Nothing But Your Name, Please

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122297_jim.jpgI 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.

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  1. Scott, this enforcement is something I’ve seen 3 times in the last month now! It’s interesting … I think there will be a “battle” between users (since this is SOOO common, and LinkedIn, to see if they really want to push this issue.

    Jason Alba
    CEO –
    :: self-serve career management ::

  2. Actually, reading John Evans’ post on MLPF this morning, it appears the LIONS may have met a compromise solution with LinkedIn.

    One of the points I should have made in the original post is that the *one* of those four things that I could see a valid argument for including is the “[LION]”. Why? Because it allows open networkers to identify each other. I certainly think it’s reasonable for them to do so, because it allows them to easily connect and — presumably — to not send unwanted invitations to people they don’t know who don’t have that indication.

    So what’s the compromise solution?

    1. LinkedIn has now allowed LIONS to be an official LinkedIn group with a blue lion badge, so LIONS members will be able to easily identify other LIONS when viewing their page.

    2. The LIONS have agreed to take their names and the [LION] designation out of the name field and put it in the headline field instead. This makes it still viewable in search results, but takes it out of the hyperlink and takes it out of a field that is supposed to be for the name only and puts it into a field that is intended to be freeform.

    I think this is a great compromise — puts it all within LinkedIn’s User Agreement and still allows the open networkers to identify each other easily.

    BTW, as of this writing, the badge isn’t available yet, and neither of the couple of LION organizers I know have implemented this yet, but it’s supposed to happen.

  3. Linkedin needs to come up with a way to include nicknames if they are going to be screening out punctuation. Maybe noone needs to see Charles (Chuck) Jones in the name field, but some of us have nicknames that aren’t obvious or well known variants.

  4. And it seems that “compromise” may have been a little more one-sided than it was presented. Word is that customer services is telling people the e-mail can’t be in the headline field either.

  5. What about professional designations such as MD, DD, CPA, CFP, etc., a field is needed for these designations.

    Thanks for the article, I kept seeing LION and thought what is this designation or degree?

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