It arrives over and over and over again. It’s that oh so personal message, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” No explanation and no referral. Just click here, please. It’s making LinkedIn ecstatic. But, it should be making you nervous.
Yes, these days scads of Linda Dlugler’s have been asking to Link to us. We don’t know them from a hole in the wall. They’re mathematicians from Houma, Louisiana and restaurateurs from Scranton PA, but goody-goodie, they all want to connect to us.
Does Linda Really Want Me?
What Linda wants, Linda usually gets. If Linda asks us to connect, most of us are simply saying “Yes,” even when we’ve no idea who she is. That’s because LinkedIn wants us to think that’s our only choice. I mean, after all, it would be grumpy and mean to click the “Ignore Button,” because, well, it would be downright anti-social.
You see, LinkedIn wants as many followers following followers of followers following followers (do you follow?) because that’s how it builds it’s value. After all, the more people who “group-on” to LinkedIn, the better, right?
Well, right if we’re deciding what’s good for LinkedIn; wrong if we are deciding what’s good for you. Having thousands of contacts who mean nothing to you – and you mean nothing to them – is the way to spam, computer viruses and even criminal attacks. We’ve written about this until we’re blue in the face – but LinkedIn Bubble? Or, Bobble-Heads? and Armed and Not Dangerous are good places to start.
Fight Back with Write Back
I don’t know how many people have told me – “Yes, but I can only accept or ignore the invitation.” NO, not true, you can write back and ask these folks to give you more information. But, LinkedIn doesn’t really want you to know that.
Pay attention. There’s a tiny little arrow next to the “Accept” Button. The “Accept” Button is big, so you’ll click it, even by accident. The arrow is tiny, and most people miss it entirely. However, if you click that arrow, you can actually “Reply (don’t accept yet):”
When Linda asked me in that highly personalized way, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” although my heart was all aflutter with the anticipation of a new connection, here’s what I said when I clicked “Reply:”
I’ve loved you all my life – and I shall love you forever. But first please, tell me who you are. I understand that you’d like to link to me, but you whisper not a word of why. Why me? Is it my charm, my charisma, my spicy, insightful blog articles, or something else altogether? Please write and fill me in,
Your patient servant,
8 out of 10 never write back. 1 out of 10 write back with a weak and generic claim that it’s good to connect to 37,000 people (why that might be they never really say – it’s just good). And, the other 1 says something like, “It’s your mother, Michael – call me sometime.”
Linkedin has been clear forever – get introduced through someone who knows the person you want to link to, and tell them why.
That’s out of one side of their mouth. They’d go broke if you followed it. Who’s encouraging indiscriminate following, linking and liking? Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook all assault you with “connection” offers. Here’s a recent screen from my Facebook account:
Why do they do it? Because the more customers they have and the more links they promote, the more they can brag that they’ve got zillions of users.
These days, however, serious articles about what is being called “social media overload” are starting to appear. The frightening privacy implications of online social sites are finally becoming evident. Serious people are beginning to apply Robin Dunbar’s studies of apes and gorillas (very apt when it comes to social media types) about how FEW connections we can actually handle. It’s called Dunbar’s Number – look it up.
But, studies and articles aside, this is how one of my friends feels about it:
I’m pretty dormant on all of the social network stuff. Facebook is creeping me out and all I see are the same people announcing they put ketchup on their fries 20 minutes ago and other earth-shattering pronouncements. LinkedIn reads like a series of self-appraisals in which they pulled out Roget’s Corporate Jargon and Buzzword Thesaurus. I don’t think I’m missing much by sitting on the sidelines.
Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter had better pay attention to my friend Jim if they treasure their stock prices and care about satisfying their investors. Big numbers don’t necessarily mean big stock prices. In fact, big numbers of nitwits, sellers and spammers pumping out the trivial, the mean and the misleading almost surely foretells a crash.
Too bad, because I liked connecting to some of you… just not all of you.