I was a LinkedIn Spammer (or so they said)

Everyone has their own approach to social networks. Some folks won’t make introductions, preferring to keep themselves at the center of the exchange. Others are happy to connect two people who can help each other. Likewise, on the professional online social nets, some equate connecting with the informal action of exchanging business cards while others feel such an act is more intimate, available only to close colleagues and partners.

My social net of choice is LinkedIn primarily because i use it as an evergreen address book to get updates from my connections rather than to really seek out those I don’t know. Accordingly, and because a contact can’t really do anything to your network without my explicit approval, I tend to approve most of the connection requests I receive. (With two exceptions – those who seem to be nothing more than LinkedIn Whores – “5000+ CONNECTIONS – MEET ME” – and those who spoof employment at Google in order to invite their “colleagues” to connect).

Since we all know about the “strength of weak ties” this strategy seems pragmatic. So this past Memorial Day weekend I took a step deeper into the LinkedIn World by uploading my address book and sending connection requests to about ~400 people whom i’ve met over the last seven years. These were folks already part of LinkedIn and represented about a third of the people from my address book that were already in the service and not connected to me.

Imagine my surprise when this action caused my account to be temporarily suspended. What did i do? How do i get out of jail? Was it some velocity tripwire? Did i need to upgrade to a premium account?

A little digging into their customer service department (via the help of a LinkedIn co-founder who has since left the company for his own start-up) got my account unbanned, but only after i acknowledged my misdeed via email – the equivalent of writing it on the blackboard 500 times after school.

What was my offense? Turns out if more than five people say they “don’t know you” in response to an invite, you’re blocked as a spammer. They wouldn’t tell me if those strikes expire over time or not but they were clear that it wasn’t a percentage of invites, but a fixed number. So although several hundred of the invitees accepted my solicitation, the few who didn’t remember me got me banished to Reid Hoffman’s purgatory.

Net effect – a tiny loss of goodwill and a more conservative approach in sending out invites – which i guess possibly slows their network effects, but they’d argue that LinkedIn is a Strong Tie service. Or at least the Weak Tie service is their Premium Version which charges to you connect with those who “don’t know you” 🙂

4 thoughts on “I was a LinkedIn Spammer (or so they said)

  1. Funny post Hunter… Given the HUGE burst of LinkedIn and now Facebook invites that are flying around, i’m beginning to wonder about things like this… when IS someone a “friend”, a “contact”. Given how much headhunters are now starting to use these networks, is is it distracting and dilutive to have a large personal network?

  2. I know what you mean. I’m in the Top 50, and I never included an email address like many do and never uploaded my database. My LI account was restricted for over a year and a half and I did give a good recommendation for LI to a VC who was doing a due diligence to invest in LI. I use LI as a tool and a resource. I hardly ever requested an intro.I’m about to stop using LI as I have been recently spammed on a daily basis by recruiters, out sourcing and coaching from LI Lions or whatever that groups name. I think most should be banned from using SNs.

  3. If LinkedIn were legit, they would have a link on each invite mail that PERMANENTLY marks your address as “do not send invites to this address”. As it is, you complain to privacy@linkedin.com and get no reply; they then send you a further two reminders that you’ve had an invite!My policy’s simple. I don’t want to sign up for LinkedIn. Therefore I don’t want to receive invites to LinkedIn. Therefore they shouldn’t send me mail, and should provide me with a clear, easy way to say so.Anyway, doesn’t CAN-SPAM require that they provide a working opt-out link? Somebody get these jokers in court, <>please<>…

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