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Any Idiot Can Be A LinkedIn LION!

by David Brock on January 2nd, 2015

….. And Most Are!

Before I go further, I need to offer a disclaimer and apology to a very small number of friends and colleagues who are LinkedIn LIONs.  Having said that, I do wonder why they choose to put themselves in such bad company.  But I will be making some tough statements about LinkedIn LIONs.  I don’t mean to insult those friends who are LIONs, but I don’t want to clutter this post with continued apologies to you.

LinkedIn is tremendously powerful in helping each of us better connect with each other, as well as discover important new contacts.  But as with any great tool, there are people that twist it in ways that were never intended.  Over time, they start diminishing the value of the tool–or at least make the community using the tool very wary.

LinkedIn LIONs, fit into that category.  Sure there are some that say that LIONs provide a valuable service in helping dramatically expand the reach of our networks, but I believe that is more hype, probably perpetuated by LIONs, than truth.  Since the indiscriminately build their networks, the probability they are systematically building access to people I’d like to know is pretty low.

While I disagree with the principles of open networking, I have little problem with those who are open networkers, but are relatively passive in their activity.

I get invitations from friends and colleagues who are open networkers.  I gladly accept most of them because we have a relationship–so it makes sense to connect with them.

I get invitations from open networkers who I don’t know.  I rarely accept them, just like I don’t accept a large number of invitations I get.  As an example, I don’t know why having a relationship with a hairdresser (no knock on hairdressers) in Nigeria, who has 20 connections, means anything to either of us.  Likewise, I see no value in establishing a relationship with someone who’s only “value proposition” is their ability to “shop” contacts.  I don’t want anyone shopping their relationship with me, so I don’t want to be associated with people who do that with others.

Most LIONs however don’t send invitations because LinkedIn limits that activity.  Some try InMails, but LinkedIn is changing the rules on them.  I report all of these unwanted communications as SPAM.  If more people did this, it creates a huge problem for these indiscriminate networking spammers.

But this is creating an emerging category of LinkedIn LIONs who are choosing to be particularly aggressive in their networking.  They pollute discussion streams in groups–not adding anything to the discussion other than a “connect with me request.”  I’ve seen great discussions destroyed by LION after LION piling onto a thread.  (Perhaps they have a group where they post links to discussions they can destroy.)

Lately, I’ve been having an unfortunate running battle with LIONs (it’s amazing the same names keep popping up) on a number of my LinkedIn Pulse articles.  They are destroying great discussions–discussions I value and learn from.

It’s interesting when you look at the profiles of these Idiots.  Most of them have pretty weak or even false backgrounds.  I love those who declare themselves as networking or social media experts.  Anyone who has studied these areas, knows these are the worst possible practices in engaging and building a community.

It takes no talent to build an extremely large network.  We see that in LinkedIn (unfortunately, too many people blindly accept invitations).  We’ve seen it in Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and others.

It takes real talent and thoughtfulness to build a strong, loyal, engaged community of followers.  And those that have invested in doing so, never betray the trust of that community.

These Idiots will continue to try to destroy the experience for us.  What they are too dull to realize, is their actions drive the people they are trying to attract away, to other channels and communities, so they are destroying the tool they are trying to leverage for whatever insane purposes.  In fact, we see alternatives to LinkedIn springing up, which are seeking to address the numbers/quantity/SPAM issues.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.  I do have a strategy for dealing with these Idiots.  For every unwanted InMail I get, I report it as SPAM.  If I get multiples from the same person, I block them.  For everyone that I see in a discussion thread I’ve started, whether in a group or Pulse, I delete their comment and report it to LinkedIn as SPAM.

Perhaps, if enough of us started fighting back in this way, perhaps we can help LinkedIn take stronger action with the Idiots that are destroying the power of the tool that LinkedIn offers.

I’m posting this on my blog for now.  In a few days, I’ll publish this on LinkedIn Pulse.  I’ll be amused to see the LION activity on that post.  There will be a few that actually read the post and may offer differing views and comments.  I welcome those–after all that’s the whole point of the discussions.

Those that will be so amusing to watch are those that try to hijack the discussion by posting a “connect with me” comment.  The huge irony, is they will simply be reinforcing and illustrating my argument they are no more than SPAMMERs and Idiots.  I will leave those comments on the post, rather than deleting them, so all the legitimate readers/commenters can see who these Idiots are and join me in laughing at their mindlessness.

For my friends and colleagues that are LIONs.  We have an association in LinkedIn and other places, because I value our relationship and you have not violated the integrity of that relationship.  Thank you.  But, for your open networking, you may want to reconsider the company you keep.

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  1. Simon Johnson permalink

    Hey Dave,

    I love a good rant, and it’s good to hear you on form. I’m looking forward to this experiment… I presume you’ll publish the results…

    Speak soon, Simon

    • Simon, Happy New Year! Sorry we missed when I was in the UK, but my agenda was overwhelming. Look forward to talking.

      As to the Rant! I suspect I’ll have some fun with this and will definitely publish the results. All the best! Regards, Dave

  2. Martin Schmalenbach permalink

    Happy New Year Dave!!

    A timely piece – I smiled wryly at times as I read it, recognising many of these situations myself.

    I shall be adopting your strategies going forward. LinkedIn is something I cherish as I do have the majority of my profession-related discussions on the several groups there I belong to.

    I’m not familiar with the term ‘open networking’ – perhaps you could clarify/educate me?!

    I do (mostly) ignore requests to connect from people who send me the stock message, who don’t take time to personalise the request. I tend not to do this for such requests coming from people I have been engaged in meaningful discourse.

    So, let’s see what 2015 brings!



    • Happy New Year Martin, great hearing from you.

      I’m not sure I totally understand what Open Networking is, but here’s what I think. It is people who will accept any request for a connection, and are indiscriminate in accepting those requests. The LIONs are open networkers who seem to pride themselves on the quantity of connections they have and constantly seek to expand that quantity–so they are commoditizing the value of a connection–where we need to be going the opposite direction in our networking/relationship building efforts.

      I sense LinkedIn has a bit of a love/hate relationship with those people, many of the rules they have in place make it difficult for them. For example, you will rarely see a direct request for a connection from a LION, because LinkedIn limits those, particularly if they get a lot of “I don’t know them” responses. So they send emails to you –through groups, etc, asking that you reach out and connect. They are also taking an aggressive stance in comments on groups and in Pulse–which drove this article.

      Always great to hear from you Martin! My best for the New Year, please pass my greetings to my friends there! Regards, Dave

      • FYI guys, if you get into an Open Networking group, it’s like the saying that Eskimos have many words to describe “snow.” Some open networkers will accept an invite from anyone. Their goal is to have as large a network as possible. Others will say they don’t accept all invites, but will never mark an invite as IDK (I Don’t Know) or SPAM, which can hurt the sender’s profile. I don’t remember all the levels or names, since its been a while. (I remember one of the names was “Libertine” but don’t recall what it meant). In the groups, the networkers often designate their level of “openness” this way. Generally, I think most of those designating themselves as LIONs will connect with anyone and everyone.

        • Mike: In my previous long winded comment, I mentioned I don’t accept at least 50% of the requests for invitation. 99% of the time, I just ignore them, I never SPAM those or even respond, IDK. The only one’s I do SPAM are those few like the Major General, when I learned it was not his profile. In my report, I outline the specifics for LinkedIn.

  3. Hoo boy, Dave. Can’t wait to see this on Publisher, lol. Roar! 😉

    I experimented with the LION thing back in 2008-2009 or so, if memory serves. I moved away from it for many of the reasons you mentioned. Today, I call myself an “open networker of sorts,” but do not consider myself a LION (and may barf if I see another picture of one with “Add Me!” as a comment).

    I do, however, support connecting with people you don’t know (yet), in your fields of expertise and interest. Otherwise, it’s like joining the largest Chamber of Commerce in the world, going to a mixer, and standing all night in the corner with the cronies you already know. That seems equally as silly to me. However, I’m not on the hunt to expand my network for numbers, or completely indiscriminately. The Follow thing is interesting now, too. I find that I’m gaining quite a few Followers from my Publisher posts (I’d guess), who I’m not actually “connected” with.

    I occasionally have LIONs drop their email and Add Me comments to my updates, and I give them one warning, and then report them as spammers and block them. I don’t report people for just inviting me… I just Ignore them and move on.

    I disagree with LinkedIn’s rules about only inviting people you know, but what I find really interesting is LinkedIn’s long-term tolerance for LIONs, given that it’s a violation of the TOS. Although they tolerate a lot of other violations, such as pictures that aren’t faces, phone numbers and emails shared openly in text sections (rather than where they belong), etc. Will be interesting to see what LinkedIn does with the “aggressive LIONs.”

    I’ll be watching for the Publisher post. 😉

    • Mike: Maybe I was confusing in my rant. I don’t just accept requests from people I know. I’ve built a fascinating and diverse network of people that I hadn’t known and LinkedIn is our first opportunity to connect. Just like you, I value extending the network to new people in new segments and with different points of view.

      Having said that, I turn down about 50% of the requests that I get. Most of them are people who have not invested time in developing their profile. When I get an invitation, I look at the profile to get an idea about the person, not so much how they might contribute to my network, but how I might learn, and even possibly contribute to them. But people who don’t have a complete profile, and by that I mean something that goes beyond 10 words, cheat me of that opportunity. I figure, if they aren’t taking the time invest in developing a profile and sharing who they are, then they aren’t serious about developing a relationship—albeit at a distance.

      There are also a surprising number of people with totally false profiles. For example, about 6 months ago, I got an invitation from a Major General who was on the Joint Chiefs Of Staff. He had a complete profile–which happened to match word for word the bio from his service record. But there were other clues (e.g. grammar, education, etc.) that were inconsistent with my experience of Major General’s. I happened to talk to a friend, who is a Lt. General and had him look at the profile. He laughed and said it was false. (That profile has since been taken down.). There are a number of others that are like that.

      There are also a large number, who you know are not interested in a relationship, but how they can leverage that for access to my network, or direct access to me (ie through direct messages). For example, there is a direct marketing/lead gen firm in the LA area. They operate under the “pretty girl” approach. I get weekly invitations from stunning “girls,” (no disrespect to the women reading this). They are word for word the same. Their profiles are word for word the same, only the pictures changes. I sometimes suspect they are rotating to see if I’m attracted to blonds, brunettes, etc. Clearly, these people don’t have good intentions in mind.

      Then there are those folks in the “investment community.” I have a lot of VC, PE, and other connections. I get a lot of requests, (usually from somebody in the Middle East, Africa, or Eastern Europe) who have investor profiles. Originally, I accepted those, but then found 100% of the time, I was deluged with pitches from people who would gladly take my money. So now, I refuse virtually 100% of those requests. Am I missing some legitimate requests, possibly, but I really don’t care.

      There is no end to the number of creative scams people come up with in asking for connections.

      Also, despite everything most of us say, there is still a subliminal, “Mine is bigger than yours,” thinking so we tend to want to aggressively grow our networks/followings etc. And I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit to some of that thinking, as well.

      But it still calls for prudence and discrimination in accepting requests.

      I know this is long winded, but let me address LION’s and open networkers, specifically. While this doesn’t apply to 100% of them, and I apologize to those who are legit. I tend to believe these people are actively trying to commoditize relationships, since their sole goal is numbers. The value of our networks is the value of our relationships–even those that may be distant. So I’m, in principle, opposed to anyone or any efforts to devalue relationships and commoditize them.

      Not that I feel strongly about this issue 😉

      • You weren’t confusing at all, Dave. I was just blabbing my views on the topic, not meaning a tit-for-tat parlay or debate.

        There are some good posts out there about how to identify fake profiles and what people are doing with them. (All are unethical and against the TOS but some are far more nefarious an intent than others.) BTW, I got (the same or similar) invite. Mine was from a high-ranking Air Force leader. I researched it, found it was a fake, and reported it to the Air Force (via Twitter, go figure).

  4. Dave, I am in general agreement about those who call themselves “LIONS”.

    Generally, more is not always better.

    However, I do have a disagreement with you about how to deal with them.

    You write: ” I do have a strategy for dealing with these Idiots. For every unwanted InMail I get, I report it as SPAM.”

    First, InMail by definition is not wanted. (Sponsored InMail is even less wanted.) But you not wanting it doesn’t make it SPAM.

    It is like advertising which comes with your newspaper that you don’t like or want –it isn’t SPAM.

    SPAM has significant legal consequences & people should not call every annoyance or interruption on a social network SPAM. Network feeding & care requires more attention. It is not all about you.

    Finally, I am not sure what your privacy settings are, I have set mine so that anyone can email me –even if not a first connection.

    A reasonable way to be open without advertising. But, it makes it even harder to mark unwanted emails as SPAM.

    • Mike, I don’t disagree at all, and perhaps SPAMming them is inappropriate. Unfortunately, LinkedIn does not provide another means of blocking their messages, with the exception of totally blocking them. I’ve found some to be quite persistent.

      It’s interesting, as I started seeing LION’s on my Pulse articles, I first started just removing their comments. I found them very aggressive at reposting. So then I sent private notes, suggesting they weren’t contributing to the discussion and would the stop. Never got a response. Then I tried responding publically to their “comment,” suggesting they were embarrassing themselves and not contributing to the conversation–asking they personally delete the comment, again no response. Then I tried publishing a note in the comments trying to discourage the behavior–but of course they never read the comments, so they persisted.

      So I SPAM them. Am I being unfair–probably. Am I catching a few “legitimate” people in my wrath—possibly. Maybe I’m declaring them all guilty by association. But given “their” persistent bad behaviors, I simply don’t care. I believe I have given the collective group fair opportunities to change their behaviors and the majority don’t, so I am being unfair in my treatment of them, but I don’t care.

      If that causes me to miss opportunities, or for actions to be taken against me, then I suppose I have to take responsibility for the consequences of my actions.

      • Dave writes: “So I SPAM them. Am I being unfair–probably.”

        Dave, I am writing from the perspective of moderator of a number of LinkedIn groups.

        My concern is not with your individual strategy –but only if many people adopted it.

        Or worse, if LInkedIn adopted a variant of it. (Look up “SWAM” to find the idiotic ways LinkedIn tried to deal with mass postings to groups.)

        I have not real criticism of your strategy, only your call to action that everyone should follow your example.

        • Michael: It really is a difficult issue. It’s alarming that those who take advantage and maliciously misuse these tools seem to move/respond faster than we have the ability to solve the problems they create.

          You also offer great insight in what I consider SPAM may be very valuable to others.

          LinkedIn has challenges I don’t envy–as well as group moderators. It took some time for the email providers to start being able to address this issue, and they, largely have done a great job–even though they don’t have 100% of it.

          Thanks for bringing reason to the discussion 😉

  5. Martin Schmalenbach permalink

    Interesting & thought provoking thread developing here – thanks to all!!

    I guess that, for us, operating as we choose to do in the world of sales & marketing, we perhaps take a piece of our own advice?

    I’ll look twice at anybody who piques my curiosity, and who seems to have done even a little bit of research – I recently had a communication with somebody who had clearly researched me but got a few salient points wrong – it happens. I engaged with that person and it was of benefit to both of us.

    The rest I have mostly ignored. I have almost 300 invites in my LinkedIn message center thingy. I won’t respond to them, and I have better things to do than spend time deleting them.

    Sometimes I get a little bit more animated and some poor soul might get some advice from me in return(!), but generally I’ve found that passive or active, these comments & messages keep coming. I only take guaranteed action if leaving the comments/replies to anything I’ve posted will harm my reputation etc gratuitously. If somebody points out an error or 2 in what I’ve said or done, and uses ‘choice’ language or tone, then I’ll respond levelly (usually!) and leave the thread there as potential value to all readers. Otherwise I flag it as SPAM or equivalent and move on, choosing not to reply to anything further they post – unless it is clearly, provably, factually incorrect and significant…

    Gosh, I’m beginning to sound a bit ‘goody 2 shoes’ – oh well!

    • I never thought I would see the “goody 2 shoes” side of you. I’ll have to take pause and reflect, maybe notate it in my contact record of you (On January 2, Martin……. 😉

      I think it is probably another law of physics or nature, that people will take something good and pervert it to bad purposes, faster than the community can leverage it for good purposes. We look back to the telephone and the rise of those 6pm calls, direct marketing and the rise of junk mail, email marketing and the rise of Spam, social tools and the rise of…….

      That doesn’t mean we have to like it.

      Now the schizoid (perhaps kinder softer side of me), Michael Webster offers very wise counsel (as he usually does), what is SPAM to me, may be a jewel to someone else.

  6. Dave,

    Connect with me….

    I had to do it. I love this post. I will be sharing it with my network. I have been using LinkedIn since 2007 (not sure if that is long or not) but back then I had a former colleague who used the phrase LION in his profile and I felt as you do here. Quality not quantity.

  7. I’ve recently become a LION, although I’ve done it just to build my brand and profile on LinkedIn. Connecting with others is a form of activity on the social platform (such as writing articles and commenting). I could be wrong, but I feel like the more active I am on the network, the higher my profile ranks.

    submitted twice for typos

    • Ken, thanks for the comment. I guess I would ask, what are you trying to achieve? What does a high ranking for your profile achieve? Then I would ask, do you have to be a LION to achieve those goals? LinkedIn is a powerful tool to build powerful business relationships, and to research and understand customers and prospects. One doesn’t have to be a Lion to do so.

      But each of us has a different strategy for LinkedIn and other social tools.

  8. Connect with me on LinkedIn. LOL Just kidding David. I love your article. I’ve always felt the same way. I usually ignore invitations because they’re scammers and spammers. Sometimes I connect with people I don’t know with the thought of getting to know them better but I look at their profile first and wonder why I should connect. I also look at the quality of their connections because I don’t my name associated the hair dresser from Nigeria with 20 connections. LOL.

    • Thanks Bill. I don’t think any network is immune to scams or just horrible practice. I now turn down at least 50% of my LinkedIn invitations because they are either fraudulent or there is simply no reason to connect.

  9. Basavaiah R permalink

    Nice article, Mr. David and I found it is really useful in understanding the issues around and with LIONs.

    I picked up suggestions from your blog and comments on how to ignore these SPAM invitations and fake stuff.

    Another aspect I found interesting is why one should complete their profile and how personalized requests helps us in fostering relationships.

    Thank you.

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