LinkedIn Invitations – Why hitting “I Don’t Know This Person” is a good idea


This is a response to the stupid article I read, which favours the opposite response.  Linkedin is of course the foremost online business network, and the one which most professionals will sign up for, even if they use no other form of social media.  It isn’t yet universal, and there are some sections of industry, and professions which aren’t represented there at all.  I’ll assume if you’re reading this, then you already know how Linkedin works, so I shan’t bother with that detail.

As with all social media channels, Linkedin is an online service which has had to not only write the rulebook, but to continually evolve as it grew as a living breathing network.  It is also delivered by a company with a plan to generate profit and growth, and to assert its position at the centre of this sector.  For these reasons, Linkedin are very particular about how users can connect, disconnect, and develop their own network of connections.  Key to this is the process of inviting other members to connect with you, and the etiquette for doing so.  The ruination of any permission based network lies in its manipulation by those who seek to subvert the rules in order to exploit its members.  That sounds pretty extreme, but there are plenty who would spam the bejesus out of every single Linkedin member, given half a chance.  Linkedin members can be classified as either Open Networkers (often denoted by LiON) or Selective Networkers, who prefer to be more choosy about who they connect with.

So Linkedin, in their wisdom, offer three alternatives when presented with an invitation connect with another individual;

Accept;                                                 – OK, go ahead

Archive;                                               – I don’t want to connect, but don’t mind being asked

I Don’t Know This Person (IDK)              – I think this person is randomly building a network to spam

In my view, if you agree that the first two categories are suitable, then it follows that in order to maintain the integrity of your own network, and of Linkedin, you must repel unwanted connections. To simply Archive every spammer, is to encourage them to continue.  Every member of a network, in whatever form, by their presence, exerts a degree of influence, which evolves into a collective ethos.

I do think the Archive button should be renamed as “No Thanks”, and also that Linkedin’s policy of punishment for those who get rejected by IDK is perhaps a little harsh, but I respect their right to manage their product as they see fit.  In the same way as I resent the perceived obligation to rate every purchase made on Amazon and eBay, I want to assert my right to IDK at will, without automatically becoming a social media pariah.

Let me be clear.  I am more than happy to connect with almost anyone, including those who want to do business with me.  However, I check all invitations and discriminate against those I’ve never heard of with thousands of current connections.

PS. Here’s a great article on

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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