How to Search LinkedIn the Smart Way

I’ve written a lot about LinkedIn engagement and best practice in the past year. In this post, I’m going to look at how to use some of LinkedIn’s search features.

  • Why LinkedIn is my thing
  • How to look for relevant connections on LinkedIn
  • How to look for work on LinkedIn
  • How to search LinkedIn for shares of your content
  • How to look for untagged mentions of your name
  • What about LinkedIn hashtags?

Why LinkedIn is my thing

At the start of 2017, I wasn’t getting any business results from my other social networks. I’d had a couple of small bits of work from Twitter but that was about it.

Microsoft had just bought LinkedIn, and it felt like the right time to be there. I decided to stop treating LinkedIn as though it were just an online CV. Good move.

Over the past year, I’ve:

  • engaged in more conversations.
  • made more connections.
  • found more leads.
  • earned more money.

Now, time for some LinkedIn search tips. Let’s do this.

Good news: all of the following works on the basic free LinkedIn account.

How to look for relevant connections on LinkedIn

Unless you’re just getting started in your industry, there’s a good chance you already know a fair number of people who do the same job as you.

Controversial opinion alert: I don’t recommend spending too much time looking for peers to connect with.

I don’t mean that you shouldn’t connect with them: you definitely should! It’s just that you’ll often come across them naturally over time, so you don’t need to spend much effort seeking them out.

Remember that your peers will probably follow the same influencers and attend the same events as you do. You’ll run into them soon enough.

The people you really want to get in front of are potential clients – and specifically the decision-makers who have the power to give you project work.

I’ll give you an example for my own business. Adapt this for what you do.

I’m a technical copywriter. That means I write content that explains how things work – physical products, apps, online services, processes – you name it.

The decision-makers I usually want to target are Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Chief Technical Officers (CTOs).

My method is to search LinkedIn for people with the job role of CMO and CTO. I’ll do a search like this and click the People option.

Searching LinkedIn for a Chief Marketing Officer

The search results include filters to help narrow down the results:

Use filters to make the search results more relevant

LinkedIn tends to show people high up in the search results if:

  • they’ve got a large network and
  • they’re active on the platform.

I want to get myself on these people’s radar.

In some cases, I might want to connect with them straight away, in which case I’d send a personalised connection request.

Often, it’s best to try to build a relationship before inviting someone to connect. So, I read the person’s posts and articles, then start liking and commenting on their content. This demonstrates my interest and shows off my expertise in the field.

When I eventually send my invitation, the person will probably be much more receptive to it. And if my contributions have been good enough, they might even invite me to connect first.

When I do connect with such people, I don’t try to rush straight to business. It’s much more effective to spend time building the relationship. (This is good business practice in general.)

Follow the above method for your own business and you’ll start forming connections with people who can give you work further down the line.

But what if you need some work right now?

How to look for work on LinkedIn

Most activity on LinkedIn happens in ‘posts’. That’s LinkedIn’s term for the status updates that fill up the Home feed that’s shown when you log in.

LinkedIn is used by a lot of recruiters but you’ll also find that companies and individuals are looking for service providers directly.

Typically, someone will write a LinkedIn post that goes out to their network, asking for recommendations for a particular sort of service provider.

Perhaps they’re looking for a writer, a web designer, an SEO specialist, a social media pro or a GDPR expert. Or a plumber. Or a window cleaner. Who knows.

Even though you might not be connected to the person who wrote the post, you might still be able to find it if you know what to look for.

Imagine you needed a copywriter to write some blog content for your website (coughs). Think of the phrases and questions you might use when asking people for recommendations:

  • ‘Does anyone know a good copywriter?’
  • ‘We need a copywriter near Cardiff. Who’s reliable?’
  • ‘Can someone recommend a blog writer?’
  • ‘Help! We’re looking for a good writer for our website. Any ideas?’

Look at the some of the important words here: goodneedreliablerecommendlooking for.

You could take these and put them into a search for any sort of service provider.

A couple of my regular searches on LinkedIn are:

  • looking for a copywriter
  • recommend a copywriter

Put your job in place of ‘copywriter’ and you’ll be ready to search LinkedIn for your own work opportunities.

If you’re looking for a traditional job (employed rather than self-employed), bear in mind that the following are common terms to search for:

  • we’re hiring
  • join our team

LinkedIn’s search facility used to be rubbish on the desktop version, which is why I’ve always recommended the LinkedIn mobile app for searching.

But LinkedIn’s desktop search improved in early 2018 and now it can help you find the posts you want.

Start by entering your search terms in the search field at the top of the screen.

As above, search for one of the terms relevant to your industry

Once the search results come up, click Content and set the results to display by Latest.

View the results in the Content tab, ordered by Latest

With a bit of luck, the results should show you a range of possible work opportunities.

Such posts often draw a lot of responses, so reply quickly to give yourself the best chance of getting the nod.

You don’t need to reply publicly: you could instead send a personalised invitation to the poster and mention that you’re available to work on their project.

How to search LinkedIn for shares of your content

Bizarrely, LinkedIn does not give you a notification when someone shares your content.

This means that shared LinkedIn posts often go unacknowledged, and that in turn means that people are less likely to share your stuff in future.

(Imagine if you were on Twitter and retweeted things but were never thanked for doing so. You’d probably give up.)

Good news, though. You can check to see whether your content has been shared by looking at your analytics for each post.

Look at any of your posts and click or tap the view stats to pull up the info panel. Here’s an example:

Tap the view count to see sharing information

Occasionally, the number of shares will be shown along with the other view stats, as shown above. Even if this is the case, you still can’t see who shared the content until you tap the view count.

The info panel looks like this on mobile:

The info panel shows you more about each post

If your post has been shared, there will be a counter with the number of shares shown. Tap this and you’ll see the details of each share.

An example of a post of mine that was shared

From here, you can tap through to the shared post and like and comment to thank the person who shared it.

(Sometimes, you need to visit the sharer’s profile first and then view their activity to get to the shared post.)

If a share count isn’t shown in the info panel, that usually means the content hasn’t been shared. Only a small proportion of posts are shared, so don’t worry if you almost never see a share count.

LinkedIn’s general weirdness means that share counts aren’t always displayed even when your posts have been shared. Annoying, right?

I’ve found that share counts are most consistently displayed when checking post stats via the LinkedIn mobile app.

Even today, as I captured these screenshots, I found that my share counts were missing from the desktop but visible via the mobile app – and that’s why I’m including mobile-only screenshots.

When share counts are displayed on desktop LinkedIn, the info panel looks like this:

Desktop LinkedIn info panel, showing a ‘reshare’

Sometimes, even the mobile app won’t show your share counts. You’ll just need to wait and check again another time.

My tip for checking share counts is to bookmark a post that you know has definitely been shared before and then recheck it to see whether share counts are shown.

If they aren’t, other share counts are probably hidden too, and you’ll need to check again another time. If they areshown, check the share counts for your other posts and see what you can respond to.

Remember that people love being thanked for sharing content – so don’t be afraid to heap praise on your best supporters.

I check for shared posts once a day. If you’re actively posting content on LinkedIn, I recommend taking a look for shares at least once per week.

How to look for untagged mentions of your name

Don’t expect LinkedIn’s notifications to tell you about all the posts that are relevant to you. Instead, search LinkedIn for mentions of your name.

Start by typing your name in the search field. Rather than picking yourself from the dropdown list, click the See all results for option.

Searching for yourself on LinkedIn

When the results appear, click the Content tab.

Posts that are by you or that mention your name will now appear. In the top-right corner, set the Relevance dropdown to Latest.

Re-order the search results to see the newest content first

On mobile, the option to change the ordering of results is inside the Filters menu.

On mobile, use the Filters menu to change the ordering of results

Whether you use desktop or mobile, the results will probably contain a lot of irrelevant posts, especially if you have a common name.

Take a look and see whether there are any posts mentioning you that you haven’t responded to, and then engage with those posts as appropriate.

The next bit is where this becomes really useful.

If you look in the browser’s address bar, you’ll see a URL that shows what you’ve searched for and how the results are ordered.

Bookmark a search for the latest LinkedIn posts that mention you

Bookmark this address and you can quickly repeat the search next time. Because the results show the newest content first, it’s quick to scan only the latest updates and ignore everything else.

This is another task that I do once a day but that most users might need to do only once a week.

What about LinkedIn hashtags?

Yup, hashtags are a thing now on LinkedIn.

I sometimes tag my own posts to help with personal branding and to make it easier to find old posts.

You can already do this without any hashtags this via the Me | Posts & Activity menu, which shows you the relevant content on your profile page.

Searching by hashtags isn’t that common on LinkedIn, and hashtags in general aren’t as common on LinkedIn as they are on Twitter. (Don’t get me started on the diseased forest of hashtags of Instagram.)

But wait!

Some users are now being forced to include a hashtag on all new LinkedIn posts. This is A Bad Thing.

LinkedIn has a history of trialling new features in public. It’s common for such tests to result in features being scrapped, so perhaps this won’t end up being forced on everyone.

If you are forced to enter a hashtag but don’t have one in mind, try turning your name or business name into a hashtag, e.g. #TonyMarkwick or #MarkwickSprocketCo (these are made-up examples).

If your posts have a common theme, you could build your brand identity by creating a good hashtag and using it on all your posts. For example, I’ve tagged some of my LinkedIn posts with #NoPainerExplainer and #LearnPlentyIn20.

If you’re going to use your own hashtags like this, search for them first to make sure no one else is using them. Hashtag piggybacking isn’t cool.

Final thoughts

LinkedIn really is far from just an online CV. It’s now my number one social network and gives me much better engagement than I’ve ever had on other platforms.

Follow my tips here and you’ll connect with the right people, find new work and keep track of who’s talking about you. Can’t be bad, right?



John Espirian is the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter. A former Microsoft Mac MVP, he writes in-depth B2B web content to help clients explain how their products, services and processes work. John shares writing tips on his blog on his LinkedIn Learner Lounge.