It would be nice to think that if you just followed LinkedIn’s User Agreement, you’d never have any problems with account restrictions, but that’s not necessarily the case. Whenever you send an invitation to connect, one of the possible responses is “I don’t know [sender]”, or “IDK”. If you receive five IDK’s — not within a certain period of time, but ever — then your account gets automatically suspended and you get an email from LinkedIn Customer Service asking you to only invite people you know and stick to the user agreement.
Some people get caught in this because they don’t buy in to LinkedIn’s model of connecting only with people you know and they deliberately choose to push the boundaries. But a lot of other people get caught just doing what LinkedIn makes it easy for you to do: upload your contact list and invite them in batch, reconnect with former colleagues and classmates, etc.
See, just because you remember somebody doesn’t mean they remember you. Or they may have a tighter connection policy than you do — for example, do you connect with someone you met at a networking event? And unless they follow third-party sources like this blog or MyLinkedInPowerForum, they may not realize that IDK has negative consequences for the sender.
So even if you’re trying to only Link with people you know, you can still get caught.
I haven’t been restricted on LinkedIn but have spoke with a few of the LinkedIn staff members about this. There doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule about how many restrictions it takes before a person is permanently banned from inviting others. It appears (and this is assumption based on what was said and more importantly the dance around what wasn’t said) but it appears that a great deal depends on how quickly one gets restricted after having a previous restriction lifted, as well as how many restrictions they get.
A great deal also depends on how many invites you send in a short period of time. If you send a few everyday that is less harmful than if you send a 100 in one day and none for the rest of the week. The restrictions do not come from just the IDK’s, they also result from inviting too many people in too short of time. BUT, LinkedIn rarely admits to this.
The easiest way around this is simple. Don’t use the add (name) feature on people’s profiles. Always use add connections and type in the address. Personalize the invitation and tell them some sort of reason why you want to connect or remind them how you know them. Then ask them to archive rather than click IDK.
Most people see a name and then the words colleague, classmate, group member etc and immediately click IDK. They don’t read the invitation. They know they didn’t work with someone by that name, or don’t remember them so they click IDK. But if you use the regular invitation they are far less likely to click IDK.
Try to also remember these are human beings and they prefer to be treated as such. They don’t want to connect to someone they “think” is just adding a number. One of the biggest turn offs I have seen and others have also mentioned is being told how large someone’s network is and what it will do for that person if they connect. Sell yourself not the size of your network.
You can also try emailing these people and ask if they want to connect. Let them send you an invitation or at the very least agree to connect. Then when you do send the invitation say thanks for agreeing to connect. It rings a bell and they remember agreeing to do so.
So who is Sheilah Etheridge anyway? In addition to running SME Management, an outsourced accounting and business management practice, Sheilah seems to have made it her personal mission to be the most helpful person on LinkedIn Answers in the Using LinkedIn category, where she has racked up nearly 600 Best Answers — not just answers… best answers.