In LinkedIn Jail? Here’s How to Get Out and Stay Out!
More great LinkedIn tips: http://www.stacyzapar.com/
LinkedIn is a giant community of 225 million users, most of whom are positive contributors to the world’s largest social networking site for business. There’s so much good that happens there every day… people finding jobs, growing their businesses, knowledge-sharing, identifying new clients, reconnecting with former colleagues, asking questions, hiring great employees, sharing great articles, getting introduced to industry peers and all sorts of other networking goodness.
Of course, there are always a few bad apples in any bunch and LinkedIn is no exception. Some people repeatedly break the rules and negatively impact the overall user experience by spamming, having multiple profiles, blasting groups indiscriminately and all sorts of unbecoming behavior. (All of which is definitely hurting their personal brand in my opinion, but that’s another post for another day…)
For years, bad behavior ran a bit rampant and everyone almost got used to it as a fact of life on LinkedIn. But that’s definitely changing. LinkedIn is now cracking down and taking their terms of service very seriously. So much so that some people might not even be aware that they’re breaking a rule and inadvertently putting their account at risk.
The Four Types of LinkedIn Jail
Posts have recently popped up all over Twitter, Facebook, the blogosphere, my email inbox, LinkedIn groups and LinkedIn’s Help Center page about people who have had their account Restricted, SWAM’ed, Suspended or even Shut Down by LinkedIn.
Here’s what those restrictions mean and how you can prevent them:
1. Restricted: You sent one invite too many that got marked as “spam” or “I don’t know so-and-so” (same thing in LinkedIn’s book, by the way) and you’re now required to enter an email address when sending LinkedIn invites.
Don’t feel bad. This type of restriction is fairly common, especially for newbies. It only takes a handful of forgetful folks to not remember you or a little overzealous connecting and bam!… restricted. (Yes, it even happened to me back in the day. Okay, twice.) Fear not, LinkedIn actually lets you remove your own restriction if it’s your first time. (That’s how common it is!) Fortunately, no other LinkedIn functionality is impacted.
The Takeaway? Only invite people that you are fairly CERTAIN will accept. People you actually know in real life are a safe bet. Someone you don’t know personally or only met once could be a risk. When in doubt, reach out to them elsewhere first (email, InMail, group message, Twitter) to ask if it’s okay to send an invite to connect on LinkedIn.
2. SWAM’ed: You posted something somewhere in some group that someone didn’t like and now you are automatically in moderation-required mode for ALL 50 of your groups. (Yes, you read that correctly!)
SWAM stands for “Site Wide Auto Moderation” and it means that each post or comment in LinkedIn groups goes into the “sin bin” and must now be manually approved by the group owner before it is posted and visible. If ANY group owner “blocks & deletes” you or marks your posts as “requires moderation,” you will then automatically be SWAM’ed in ALL of your groups. This new policy is highly impactful for both group members as well as group owners who now have many more posts and comments to sift through and approve/move/delete.
The Takeaway? ALWAYS read the group rules and abide by the policies carefully. Each group has its own rules and one person’s blog post might be another person’s spam, so tread carefully. Recruiters, only post jobs in the Jobs tab, not the main Discussions tab. When in doubt, ask the group owner or just don’t post it.
3. Suspended: You’ve broken LinkedIn’s terms of service in some way and your account is suddenly suspended for up to 30 days (or maybe longer). You can not access your LinkedIn account in any way and your profile is no longer active on the site. No one can pull up your profile and you don’t show up in search results. There may or may not be any advanced warning.
This one is new and obviously a biggie. I don’t work for LinkedIn and don’t have visibility into exactly what the specific triggers are, but there are rumors that any number of transgressions can get your account suspended. Again, I have no confirmation but I’ve read everything from inbox spamming (even your first-level connections or fellow group members) to too much activity in a 24-hour period (searches / profile views / invites sent) to non-name words in your name field (i.e., “Open Networker”, “Sales Pro”, Twitter handles, email addresses or phone numbers).
The Takeaway? LinkedIn’s terms of service are pretty clear and not always what you might expect (i.e., you can’t have a logo as your profile picture and you can’t create a personal profile using a business name), so be sure to read the rules carefully and be sure to abide by them. Pay special attention to #10: LinkedIn User “Do’s and Don’ts.”
4. Shut Down: You’ve broken the rules repeatedly or so drastically that LinkedIn has completely closed your account.
Fake profiles, company-name personal profiles and duplicate profiles are clear targets for closure, but it’s been known to happen in other cases as well. If you receive multiple restrictions (for sending unwanted invites) then LinkedIn may suspend or even close your account. Note: If you have multiple profiles (don’t do it!) then LinkedIn will ask you to pick one and close the other. There’s no merging of accounts, so any recommendations / endorsements on the secondary profile will be lost for good.
The Takeaway? Blatant abuse of LinkedIn will result in losing your account. Just not worth it.
What to do if you find yourself in trouble with LinkedIn:
1. Start with LinkedIn Customer Support. Create a ticket and apologize for any transgressions. Try to work it out. (Be patient, though. I’m seeing typical turnaround time being 7-10 days. Don’t take it personally… They’ve got 225M customers to take care of. I can’t even imagine!)
2. No luck? Try social media. Be nice though…. you get more flies with honey than vinegar. I’ve found @LinkedInHelp on Twitter to be VERY responsive. Although I’ve never used it personally, LinkedIn’s Facebook page also seems to respond pretty quickly to posts and comments. You could also try the Help Center Forum on LinkedIn. It’s like a message board where both users and LI Customer Support folks post and comment. It’s hopping with activity and there’s lots of lively discussion happening. Might help get things moving for you in a positive direction.
LinkedIn is an invaluable resource for business networking, so why mess up a good thing? It’s pretty easy to play by the rules. Take a moment to read those guidelines and try to stay out of trouble. It’s just not worth it!