month, but do not participate when they do.
  • And the remaining 60% of users don’t really use LinkedIn much at all.

Caveats: different types of job functions use LinkedIn in different ways. Solo business owners, sales, marketing, human resources, and recruiters all use LinkedIn heavily. The percentages will be higher for them – a larger percentage of salespeople use LinkedIn more often than Engineers for example. But that means if these people skew high, everyone else skews low!

So how do we tell which group a prospect on LinkedIn fits into, and knowing this,what is the best way to use LinkedIn with this prospect?

We will go backwards from the “seldom” users to the “heavy” users.

The 60% of LinkedIn users who show up rarely.

“Rarely” being less than once a month, according to LinkedIn’s definition.

How can we identify these users?

Low numbers of connections. Someone with a number of connections in the low hundreds is someone who does not see the use of LinkedIn as a tool.

What I call “skinny” profiles. On skinny profiles you will see things like:

  • Odd photos that are not professional. They just pulled any old photo and used it.
  • No background banner across the top
  • No “about” section
  • Experience sections that consist of titles only, no descriptions
  • Some skills with low numbers of endorsements

You get the idea. They look kind of like a skeleton of a profile. There’s no flesh on those bones.

What is the best way to use LinkedIn with these people?

Well, contacting them via LinkedIn is a losing proposition. They check in maybe once every four or six months, look around, maybe look at a few colleagues profiles, a competitors company page, wonder about all the fuss over LinkedIn is, then either passes on reading any messages or just deletes them all.

But what you can do is use LinkedIn for research. It won’t be great, but it is better than nothing, and may give you ideas for your outreach when you do try doing so via email, cold call or other means.

The 30% of LinkedIn users who lurk

These are people who show up at least once a month, and maybe even once or twice a week, but they do not publish and they do not engage.

So how do we identify these users?

In general they have “more” – more connections and more fleshed out profiles than the skinny sixty percenters. Their experience section will be filled out, and likely their “about” section too. There will be lots of skills, and they will be in a relevant order. One giveaway for these people that I see quite often is the “almost” profile, that is a complete profile with everything there but their current experience section has no description of their responsibilities there. Their previous experience sections are full of responsibilities, projects worked on, and accomplishments, but the current one is just a title and the start date.

What is the best way to use LinkedIn with these people?

Your research will work a lot better with these people as there is more info to work with, but they are on the fence as far as outreach messages are concerned. You may be messaging someone who uses LinkedIn once a week, or once every four weeks. To my mind, this makes messaging these people something I would do as a last resort. I am going to try email, networking through more active users at their company, or even trying them on Twitter (don’t laugh, it works) before I try using LinkedIn.

The 9% of LinkedIn users that engage with others on LinkedIn

We have made the leap to the good folks. These are easy to identify as you can see their activity on their LinkedIn profile.

How can we use LinkedIn with these people?

Here’s where the use of LinkedIn takes off. Not only can we research them via their profiles, but we can research them via their activity. And because activity is time and date stamped, you can get a good idea of how often they use LinkedIn and sometimes even what time of day they do so. You can also get clues by seeing what type of activity they engage in. Are they just engaging with their employer’s activity? Are they just rubber-stamp “liking” other people’s posts? Are they commenting? Are they getting into conversation threads on other people’s posts? Do they share other people’s or company’s content? If so, do they provide context with the shared content of just hit the share button and leave it at that?

All these can provide clues and give you ideas about what you can say in an outreach message.

And lastly of course, you can send them outreach messages and feel good about the probability that they will be seen and read.

The 1% of LinkedIn users that publish content.

These are the writers. These are the people that actively use LinkedIn as part of their sales, marketing or both. These are the powewr users, the people that “get” LinkedIn.

Identifying these people is easy enough, just go to their profiles and click on “recent activity”.

These people are the gold prospects – they have fleshed out profiles, activity you can review, they will see your outreach message, and because of the way they use LinkedIn, they are quite likely to answer.

I have shortcuts for identifying some of these types of users, but I’ll leave that for another newsletter. And of course, identifying these people is only the first half or outreach. Putting together a message that will get the answer you want is a newsletter for another day.

The obligatory disclaimer: 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. If you are an individual or company that wants to increase their effectiveness at using LinkedIn for sales or marketing, send me a message, it’s free as I am Open Profile.

The offer: Want more like this? I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles. This week’s LinkedIn newsletter was originally published as part of my email newsletter a couple months ago. Here’s a link to the sign up page:


A Highly Automated LinkedIn Cautionary Tale


I have a lot of clients who are always looking for email addresses and phone numbers for prospects, especially the prospects they find on LinkedIn. As such, when I see or hear of tools that say they can gather this type of info, I will usually check them out, as I will get asked about them sooner or later. Often they don’t live up to the hype. 

A couple months ago I attended a webinar / online demo for one such company. They’re hot, getting a lot of buzz and claim to be the first to use AI for real time results. 

The first screen they showed was one with all their high profile customers. Among them were LinkedIn and Microsoft. Well, that’s reassuring. 

Part way through the demo, the presenter showed how this tool integrates via a chrome extension with LinkedIn. How it appeared to work was you set up a search on LinkedIn and then  the tool took over. It went out on the web looking for emails and phone numbers for the people found in the search and overlaid them on the LinkedIn results screen. All very well done, good looking and all around cool. 

At this point another webinar attendee asked whether this tool was approved by LinkedIn. The presenter did not reply directly but pointed out that LinkedIn was a customer. 


It didn’t seem like something LinkedIn would be happy with them doing. Among other things, LinkedIn doesn’t like tools or chrome extensions that:

  • Take control of your LinkedIn account
  • Scrape data from LinkedIn
  • Change the appearance of a LinkedIn screen

…and this tool appeared to be doing all three. Oh, not in a major way, but it still appeared to be doing it. 

So I opened up Sales Navigator – with the presenter still droning away in another window – and contacted LinkedIn tech support. Got a very chill dude in the tech support department and asked him flat out, “I am watching a  demo right now for a software tool called <redacted name> They claim it is okay for use with LinkedIn, but I am not so sure. Can you confirm that for me?” I had to wait a few minutes for him to look it up, but he did confirm it for me. That is he confirmed LinkedIn was pursuing all avenues in going after this company and preventing them from using their tools on LinkedIn. And that anyone using that tool on LinkedIn could be doing irreparable harm to their LinkedIn account. LinkedIn appears to have no problem tossing people that don’t follow the user agreement. Because – and this is my spin on it – LinkedIn signs up two new members every second, so terminating your account or mine won’t even count as a rounding error. 

I never did finish watching the demo.

So today’s lesson is one I have been saying for a while now: don’t use automated tools that integrate with LinkedIn. And courtesy of my little adventure today I can expand on that a bit: “…even if they say that LinkedIn allows them to.” 

Why do you think I put all these funny disclaimers all over my website, on my newsletters and on my LinkedIn profile saying I am not affiliated with or endorsed by LinkedIn. I want my prospects, my customers, my readers and especially LinkedIn to know I am not claiming any special endorsement or relationship with them.

These automation companies may make the claim that LinkedIn won’t come after you, but you are taking the risk, not them. Act accordingly.

The obligatory disclaimer:

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.


Four Advantages Of Using LinkedIn Inmail Over Email For Cold Outreach

I was going to write about three advantages, but I thought of a fourth as I was editing this post. It’s at the end.

The closed system

The first advantage is that InMail takes place within the confines of LinkedIn’s closed system. This makes it safer for users to open, and less likely to contain malware and viruses and other nasty stuff. LinkedIn users can be more confident opening an InMail message from another LinkedIn user.

The possible hooks

One of the great aspects of LinkedIn and Sales Navigator is that the same place you can send those InMails from is the place where you can do the research that can give you ammunition to use in those InMails.
When I am going to send someone an InMail, I am doing research in three places: that person’s LinkedIn profile, the profiles of his or her obvious company peers (that I have found using Search in Sales Nav), and their LinkedIn company page. In all of these areas I am looking for hooks, information I can use that will help me get a response. For example, I have commented on how someone took what appears to be a hard turn in their career fifteen years ago (“I see you went from IT into sales. I would love to hear the story behind that career move.”) Or I will see something on their company page such as their headcount is way up in the past year (or way down!). Either of those two extremes can give me instant ways of couching my message, appealing to their growth or their need to cut costs.
These things don’t always jump out at you, but there is usually something there you can use.

The Tacit Approval

What almost no one knows is that you can opt out of receiving any InMail messages. In sending thousands of InMails I have never run across one of them. People seem to accept that part of the price of using LinkedIn is that non-connections may send them messages. They don’t have to open them, but they will show up in their inbox.

The user who is more likely to respond

This is my secret InMail weapon. I have found that LinkedIn users who use LinkedIn a lot are more likely to “get” LinkedIn, and are more likely to be open to receiving a message from a stranger. This makes sense. So I wondered how I could identify those people and it turned out to be pretty easy. I just look for people with lots of connections  – which I can see on their profile – and even more so, I look for people that are active on LinkedIn – which I can also see through their profile.
If I find someone with two thousand connections who shows up on LinkedIn once or twice a week and comments on posts or shares other people’s posts, I like the odds that if I send him or her a message that they will read it –  and of course it will have the hooks we just talked about in it. But if I send a message to a LinkedIn user who has two hundred connections and doesn’t look like they have been on LinkedIn for months, well that person doesn’t “get” LinkedIn and my odds of them ever even seeing my message let alone responding to it are awful.
And the bottom line?
My experience is that when I send outreach emails and outreach InMails with the same message, the ones I can send to active people get a 14% higher response rate. And that makes the effort worthwhile.