When you look for leads on LinkedIn with a free account, your prospecting activity is tracked up to the Commerical Use Limit.
After hitting the limit, you have to choice of signing up for a 30-day free trial, or searching is suspended until the 1st of the next month.
This post provides examples of activity that counts towards the monthly limit and activity that does not.
Activity that does count towards the monthly limit
The Main Idea about what counts
LinkedIn sees prospecting as activity connected with searching & viewing profiles of a lot of people who you may know or don't know, as well as searching for companies.
They don't publish how much of what you can do with a free membership. You get a warning when you're near the monthly limit, and a notification when you hit it.
They don't want to kick you off the platform. You are their IPC (Ideal Paying Client.)
The examples below show you the kind of activity that counts towards the monthly limit.
1. Keyword searches for profiles
The example below is a keyword search for "saas" in people.
It returns a list of profiles that have the keyword "saas" anywhere in the profile: header, titles, job descriptions /company names, education, interests etc.
Activity that counts towards the monthly limit: opening many non 1st-degree connection profiles. Nope, we don't know how many profiles "many" is.
2. Searching outside your network (3rd-degree people searches)
Searching for people by name in the search bar does not count towards the monthly limit.
Except if they're a 3rd-degree connection.
3. Browse employee profiles from a specific company
LinkedIn has a point here.
This is exactly what you do to find company contacts.
Open a company page.
Browse employee profiles through the People tab in the let menu, or by following the "See all X employees..." link. That is, open profiles.
4. Searching for companies
Enter a keyword in the search bar > click the search icon > select More dropdown > click Companies.
This returns a list of companies.
5. Browsing profiles from "People also viewed"
The "People also viewed" section is on the right side of the profile, under the ads.
Opening profiles non-1st-degree connections in the "People also viewed" section of any profile (yours or someone else's) counts towards the monthly limit.
6. "Connections of" of your connections
This search filter gives you a list of your 2nd-degree connections.
Click on the search bar > Select the magnifying glass > Select "All Filters"
In the "Connection of box" select one of your connections.
You'll get a list of profiles who are the selected person's 1st-degree connecions. You can refine the search by entering a keyword in the search bar and applying other filters, such as location.
Activity that counts towards the monthly limit: opening many non 1st-degree connection profiles.
Activity that does not count towards the monthly limit
The Main Idea about what does not count
Actvity connected with people you know, job searches, and participating in Newsfeed content discussions tends to be free.
The examples below show you the kind of activity that does not count towards the monthly limit.
I saved the best for first.
1. "Lead pools" from LinkedIn content
A lead pool is a group of leads who are likely to be interested in a topic.
Every post that has reactions or comments has a lead pool.
You don't write content or get traction on your posts?
That's prefectly fine. This also works on other social media platforms.
Anyone can react or comment on a post. Even if it's not your post, the people who react or comment are a 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree connection of yours. Basically, all of LinkedIn. This gives you access to many people interested in a topic (a lead pool) without searching for profiles through the search bar.
How do you find LinkedIn posts for a given topic?
For example, find posts on SaaS (Software as a Service.)
Enter “#saas” in the search bar.
It doesn't matter what case you use. "#Saas", "#SaaS", and "#saas" all work, no matter how the post author captializes their hashtags.
Then select a hashtag.
This returns the number of hashtag followers and a list of content containing “#saas”.
Try different hashtags to find hashtags that are about your topic.
Click on the number of reactions (77 in this case) to get a list of people's profiles who reacted.
Click on the number of comments (24 in this case) to get a list of comments and commenters.
Most people include their title and employer in their headline. This gives you a good idea of whether or not a discussion participants, or their company, might be a good prospect.
Content is a grey area when it comes to people "who you know."
Once you participate in a discussion, by commenting or reacting, other participants know about you.
Generally, opening 2nd or 3rd-degree profiles counts towards the monthly limit.
However, there are many LinkedIn members, who are active in Newsfeed discussions, with large networks who don't have premium accounts. A large network means they've opened many non-1st degree profiles, likely people found through social discussions on LinkedIn as they don't have premium search power.
The takeaway here is to participate in the discussion if you're planning on opening profiles.
2. Opening 1st-degree connection profiles
Don't forget about the people you're already connected with to find leads.
You can view 1st degree connections online or download them to a CSV file.
How to find you're 1st degree connections online.
My Network > Manage my network > click on Connections
Sort connections by recently added, first name or last name, or search by name.
Also, you can message your connections right from the list. This saves you the extra step of opening profiles.
Here's how to download your connections to a CSV file.
Me > Account > Settings & Privacy > Privacy > How LinkedIn uses your data > Get a copy of your data.
Click on Connections > Request archive.
LinkedIn will prompt you for your password.
You'll get an email when your CSV download is ready.
3. Job searches
This is an excellent prospecting hack.
Job postings not only make you aware of companies, they also give insight into company culture.
4. "People you may know"
My Network > under pending invitations.
LinkedIn lists second degree connections who you have something in common with. Same school, similar job title, etc.
Send connection invitations directly by clicking on "Connect," without opening profiles.
You might hit a connection invitation limit, but that does not count towards the monthly Commercial Use limit.