Social media is as much about listening as it is about communicating externally. Tremendous insights can be derived about your LinkedIn connections by listening with your eyes.
Take note of LinkedIn bio and background images. Head shots (be it professional or casual) and background images are a good source of understanding the way in which a person wants to project him or herself and the tenor of their online persona.
Review "Contact Info" fields for information on other channels. This may include blogs, websites and other social profiles like Twitter or YouTube.
Click "See all articles" for original published content. Writing style, topical information, imagery and publishing cadence provide information and context about your connection's passions and personal brand.
Read the "About" section. This section represents a personal portrayal of your contact's professional identity and accomplishments. Skills, specialties, and the order of terms used in the write up represent how your relation perceives him or herself and their core competencies and attributes. Inclusion of additional content such as SlideShare decks and videos provide a deeper dive into a contact's focus and identity.
Digest the "Experience" section. The current and historical work experience, job descriptions, write ups and additional content tells a professional story and catalogs career information.
Assess "Skills & Endorsements." The order of the skills section can be tailored to prioritize featured capabilities that speak to how your contact wants to be known. Endorsements also represent an important part of how others perceive and value your connection.
Consider "Education" and "Accomplishment" sections. Your connection is able to add a high degree of personal information in these areas to better portray who they are, be that groups and societies that he or she was a part of in college or professional and volunteer organizations with which he or she is affiliated. There may also be information about birthdate, volunteer experience and causes, whether they are married and how they prefer to be contacted.
Analyze their Connections. If your connection has their network unlocked, all of their contacts may viewable. Analyzing connections you share and reviewing second degree contacts provides insight into your relationship and adds network context.
Review "Groups" participation. Consider joining or following a group to gain further understanding and insights into your connection's interests, online activity and social engagement. Participation can be both passive and/or active in areas such as groups where you can elect to join, follow, like, share or even comment.
Examine the Interests Section. The "Influencers, Companies, Groups and Schools" that people follow indicates interest and curiosity. There may be similarities, differences or opportunities to deepen your own profile and network in these fields.
The ability to effectively leverage social media to listen to your connections will add critical context to your interactions and relationship. By embracing the above tactics and developing your goals and strategy for LinkedIn and across other channels, you will have the opportunity to develop a more relevant professional network.