11 fundamentals of LinkedIn

{updated February 2013}

LinkedIn is considered one of the main social media platforms. It has also been described as Facebook for professionals.

Personally, I have found it useful as a networking and professional development tool. I don’t spend as much time there since I discovered Twitter but I still think that it is a must for anyone with a career that has traditionally benefited from networking. And by networking, I don’t mean just to find your next job. You can network to learn from others or establish mutually beneficial relationships.

In this post, I’m going to share 11 basics of LinkedIn that you should know to build a foundation for using it. In later posts, I’ll look at some more advanced tips and how organizations and businesses can make use of it.

1. Only have 1 profile

Most people join LinkedIn by accepting an invitation from someone in their network. The account is attached to the e-mail address where the invite is sent. People who haven’t decided yet to be active on LinkedIn can easily end up with multiple accounts because they accept invitations to connect sent to two or more e-mail addresses. Before you invest time in your presence on LinkedIn, check if you have multiple ones and delete any you don’t want to use. Learn more.

2. Fill in your positions on your profile completely

Make sure that you list your current position with enough detail to share what you do, your skills and accomplishments. The amount of detail used depends on the individual but there should be some though I don’t think it needs to be exactly what you include on your resume. Do the same with for at least two more positions. You want to have at least three. If you have trouble identifying three positions, take a look and think about when you made transitions such as getting a new title or starting a new business even if it’s similar to your last one.

3. Use a photo that suits your line of work

A photo of yourself helps to show that you are actively using your account (just as it does on social media in general). But it’s not Facebook and not just any photo will do. Avoid using a photo taken on the beach from your last vacation and use a photo that could be put up on the wall at work that suits your position and ambitions.

4. Have a good profile summary

Your profile summary gives a quick glimpse of who you are as a professional. It may be the only part of your profile someone reads or could be what they use to decide if to look further. Be sure to include key words that people might use to find you so that you show up in searches.

5. Get least three recommendations

This step could take some more time than the others. But you might get them faster than you think if you get past your sense of modesty and ask for them. But don’t sweat it if you can’t get them immediately. Get active and ask for them as you expand your connections.

6. Make sure your profile is 100% complete

On LinkedIn having what is considered a 100% complete profile is another sign that distinguishes those that are new or just dabbling from those that are actively engaged in the platform. In addition to the above, this includes your education and your specialties. If everything else is in place, I think it’s ok if you take some time on getting recommendations.

For an updated look at this fundamental, read my February 2013 post about the strength of your LinkedIn profile.

7. Explain why you want to connect

Some people won’t consider your connection request unless they know you very well or you explain why you would like to connect. At the very least, don’t just use the default connection message. Personalize or customize it to show you took at least some time to make the request and just didn’t click your mouse a couple times.

8. Find your network

There are many ways to find your network. You can:

  • upload your address book and find them automatically.
  • look at lists of who also listed your current or former employer on their profile or who is also alumni of the educational institutions you attended.
  • look at the list of connections for the people you find and see if there are any first degree connections for you on that list.
  • use your Network Statistics (found in the Contacts drop-down menu) to see where your network is located and what fields they are in. I find searching these stats (by for example clicking on “Kitchener, Ontario, Canada) can be a way of finding people you already know.

While the size of your network can make a difference, you don’t need to get a large network instantly. Grow it gradually in an organic manner that matches your use of LinkedIn. Pay attention to quality of connections too.

9. Have your network of connections reflect your real world network

While some people are open to connecting with anyone (also known as LinkedIn Open Networkers [LION], I prefer having my LinkedIn network reflect my real world network. I’m more open to fresh connections than I used to be but I still want to recognize a name when it is in my feed or other times when LinkedIn is letting me know what my network is doing such as who got new jobs over the last year.

I also want to know where I know the person from. If I can’t remember the name and connection, what’s the point in being connected? I want to use this tool to enhance relationships or perhaps to develop a relationship. I prefer to know someone already and in the flesh but I have connected with people that I’ve only met once or have only known online.

If I get a connection request from a name I don’t recognize, I won’t connect right away. I might suggest getting together first if I think that a connection might be interesting. But increasingly, I get requests from people I don’t know and I don’t always take the time to try to get to know them because they clearly are not taking any time to get to know me.


If you aren’t 100% sure that the person you are sending a connection request will quickly recognize your name, don’t send the request unless you can explain why you are making it. Maybe find a way to contact the person or meet them so that they are open to connecting later, I know that’s what I’d prefer because, as I said earlier, the quality of the connection is important.

10. Be active in groups 

So you’ve got a great profile and have a great online network. Now what? The next stage is to get active on LinkedIn. One of the best ways is to find groups to join that may be online versions of professional associations or alumni groups but may exist only on LinkedIn and based upon a common interest for example. Find some, join some and actively participate in the discussions happening. Ask questions and start discussions! That’s how you get new information and make new relationships. Ask the right group the right question and you’ll access help to solve a problem or learn about a resource that you might otherwise not easily be able to find help or at least not as quickly or efficiently.

11. Stay in touch with your network

Post status updates regularly. At least once a week. You can share some professional accomplishment, a project that can be shared or professional development you are doing. You can also share blog posts, interesting news stories or videos–whatever your network finds interesting.

12. Be social 

See February 2013 post on why I added this fundamental.


Avoid cross posting your tweets to LinkedIn. In short, Twitter and LinkedIn have two different sets of user expectations including frequency of posting and tweets clutter LinkedIn’s status update feed and make it harder to see what people are intentionally sharing with their professional network in mind.

Learn more at Social Media Breakfast: Waterloo Region

Here’s a video of Paul Nazareth’s presentation on LinkedIn at Social Media Breakfast: Waterloo Region.

Any questions or suggestions for more basics?

Do you have any questions about these fundamentals? Do you have any suggestions for what else should be basic knowledge for someone new to LinkedIn or looking to start using it more effectively?

Here are my other posts on how to make the most of LinkedIn personally or for your organization.