Linked in tips for connecting better, faster, strongerLinkedIn is one of my absolute favorite tools. Many of my strongest contacts online and offline have come from it. I get excited just talking about it and I typically log in daily, at least once. Why? It's simple, it helps me connect with personal and professional contacts by doing something simple - identifying common people or interests - and it gives me a snapshot of what's happening in my professional world. Personally, I think LinkedIn has remained the leader in online professional networking tools with over 200 million users because of its clean design, and small, yet effective feature set.

Everything you can do on LinkedIn has a purpose to help users boost their professional presence online and connect better with professional contacts. Many people use LinkedIn simply to find and connect with people and for job searching, and often just turn to it when it's time to make a career change. But there are some features that can help you do all three better, though you may have to give it some love on an ongoing basis to get the most out of it. Here are some LinkedIn features you can access without paying for LinkedIn Premium that you might not have noticed:

1. Include a Personal Note - When you search for or come across a contact on LinkedIn, click through to their profile, then click Connect. Write a personal note about why you'd like to connect with them to give them context, be more personal, and increase the likelihood that they'll accept your invitation. Sometimes, LinkedIn provides a one-click connect button that doesn't give you the option to send a personal note, so make sure to click through to a person's profile before connecting to enable that functionality. *This is a communication etiquette recommendation that is both respectful and professional.

Option 1: On the 'People You May Know' Page, choose the note icon instead of the 'Connect' button on the contact snapshot to include a personal message when inviting someone to connect.

linkedin connect with note arrow

Option 2: Click on a contact's name to visit their profile page. (Note: if you do not have mutual contacts or do not share membership in LinkedIn groups, you may not have some of these options to connect) Under the contact's name and basic information, click on 'Connect' to select your relationship type (friend, you've worked together, etc.) and include a note with your invitation to connect.

contact with connect button arrow

2.  Similar Contacts - Select 'People' in the top search bar, type in the name of someone you are looking for and click the magnifying glass search icon. When results appear, notice the 'Similar' link under each contact next to the '# Shared Connections' if you have any. Click on 'Similar' to find people who have similarities in their profiles if you're looking to connect with people in a specific industry. Make sure to send a personalized note when you send an invitation to connect to give them context if you don't know the similar contacts personally.

LinkedIn similar contacts feature

3. LinkedIn Contacts Note, Reminders, How You Met, Tags - LinkedIn recently rolled out a new set of features called LinkedIn Contacts. Under the profile photo and basic information of your contacts, you'll notice a Relationship Tab with a star. Click it to include a note about the contact, set a reminder on the calendar to notify you to follow up or even send a birthday message, and add when you met to keep contacts straight. You can add tags to categorize your contacts by industry, role, or even prospective employers lists or employees at companies you like. Use tags for categories beyond the basic ones provided by LinkedIn like location and general industry.

LinkedIn Contacts features

4. Who's Viewed Your Profile - Once logged in, on the Home or Profile tab, look for the 'Who's Viewed Your Profile' section. Notice the blue headline that mentions how many people have viewed you recently and click it to see a list. Some listings will be anonymous LinkedIn users based on their privacy settings. This feature has helped me connect with several people as I noticed they came across my profile so I reached out to inquire about their interest and this often led to a conversation, email or advice exchange, or in person meeting. It can also be helpful to notice if recruiters or employees at companies you've applied to work for are reviewing your resume. To control what information from your profile displays to users whose profiles you visit, click on your photo or profile thumbnail on the top right to access Accounts & Settings. Go to 'Privacy & Settings' and 'Review', then in the 'Profile' tab, click 'Select what others see when you've viewed their profile'. Something to think about before you decide to implement restrictive privacy settings, if people see you've reviewed their profile, this can open up opportunities for you.

5. LinkedIn Today News - LinkedIn has some of the most compelling articles on business issues, trends, and news I come in contact with. When you first login, notice the 'LinkedIn Today' section on your home page. Click on it to sort news by recommended news for you, Influencer Posts, which can also be sorted by top posts from the day, week, or all time. I even discovered a writer I follow now, Don Peppers, when he drew me in on his relatable article, 'Loyalize' Customers by Remembering Their Needs' about how the Ritz-Carlton hotel remembered his pizza preferences. You can also choose to 'follow' news authors to see their latest posts in your home page news feed.

6. People Also Viewed - Login to LinkedIn, click on your profile, and notice the 'People Also Viewed' section on the right hand column. This helps you see contacts you may be associated with by clients, prospects, and even competitors. If people view an industry leader when also coming across your profile, you may want to connect with them to form a relationship with a new colleague you can collaborate with or learn from.

7. Projects - Login, then click 'Edit Profile', scroll down to the 'Projects' section to add new ones and modify existing ones. Add projects and collaborators to your profile to boost your portfolio and demonstrate results of your work beyond your basic job requirements. Include a URL as a work sample, and add other LinkedIn members as 'team members', who may or may not work in your organization.

8. Advanced Search - I recently heard an idea that one of the most valuable features of Twitter is to find people with a certain interest, topic or in a specific area. LinkedIn works the same way. Use the Advanced Search to search for potential prospects, partners, vendors, and employees with filters. Search with keywords, by location, industry, within LinkedIn groups you belong to, language proficiency, level within a company, years of experience, company, school, and more. On the flip side, make sure you have key industry terms and skills listed on your profile, and as many details as you're comfortable sharing (in a professional and concise way) to appear in others' searches.

These features tend to be more understated than the main ones most users know and access on LinkedIn. When I started to notice them, I realized LinkedIn can be used for much more beyond just a job search tool. In fact, using it regularly to connect with new friends and colleagues and search for people to collaborate with can help you achieve short-term and long-term social and professional goals.

What are your favorite features of LinkedIn that may have been overlooked?