A few weeks ago, I entered into a saga that I think is instructive to all of us as we learn to use social networks more wisely.
I am a member of LinkedIn, which is a social network of professional contacts. Many others that I know are part of LinkedIn.
Through LinkedIn, I received a request to connect with someone from California. LinkedIn gives 3 options for each request: Accept, Decide Later, I don’t know this person. Since I didn’t know this person, I chose I don’t know this person.
He wrote me back to explain more of the context in which he thought we knew each other. He indicated we had worked together on one or more phone calls several years ago. He mentioned several other organizational leader’s names that were on the call. I still didn’t remember him, so I responded that perhaps he was thinking of someone else but I didn’t recall ever being on the phone call he mentioned. He wrote back really unhappy because he claimed that my I don’t know this person put a black mark on him. Later he wrote that my name had been mentioned on the call but perhaps we never actually talked.
In all this, he never owned the fact that he had indicated a connection that did not exist. He was upset that I had black marked him in the LinkedIn system.
I did not even know that I don’t know this person black marked a person.
So, I asked my friend and social networking expert Rob Williams of Orangejack LLC if he had any information about the black mark concept in LinkedIn. His reply:
I finally found some documentation from LinkedIn about this. Here is some information from the LinkedIn Customer support:
Review invitations you receive carefully. If you do not know a person that has sent you an invitation you can:
1. Click “decide later” which will archive the message and not prevent the member from sending you another invitation at a later time.
2. You can use the “Reply” link and send a message back to the inviter, i.e. Thank you for the invitation to connect however I’m afraid I cannot accept it at this time. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for managing my professional network and designed to help me maintain the connections I have. It is a LinkedIn best practice to only connect directly to those whom I know well and would recommend. I’d like to be able to give a referral to any of my connections when asked. If I don’t know you well enough to do so, LinkedIn isn’t as powerful for my network. Please understand and remember to invite me to connect after we’ve had a chance to work together.
3. Click the “I don’t know” button which will place a mark on the sender’s account that tells LinkedIn this person may not be using invitations correctly. This also prevents them from sending another invite to you in the future.
What I haven’t found is how many “marks” an account can accumulate before being penalized. Seems the number is around 5 and the account can be frozen. I just can’t find much about it officially — and that’s kind of disturbing to me.
Thanks, Rob! If there are a number of “marks” that send someone to detention hall, we should all know about it up front. It looks like the “decide later” is a way to do away with a person without confronting them!
All this is to say that we are all learning to use social networking. This is sometimes a steep learning curve.
Many see Facebook as a way to proliferate their number of “friends”. Often, it seems the Facebook standard is to “friend” anyone and accept all “friend” requests. Maybe some are trying to compete with Michael Phelps’ 4300 Facebook friends.
I’ve got someone I’ve never even talked with wanting to claim a connection in LinkedIn because of the access and credibility it will give him to others who, although they may not know him, might say “Keith knows him so I guess he’s OK.”
I encourage us all to be “wise as serpents, harmless as doves” in this brave, new world of social networking.