I recently blogged about LinkedIn and mentioned I imported my Gmail contacts to grow my network.
"Did It Work?"
Yes. And how. But I wasn't very smart about how I did it and I'd like to share my mistake and what I learned from it.
I like the business focus of the site. Now that TweetDeck contains a hook into the LinkedIn API, I plan to make more use of the Updates feature in 2010.
I've been building my network on LinkedIn for over three years. My network had organically grown to include just under 500 connections. The site regularly prompted me to import my Gmail contacts, and I kept skipping over the prompts. When I decided to "do more" with LinkedIn, I decided it was time to go ahead and import the Gmail contacts.
My Gmail account is over five years old. I have a lot of contacts.
I was astounded at how many folks in my Gmail contact list were on LinkedIn, and amazed at how many with whom I had not connected. The import interface identified these folks (people in my contacts with LinkedIn accounts), filtering out those with whom I had already connected. Pretty cool.
So I began inviting them. All of them.
"How Did That Work Out For You?"
When you receive an invitiation to connect to someone on LinkedIn, there are options. You can Accept the invitation, Archive and ignore it, or click the "I Don't Know This Person" button. If enough people click the "I Don't Know This Person" button, LinkedIn begins to suspect you're just randomly connecting to people you don't know to boost your network.
"How do you know this, Andy?" It happened to me.
It turns out that some people do not remember you from that one email you sent them five years ago. And some of those people are particular about who they want to connect with on social networking sites. A subset of those folks will click the "I Don't Know This Person" button if they don't remember you. And, if enough of them do that, you trip the ThisPersonIsInvitingPeopleTheyDontKnow flag in the LinkedIn database.
I noticed this had happened when I tried to connect to a new person the week after my big import/invitation weekend. I was prompted by the website for that person's email address. I thought "If I had their email address, I wouldn't need LinkedIn!" There was more. A curious header on the page informed me that LinkedIn had received "enough" "I Don't Know This Person" button clicks to flag my account. There was a checkbox that I could click acknowledging I understood the rules (only connect to people you know). Once I checked it, LinkedIn started working for me as it had in the past.
I also received a followup email from LinkedIn restating the rules and letting me know my account restriction had been lifted. I replied to that, asking for more information. In the exchange with LinkedIn Customer Support I learned a couple things:
- LinkedIn takes their mission seriously.
- LinkedIn has very professional customer support folks.
Even though I was inconvenienced, I believe LinkedIn's diligence is a good thing. It will improve the overall experience for those who use the site and services, and hamper the efforts of spammers.