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The Psychology of LinkedIn

3 Key Psychological Insights Into Online Profiles

Online profiles have increased over the last two decades. Whether you're looking for love, reconnecting with friends, or finding a job, online profiles have become an essential tool in the digital age to market and brand yourself.

Since LinkedIn's launch in May 2003 it has grown to approximately 100+ million users globally. Many users, unfortunately, are not leveraging this social networking tool to its maximum capacity.

In fact, the most successful networkers understand the psychology and value behind using LinkedIn. The 3 key psychological insights I'm covering will provide you with the social-psychology research along with suggestions on how to become a successful networker on LinkedIn.

1. Visualization

Most of you may already know that we are visual creatures but did you know that we absorb about 93% of our information from sight and sound alone?

In the 1960s, Dr. Albert Mehrabian developed a communication model known as the 7%-38%-55% rule. His research, which is constantly contested by scholars, states that we absorb information through:

  • 7% = Words
  • 38% = Tone of Voice
  • 55% = Non-Verbal (e.g., Facial Expression, Body Language)

This rule can also apply to how people perceive online profiles. I have found that many people unknowingly violate the 7%-38%-55% rule on LinkedIn. For example, they have:

  • No picture
  • A blurry face picture
  • A half of a face picture
  • A blank profile
  • A minimal profile
  • A complete resume posted

Before I go on, let me ask you these questions:

  1. Would you buy a product without knowing what it looked like?
  2. If you saw a product description, what's the likelihood that you would read it if it were 2 pages long?
  3. If you were on an online dating site, would you trust the person if their picture only showed half their face? Or had a very blurry picture?

My questions can go on and on but the point I am making is that as visual beings, we want to see what or whom we are interacting with; therefore, it's important that you have a very clear professional face picture on your profile.

2. Interpersonal Relationships

Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, interpersonal relationships typically happens on a one-to-one basis. As you may already know, long lasting interpersonal relationships is based on commonality and on-going rapport.

When you take traditional interpersonal relationship building to the Internet, most generations find it difficult. The difficulty has to do with the inability to pick-up facial expressions, body language cues, and voice tone to assess if a relationship should be pursued.

Building interpersonal relationships on LinkedIn isn't different. The most successful networkers use LinkedIn to reconnect with past colleagues or connect with new ones met in person. It's used as a connecting medium.

The perception that having 500+ connections on LinkedIn means that you are well connected is false. In fact, it hurts your credibility factor.

By accepting invitations from people you don't know into your "circle of trust", you have associated yourself with that person and indirectly are endorsing that person to whomever wants to connect with them within your network.

Let's think of it this way, if you were trying to set one of your friends up on a date, would you set them up with someone you know or someone you've never met before?

That in essence is what happens on LinkedIn. You are connecting people that you do know with people you've never met. The best networkers are connecting people that they know with each other.

If you have 500+ connections, make sure you know all of them or start purging the ones you have never met; otherwise, you run the risk of people not wanting to connect with you because your professional network is flawed.

3. Community

Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, conducted a famous study in 1943 known as "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs".

His model suggests that we need to fulfill several stages before reaching self-actualization. I'm not going to cover all his levels but want to point out that this famous theorist highlights Belonging as the third level in his model.

The need to belong has been with us since the beginning of time. Social networking programs have allowed us to continue the need to belong through online communities. Whether you are looking for new recipes or looking to expand your professional network, building an online community take a lot of work and dedication - similar to in-person communities.

LinkedIn offers thousands of communities known as Groups where you can connect with individuals in your field or experts in others. To leverage these groups, it's best that you post something to those communities on a frequent basis. Doing so will accomplish two things:

  1. People will see your face and discussion item
  2. If it's a good discussion item, people will remember you

The reason why that's important is because you want people to see you as a resource. Being a valuable resource will, in turn, help you stand out and more importantly be seen as someone with authority in that particular field.

The most successful networkers found on LinkedIn would post value-add content to their groups - thinking of the group, first and themselves, second.

LinkedIn is a great medium that, if used in a smart way, can truly open new opportunities for you. The psychological insights will help provide a breakdown of why certain folks are more successful in this platform than others.

Bernardo Tirado, PMP

Bernardo is a Behavioral Scientist and Industrial Psychologist with certifications in Six Sigma, Project Management, and Agile/Scrum. He covers leadership and technology for

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