LinkedIn: Like a Bad Chain Letter

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UPDATE September 2013: I have just deleted my LinkedIn account. It has again become spammy. Between the emails for the “endorsements” and the lack of meaningful connections (unless you want headhunters constantly bothering you), it was time to call it quits!

UPDATE August 2011: Since writing this post in 2008, LinkedIn evolved and I signed up for an account again. I find the site more useful for connecting with other professionals, and now enjoy it much more!

A couple of years ago, I got sucked into LinkedIn, thanks to my friend Ben. It was supposed to be a way to share your professional contacts with other professionals of your choosing. You set up your profile, and you start linking to others.

They can see your list of links (unless you hide it, which totally defeats the whole purpose) and you can see theirs. Then the race is on to link to some of their contacts and begin to build your network.

Are you with me so far? Does it sound like a good idea? Yes! It does.

Until you realize that the most active people on the lists are headhunters or people who want to sell you something. Then you will be barraged with all sorts of requests to link from people who don’t really care a bit about you or your relationships. They just want a piece of the action and the internet has made it much easier for them to be obnoxious.

And this theory of mine (that LinkedIn is primarily for headhunters and sales people) is backed up by an article in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Who is quoted as being helped by LinkedIn? Someone who wanted to pitch their services to a company and needed a contact within the company, and a headhunter. Surprise, surprise.

Really, I don’t mind sharing professional contacts at all. But if you want access to my Rolodex, you’ve got to do more than become part of this chain letter. My contacts are very important to me, and I’m not just going to give out their information to anyone and everyone. I’ve got to have a reason to connect you. And the fact that you’ve got over 100 LinkedIn connections is not a good enough reason. All that tells me is that you’ve most likely been sending out a zillion “link to me” requests and some people pitied you.

Why do I call it a chain letter? Because I find little real value to LinkedIn. In the year that I was a part of it (and yes, I actively worked on growing my network and checking out the connections of others) I got absolutely nothing out of it. No connections that I needed. Didn’t end up providing any meaningful connections for others, although I did help them connect. (The connections they asked for, however, didn’t seem worthwhile.) I certainly didn’t get any new business leads from the site.

And don’t think you’re ever leaving LinkedIn. You’re not! You can’t delete your profile. So if you want to leave like I did about a year ago, you have to email them and ask them to remove you. But they don’t remove you. They just lock you out of your account and leave your profile active so that their membership numbers are inflated. (That’s FRAUD, people.)

The really cool part about having an active profile you no longer want is that you keep getting emails via LinkedIn from people who are requesting to connect or otherwise want to pillage your contact list.

I really wanted out. So I devised a plan to get LinkedIn to finally delete me. I asked them to allow me back into my account as I had a changed of heart. I changed my current job to “LinkedIn Is A Fraud”. (Or something close to that… it’s been a while.) I proceeded to describe the fraud in the section for the job description.

And in no time flat, my profile was officially deleted by LinkedIn. So don’t be sucked in by the hype and think that you need to be part of this “social networking” site that helps you get professional contacts. It’s largely a waste of time and if you’re like me, it will become more trouble than it’s worth thanks to all the useless contact requests.

13 thoughts on “LinkedIn: Like a Bad Chain Letter

  1. CS at LinkedIn

    I will let you know that many of the problems you are facing will soon be resolved. LinkedIn will soon allow users to close their own accounts and will not require you to e-mail Customer Service to do so. Also, the purpose of LinkedIn is not to have as many connections as possible. It is to help control your own personal network. It is nearly impossible to try to control everyone who abuses the system but people will still try. As a result, LinkedIn does not allow recruiting/headhunting firms to have access to their Corporate Recruiter tool which can expand their searches greatly. As an employee of Linkedin, I encourage people to only connect to people that have direct contact with and would feel comfortable writing a recommendation for. Many people do not realize that the quantity of contacts is not the most important thing. It’s the quality of your contacts that makes a strong network.

  2. RSke

    LinkedIn has allowed me to keep in touch with contacts and former colleagues all over the globe. Simply limit the amount of data in your profile and you’ll avoid the head hunters.

    Come-on Tracey….you really get called by head-hunters? They should know by know it will take a personal jet and a seven figure deal to pull you away from Sequence<>. Enjoy the day!

  3. Galaxy

    I think there are many great things about LinkedIn, and also Facebook for that matter. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with colleagues and also discovering which of my colleagues or peers chooses to connect. I think of my LinkedIn account as a database of all the people I have done business with or an likely to do business with in the future. And, the network value- the knowledge and value that friends of friends has- is tremendous. I’ve asked several business questions and received great answers. I’ve gotten great job opportunities, yes, but also speaking engagements, referrals, new business ideas, etc. A great recent example was meeting new colleagues at a conference and then having them find me and connect to me on LinkedIn in an effort to stay in touch. I really look forward to some better functionality to start to let people capitalize on the value of their myriad (and quality, if the network is build right) professional connections.

  4. Richard

    I think LinkedIn is great – best thing ever! I work for LinkedIn, kaaaching!

    Get real, all these “LinkedIn is great” comments are paid shills or naive individuals who signed up and now feel the need to justify all the spam they’re sending to their “contacts”. If I ever got a real request from a “contact” I met through LinkedIn, I’d tell the person who they are trying to contact not to trust that person with any secure or proprietary info as they are too stupid to avoid the LinkedIn scam.

    Avoid them.

  5. Sharon

    Hi,
    I am trying to write a story about LinkedIn and I was wondering if you had issues with this company or knew of anybody who had issues with identity-stealing and profile mixes with LinkedIn.
    If you could help, that would be great!

  6. LinkedIn Victim

    Hello there,

    Thank you for sharing, I wish there was more awareness among people of the dangers of all these “useful” tools on the web, most of which is just for making someone extremely rich, not caring for the consequences of the effect on people’s lives. And I am not just talking about people who surf the web, much rather of people who do NOT..
    I happened to stumble across your writing by googling “LinkedIn fraud” after I ran into something ridiculous regarding the system LinkedIn works along. Which, by the way, goes for all similar networking sites, due to the anonimity and ease of access to the worldwide web.

    My story shows that it can go further than just a “nuisance” or lack of real use.

    I lost my job some time ago and someone (most likely an employee from my last company whose salary had been reduced as an effect of the company crisis or any former employee I had to make redundant, due to the same crisis which eventually made me redundant as well..) has taken to abusing LinkedIn and registering under my name, with the only difference of one letter in the spelling of my name, which I had registered with originally.
    In fact, the international spelling of my name is what the person used, thus if someone from a multinational is googling me or looking me up in LinkedIn, the fake name will come up first, not my real account.

    In Hungarian, we have 9 more characters in our alphabet, on top of the english alphabet, which are just different formats of the letters “a”, “e”, “i”, “o” or “u”. We put these little accents and double-dots on top of the letters, thus the pronounciation is totally different (e.g. “á” differs from “a”, “ö” from “o”, etc.). It is common in the world in many languages, LinkedIn however does not seem to bother taking this into consideration for avoiding abuse..
    Which is remarkable, as about 75% of people in my personal social networking circle have at least one of these odd characters in their names, 50% of them have two of these letters, which means FOUR different possibilities to register at LinkedIn for HALF of the Hungarian population! Imagine how much work this would mean for their Service Support if people start reporting abuse..
    Not to mention: how do they know who the real Mr X. is?? Do I need to send a copy of my passport???

    Now, this individual is trying to make my life miserable, as (s)he has indicated that I have filled a position with a competitive firm versus my previous firm. Of course this will not have any legal implications for me, as I obviously do not work there. It does pose a potential threat to me though when applying for new positions or if this person is putting in new information.

    Now tell me: what can I possibly do to avoid anyone misuse of my personal information, if a provider like this does not care to protect people’s privacy, even of those who are not even registered??..
    I agree it would be a costy feature to have everyone give a (home) mailing adress and send a (snail mail) letter physically with access codes and so on, to make sure it’s not some kid in a Philippines registering as former CEO of a Swedish firm, just for the fun of it, but let’s just think for a minute: would the profits not justify it?.. What is the profit loss in a letter? Exactly: the potentially missed opportunity. I’ve not seen many providers raising their barriers high, that’s for sure..

    The problem is not what the system does not do, what it lacks.
    The problem is the damage it does. When talking about people’s jobs, there is nothing worse than irresponsible “gadgets” on the Web, “for the common good”.

    Good luck with the site!

  7. Who checks what?

    I just found out that a LinkedIn client was claiming to be my Regional Manager. What a load of crock. That person is falsely stating she works for me. I do not even know her. Talk about false information. What can I do to get her to change this misleading information? My business name is unique, so I know there cannot be another business with the same name.

  8. chas

    Fear Factor

    I know someone who sells Linkedin to corporate customers as a tool for recruiting talent and their message is the same to individuals as it is to corporations JOIN LINKEDIN OR SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES.

    He has a real cult member personality, no capacity for independent thoughts, and he hard sells this crap to anyone – provided they don’t run away. With the same aggression as an Amway rep he taps into the fear of being unknown or unseen on the web. “No Linkedin profile, no job.”

    Don’t let these scare tactics affect you.

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