LinkedIn is a very interesting social networking site. On the one hand, the goal of LinkedIn is to connect people who already know each other to create a network based on “trusted relationships.” On the other hand, if you strive to develop too many relationships or perform too many other activities on the website, you are restricted. Some of these restrictions make sense and are an attempt to limit potential spamming. Other restrictions are clearly geared towards curbing the appetite of the super connected on LinkedIn. Today I want to take a look at the newest restriction that I have found on LinkedIn, that of the content of your LinkedIn Invitations Text.
The LinkedIn Invitation, as you all know by now, is how you “connect” with others and add each other to your LinkedIn Networks. When you select “Add so-and-so to your network,” you are asked to enter the details as to how you know that person. And then, by the way, is an optional area to enter a personal note. In fact, LinkedIn has already populated your optional personal note with the dreaded “Join my network on LinkedIn.” You cannot underestimate how many people list receiving these impersonal invitations as tops on their list of LinkedIn pet peeves. And, if you think about it, LinkedIn created this social phenomenon by populating this impersonal wording to connect people with “trusted relationships!” If it sounds a little contradictory in nature, you are right; you will find many more contradictions throughout the LinkedIn platform (don’t even get me started as to whether LinkedIn Events is an Application or not!)
You may be wondering why I chose the LinkedIn Merlin Wizard for the image of this blog post. It’s because he is the person you see when LinkedIn is in the process of adding new features. And it was his appearance in mid-August that started this new restriction. Whenever I see that guy appear on my screen, my heart is always divided between the side that is excited about the new functionality that LinkedIn is about to add or fearful of the new restrictions that LinkedIn is about to impose. Sound a little like a Halloween Trick or Treat? You are absolutely right! And this time it was a Trick!
Now, whenever LinkedIn returns back to service after the Merlin Wizard appears, it is not always apparent what in LinkedIn has changed. The new LinkedIn Advanced People Search screen, for instance, despite being a major upgrade in usability, just appeared without any mention in July. And, when a new functionality appears, it often does not work well for the first few days. In the case of this new Advanced People Search, the number of actual connections of people over 500 was displayed for the first few days!
So there was a little hoopla in the LinkedIn user community last month shortly after the appearance of the latest Merlin Wizard. This time the broken functionality was the LinkedIn Invitation: it couldn’t be personalized at all! I had a number of LinkedIn Connections contact me asking if I knew what the scoop was, and I answered back that it was probably a temporary issue that would be resolved. In the heat of the moment bloggers posted articles like “LinkedIn No Longer Allowing Invite Messages?” or “LinkedIn Limits Personalized Invitations” . But after a few days, just like the Advanced People Search no longer displaying the actual number of connections over 500, the invitation text issue was resolved.
Seeing that there was no new functionality added here, my hunch was that there was a new restriction placed on the LinkedIn Invitation somehow. And I was finally able to find out where it was: the actual text of the LinkedIn Invitation itself! That’s right: LinkedIn is actually restricting what text you can enter when you want to invite someone into your LinkedIn Network!
As with many of the other restrictions on LinkedIn, your hand doesn’t get slapped until you perform the wrong action.
It’s like a parent only yelling at their baby after they break some unexplained rule.
So what rule did I break, you ask? To be honest with you, like many others, I also dislike the “optional” wording that LinkedIn embeds into the invitation text, so I have a template that I use when I invite someone. Even if it is someone I know, I want to give them some background on what I have been up to, as well as some LinkedIn advice and introduction to my LinkedIn Groups. After doing this like I have done in the past, you can imagine how surprised I was to see the following error message: You cannot include a URL in your invitation text!
OK, hold on. Whenever LinkedIn places a new restriction without previous warning, I try to put myself in their shoes and imagine why they would want to impose this new limitation. A lot of people do see invitations from people that they do not know as “LinkedIn Spam,” but I am sure that the invitation text itself is irrelevant. What is important is that they do not know the person who sent the invitation. For these people, the “IDK” or “I Don’t Know” response is there. But why limit URLs in the text?
The only other thing I could think of is that if someone were using LinkedIn Invitations with no intent of connecting but merely to truly spam others with URLs leading to some unrelated service or scam. But if there is someone truly spamming people, why not just kick them out of LinkedIn instead of restricting 46+ million LinkedIn members from including a URL in their invitation text? If you can limit people who receive 5 IDKs, surely you can track these spammers, no?
It’s funny because LinkedIn sparked the new habit that many professionals now have of placing their LinkedIn Public Profile URL as part of their email signature. Visual CV URLs are now popping up, as well as Twitter Profile URLs. And bloggers, like myself, obviously want to put our blog URLs in our email signature. If you are working, you undoubtedly have your company URL as part of your email signature. Indeed, compared to a few years ago, it is now natural that a majority of professionals put a URL in the email signature. So why restrict all of us? It is just unnatural and does not make any sense.
I started the Windmill Networking blog under another name and solely based on demystifying the LinkedIn restrictions that exist yet always surprised people. I find myself reaching back to my roots on this one. It is another restriction, similar to the restriction of connections that you can make on LinkedIn, that just doesn’t make sense in this day and age. In fact, I would go one step further on this LinkedIn restriction: not being able to enter a URL in your LinkedIn invitation text, like you would in an email, is actually limiting your Freedom of Speech.
It is LinkedIn’s platform, so they have the right to place any restriction that they see fit. I just don’t see any plausible sense in this restriction. Why can’t LinkedIn make a valid explanation of why they imposed this restriction to appease us all? This lack of explanation only fuels the fire.
Agree? Disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts on this one.