Learning from LinkedIn

LinkedIn serves as a great example of behavioural principles applied to drive success. In case you are not one of the 150 million users worldwide (or 2 million in Australia), LinkedIn is a social networking site for professionals, and much of its success I believe is due to how it engages its users.

Here are a four of the Behavioural Principles at play.

1. Herding – going where others are



When first signing up with LinkedIn your decision is reinforced by reminding you that are joining 150 million professionals in the professional community.

However, whilst it’s great to see the herding principle in place, I think this is quite a passive execution and in itself, does not compel people to join.

Once joined up and networked, LinkedIn support your sense of herd connectedness through statistics on how many people you can reach through the connections of your network. Large numbers (for instance my 263 connections extrapolate to over 2.7 million) create a sense of possibility.

LinkedIn also provide stats on how many new people have joined my network in the last couple of days, showcasing how vibrant, current and desirable LinkedIn is to the broader population.

2. Completion – we like to finish once we’ve made a start


Once you have a profile, LinkedIn consistently give you feedback on how your profile could be even better, for example by asking for a recommendation or adding speciality skills. But that’s not all. LinkedIn measure and illustrate your degree of completion as a percentage, and for many, we can’t feel entirely satisfied until we’ve reached 100%.


Completion is also used to help people network. LinkedIn helpfully provide a snapshot of “People You May Know” and make it very simple to scroll through and invite them to connect. 

Completion is also used effectively within the discussion sections of LinkedIn. With the objective of getting as many members as possible exchanging ideas, LinkedIn get you started by pre-populating the discussion with your photo next to the empty text box, giving you a sense that the only thing left to do is say what’s on your mind. Easy!

3. Uniqueness – we all like to feel special


Whilst herding is great for a sense of comfort, we all like to feel that we are unique. You can see this principle being supported within the Groups function where like-minded people exchange content.

Here the people that have been deemed ‘most influential’ for that week are listed and ranked, encouraging them and others to continue fuelling the content exchange, which in turn keeps LinkedIn a vibrant place to visit. 

4. Status Quo Bias – we’re complacent


In order to maximise the volume of networking, LinkedIn need to overcome our usual state of inertia.

To prevail over inherent laziness (or for some, a fear of rejection), LinkedIn make the process of inviting someone to connect very easy by pre-populating the invitation with text so that you don’t even need to think of what to write.

Spot the behaviour


I’ve only touched on four of the behavioural principles demonstrated by LinkedIn so next time you use the site, look at it from a behavioural perspective. Once your eyes are opened to what LinkedIn are doing, you will see many more tricks that you can apply to your own website. I’d love to hear about what you find, so happy linking.

Bri Williams runs People Patterns Pty Ltd, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues. Bri is a presenter, consultant and author who you can find out more about at www.peoplepatterns.com.au, via [email protected] or by following @peoplepatterns. Bri’s book, “22 Minutes to a Better Business”, about how behavioural economics can help you tackle everyday business issues, is available through the Blurb bookstore.


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