Distinctive Publishing


You’ve seen it before…the acronym “LION” proudly displayed on a LinkedIn member’s headline. What does it mean? Should you become a LION?

The acronym L-I-O-N stands for LinkedIn Open Networker. LIONs are LinkedIn members open to networking with everyone, previously known or not. The LION generally accepts every invitation request to connect or, at the least, will not click the “I Don’t Know” button in response to an invitation.

Wikipedia provides a bit of history: “The LIONs was founded by Christian Mayaud in January 2006. Christian was quickly joined by like-minded John L. Evans from the United Kingdom, and between them they rapidly established the LIONs Group on Yahoo. John L. Evans applied to LinkedIn for a Badge of recognition and invented the idea of including [LION] in members’ name/headlines to enable LIONs to search each other out and connect.”

When LinkedIn began, a member could send unlimited invitations, and the profile stated exactly how many connections the member had. Today, each new LinkedIn member begins with 3,000 invitations, and cannot accumulate more than 30,000 connections. As well, once 501 connections are reached, the profile merely states “500+”. Restrictions such as these fueled Mayaud in founding the LIONs.


LinkedIn’s rules state members should not connect with people they don’t know.

LIONS may also lose their home page module, meaning they cannot see the feature “People You May Know”. LinkedIn explains, “According to the LinkedIn User Agreement and to guard against unsolicited mass mailings, LinkedIn should not be used to connect with people you do not know. In order to minimize this type of activity, we remove the home page module when we notice any of the following Profile attributes:

1. The word “LION”, “toplink” or “mylink” in the name or headline.

2. An “@” and “.com” in the headline.

Once this information is removed it could take up to two weeks before the module is returned to your home page.”

Clearly, while LinkedIn tolerates LIONs, they remain cautious. Given the recent spate of LinkedIn spam and the fresh wounds of the LinkedIn password hacking debacle, it’s no wonder.

Word to the wise: Think long and hard before adding LION, toplinked or mylink to your headline.


If every member followed LinkedIn’s advice to connect only with known people, how would tight-knit networks ever evolve into bigger networks? Therefore, LIONS forge larger networks for everyone by accepting almost every connection request.

Why “I Don’t Know” (“IDK”) Responses Matter 

When you respond to a connection invite with “I Don’t Know”, this marks the invitation as spam. LinkedIn may impose restrictions on a member who receives 5 or more IDKs. If you designate yourself a LION, however, and another member IDK’s your invite, you will not be penalized.

Social media is growing up, but LinkedIn Dos & Don’ts about connecting prevail. While LION groups abound, LinkedIn continues to clamp down on anyone who behaves like a spammer (sending out too many invites and connecting too quickly with too many).

How to Be a LION

True LIONs use the acronym on their profiles, provide an email address, and may make the statement, “I am open to all invitations to connect”.  To be a LION is to support the LION philosophy of connecting with everyone.

Some members provide their email addresses freely, but do not designate themselves as LIONs (like me.) TopLinked members pay a monthly fee for access to thousands willing to connect with anyone. TopLinkedis not sanctioned by LIONs, nor is MyLink. (Take note – these lists are traded and may contribute to spamming.)

Bottom line: quality will always trump quantity. Do what is right for you, and do it thoughtfully.