One Person’s Spam Is Another’s Networking

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nospam Ben Jankowski, writing on MLPF, says:

The problem is that the explanation of the violation of spamming is so vague, that a person that sends a particular Invitation to a user, one user could interpret that as mere networking, while another user may consider it spamming.

Ben is spot on with this. This is why I continue to advocate “permission networking” and recommend that even “open linkers” always have an email conversation with the person before sending the invitation. If you communicate first and make sure the person is open to your invitation, your rejection rate goes to zero pretty quickly.

That said, I also understand Ben’s frustration in an earlier post:

Here’s the problem: LinkedIn is evolving, and they have not adjusted their rules to it’s evolution; their rules are so antiquated to the current times. I understand their need to protect users from
unwanted invitations and E-mails. This is their original basis.
However, the concept of Open Networkers and its development was not something that was intended by the founder of it at the beginning, but was something that developed into what it is today. So, at the beginning, they warn you to be so careful as to who to invite, so you don’t get zapped with this dreaded Scarlett Letter(s) IDK. However, they then turn around and give you a limitation fo 3000 invites to encourage you to develop your network. So, it’s like a contradiction. It’s like Dr. DoLittles push-me / pull-me horses, i.e. the horse that has a head on each end of it, and no back end. So the problem is that at one end, they encourage you to network and make your account grow; and at the other end they want to discoruage you, e.g. waiting for you to mess up so they can zap you! The intention of the IDK was not so some show-off, big-shot user can have this power to click on the IDK button just to mess up your life and make them feel good.*

I’ll admit that I’ve been known to press the “I don’t know…” button, but a) I don’t put myself out there as an “open networker” on LinkedIn, and b) I only do it on canned invitations. Sorry, but I still consider those basically spam. Personally, I’d like to see LinkedIn get rid of canned invitations and require you to write a personal note.

But he’s absolutely right that there is a disparity between the practice that LinkedIn would like to see and the reality of the open networkers who use LinkedIn heavily and have helped grow the network. And the rules aren’t clear from LinkedIn as to how the open networkers can use the system more openly without consequences.

As I said above, for open networkers, the interim solution is simple — communicate first before sending an invitation. But I expect that we will see LinkedIn evolve in this area in the near future. I know that I would like to have a way to manage my lighter connections in LinkedIn. I don’t currently because to do so would minimize LinkedIn’s usefulness. If they open that up by providing some kind of indication of relationship strength, they’re also going to have to come up with some better ways to negotiate the invitation process.

*All errors as posted. Putting [sic] every time would have made it unreadable.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Ben

    Your comment on LinkedIn providing some tools on showing the relationship strength is one that struck home with me.

    I believe that you as a user should have the option to qualify all connections like sites as Neurona or Plaxo Pulse (not quite sure what to make of that actually) offer. I believe that the whole address book of LinkedIn should get an overhaul because the way it is now is simply unmanageable if you go over 300 connections (not even talking about the Open Networkers amongst us).

    Anyway, back to the topic. I believe there should be a rating system that is a combination of your rating, the amount of messages that you send online to that person and the ratio that this person would have in responding to your and others requests and questions. This would make it easier to see who adds value to your and the whole network. As well this would be easier to select who to request forwarding a certain message (providing that people with the highest score are on top of your list).

    I’m really curious what LinkedIn will develop in this area.

    Ted

  2. Well, any time you try to divide the rich spectrum of human relationships into a simple dichotomy, it’s going to be deficient, and therefore eventually have problems.

    I like the idea of a more robust rating system. I know from my KM days that responsiveness is often as important a factor as expertise. Also, I know that part of the reason I don’t waste my time with the generic invitations from strangers any more is because on the few occasions I have, 100% of them haven’t responded, or have been rude when they did, as if I was the one doing something wrong by not immediately accepting their invitation.

    David Teten and I wrote an article at Fast Company a couple of years ago on The Next Generation of Contact Management Software. I expect that we’ll start seeing LinkedIn move in that direction — helping you manage all your business relationships. As they continue to add functionality, the boundaries between it and a CRM or contact management system are going to become increasingly difficult to discern.

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