Investigator’s Guide to LinkedIn

What is LinkedIn?

Launched in 2003, LinkedIn, which Microsoft owns, is the world’s largest professional networking platform. It’s also one of the most influential social media networks globally, with 756 million members. Its focus is on professional networking and career development. Members use the site to keep in touch with business associates, clients, and co-workers. They can also boost their profile, enhance their professional reputation and build awareness of their brand.

How does LinkedIn work?

Despite the professional focus, LinkedIn is quite similar to social networking sites like Facebook. It’s based on principles like connecting to friends (or, in the case of LinkedIn, “connections”), posting updates, sharing and liking content, and instant messaging other users.

LinkedIn also puts a professional spin on ideas familiar to Facebook users. The profile, for example, becomes a resume, complete with work experience, accomplishments, recommendations, and referrals from colleagues. The site also offers things you won’t find in other places, like a full-featured career board.

LinkedIn’s broad popularity and wealth of individual information make it a great source of information for investigators conducting social media searches.

LinkedIn Terminology

Like other social media platforms, LinkedIn has its own terminology. Below is a list of some of the most common terminology associated with the platform.

Profile – A place where a person’s experience, skills, endorsements, and a catchy summary appears with the user’s photo. Viewers can also see posts and articles that the person has written in the past.
InMail – Private messages that allow you to contact any LinkedIn member directly.
Network – A group of users that can contact you through connections up to three degrees away.
Groups – Allows professionals to advance their careers by sharing expertise, experience, and knowledge.
Company Page – Now called LinkedIn Pages, where businesses share information about the company, along with content and updates with their followers
Connection – A LinkedIn user. There are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level connections on LinkedIn. You can see what level each person is by looking next to a person’s name.
1st Level – Someone a person is with on LinkedIn. This is a person who you are connected with directly (one of you requested to connect with the other one).
2nd Level – Someone that is connected to one of the 1st level connections.
3rd Level – Someone that is connected to one of the 2nd level connections.
Content – This can pertain to writing an article on LinkedIn, posting videos and photos with insight on LinkedIn, or resharing content on LinkedIn that another connection has posted.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator – A separate platform that LinkedIn created where users can pay to prospect and connect with new leads.
Personal Branding – A term used to define how a person shows up on LinkedIn. Personal Branding can include a person’s summary, their experience, their profile and background photo, and the content that they share or repost.

Who uses LinkedIn?

There are over 756 million members on LinkedIn in 2021. There are over 175 million LinkedIn users in the U.S.

• 37% of all U.S. adults use LinkedIn
• 48.5% of U.S. LinkedIn users are Monthly Active Users
• 16.2% of U.S. LinkedIn users are Daily Active Users
• 57% of LinkedIn users are men, and 43% are women
• 59.7% of LinkedIn’s users are between 25 and 34 years old
• 22% of LinkedIn users access the platform daily
• 55 million companies are on LinkedIn
• 50% of internet users with a college degree or higher use LinkedIn

Distribution of LinkedIn users in the United States as of July 2021, by age group

Demographic information courtesy of Statista.

What is shared on LinkedIn?

Users share a variety of content on LinkedIn, including photos, videos, blog posts, industry news, research, quick tips, updates, and events.

• 280 billion feed updates are viewed annually
• 40 million people use LinkedIn to search for jobs each week
• There are over 57 million companies listed on LinkedIn, with more than 15 million open job postings
• 3 million LinkedIn users share content weekly

How does one search LinkedIn?

LinkedIn offers an advantage to investigators because users almost always use their real name and contact information in their profile. LinkedIn’s privacy settings allow users to control how their profile appears to people who aren’t logged into LinkedIn and whether it will appear on search engines. LinkedIn sends people notifications to let them know who viewed their profiles.

LinkedIn accounts are free. Once an account has been created, it’s possible to search for individual people, groups, pages, events, hashtags, and other elements from the LinkedIn search bar. The LinkedIn search function can be a rich source of information for investigators looking at individuals and groups.

Is LinkedIn useful for investigations?

Yes! LinkedIn continues to grow in popularity, and this is a trend that should carry on into the future. In 2010 LinkedIn had 78 million users growing to over 750 million users in the first quarter of 2021.

LinkedIn is the most trusted social network in the U.S., with 73% of social media users agreeing that LinkedIn protects their privacy and data. Despite this confidence, personal information about many aspects of a research subject’s life is likely to be found by an experienced investigator. The vast amount of information involved can be daunting to sift through for the average layperson. The expert analysts at SMI can locate, analyze and preserve any person’s LinkedIn account without tipping off the subject of a search.

SMI Aware employs proprietary e-discovery technology along with expert human analysis to process searches efficiently without sacrificing accuracy. We can replicate specific searches and answer questions for all involved parties in a consistent and defensible manner.

With over two-thirds of adults sharing information on social media, there’s a good chance that information relevant to your investigation is available – if you can find it.

Our team of experienced analysts can export and preserve social media and online evidence and provide curated reports ready to use in your investigation. SMI analysts are accredited in social media research to ensure compliance and produce the highest quality search results.

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