I originally wrote about this issue back in 2007, and while LinkedIn has occasionally (and inconsistently) manually cracked down on this practice, 5 years later they still haven’t really done much to curb it. It’s a fairly common practice, primarily among “open networkers”, it seems, to put all kinds of stuff in the name field of their LinkedIn profiles, including:
- E-mail addresses (originally intended to bypass LinkedIn’s requirement of knowing it in order to connect, which they no longer do — now it’s just a shortcut to allow people to contact you more quickly)
- “LION” (intended to indicate the person is a Linked In Open Networker and generally receptive to invitations from people they don’t know)
- Connection counts (intended to impress people, I suppose — the implication being that having more connections somehow makes one more worthwhile to connect to)
- Various punctuation marks (intended, presumably, to affect sort order, or perhaps make the name stand out more in search results — the sort order is a non-issue, since LinkedIn doesn’t display search results alphabetically)
You can see plenty of examples by typing “@” or “[” into the LinkedIn search box and looking at the instant search results (don’t hit search — it’s just in the instant results). I’ve seen some pretty bad ones, but here’s by far the most egregious case of this I’ve yet seen:
This practice is turning what’s supposed to be a professional networking site into a virtual Las Vegas strip. It’s kind of like walking into a networking meeting wearing a sandwich board:
This practice also breaks LinkedIn Advanced Search. People may find you in the quick search, but if you do something like make your full name your first name and your company name your last name, people won’t be able to find you by name using Advanced Search. This also wreaks havoc on contact management / CRM systems. LinkedIn interfaces with tools like Salesforce, and people can download your vCard into Outlook. Again, it breaks the search function if there’s extra data in there.
Moreover, LinkedIn’s User Agreement (see 10.B.2) specifically prohibits it: Don’t…”Publish inaccurate information in the designated fields on the profile form (e.g., do not include a link or an email address in the name field).” I’ve long wondered why LinkedIn doesn’t just implement some very simple code to catch some of that. It’s very easy to pick out e-mail addresses with regular expressions, and there are only a few valid punctuation symbols that people can use in their name. If it’s in the user agreement, it should be enforced, consistently.
So if you’re one of those with extra stuff in your name, please remove it. Put whatever you want in your Headline, but leave the name field for your name…only. I promise you, it will actually enhance your image, not hurt it.