Why are you following me? You're freaking me out!

If you've read my blog before, you probably know I hate the word followers. And, although I don't like it, I accept that this is the accepted term on Twitter.

In LinkedIn's continuing effort to turn its site into a platform with more social networking options, it introduced the "follow" button a few months ago. I saw it, didn't like the idea, and forgot about it. Until today, that is.

I was participating in some discussions on a few LinkedIn groups and I happened to see my "follower" count was 361. Now, I know my contacts are rolled into my follower count (which I think it foolish, by the way), but I only have 349. My follower number is 11 higher than that.

I clicked around and saw that a dozen people I don't know were "following" me. That means they are able to keep track of my contributions to groups, my comments, my activity, and my overall interaction on LinkedIn. To some people that might not matter, but to me it does.

My LinkedIn network is comprised of people I have worked with or other professional contacts I have developed. I'm not an open networker (i.e. a LION) and I don't connect with random strangers. My contacts are people I've interacted with in some shape or form who I wanted to add to my online rolodex. They are individuals who I can generally count on when it comes to business; people I respect and trust. Sure, I connect with unknown people on Twitter and Facebook, but LinkedIn is my exclusive professional hub.

So, as I see it, 11 people are sitting in the shadows spying on me. These people have not introduced themselves to me, they haven't shot me an email, they haven't made any overture. They're lurkers. Watching what I do. Now, I realize some of you might think it's a compliment if someone thinks you're interesting enough to follow. And for casual socializing and networking, on Twitter for example, I might agree. But, not on LinkedIn. Not in my professional, online office. (By the way, you can block people on Facebook and Twitter, but there doesn't appear to be a block option on LinkedIn.)

I don't need, nor want, followers on LinkedIn. If someone is interested in my professional contributions or knowledge, reach out to me! I am always open to a "how do ya do?" and eager to make new contacts. Heck, I love it! But, watching what I do in a professional context and not having the courtesy to extend a virtual handshake freaks me out! 

Wanna connect on Twitter? Let's do it! Want to engage on Facebook? You betcha! Want to strike up a mutually beneficial professional relationship? I'm in! But don't be the weirdo with the high-power binoculars who watches people from afar without their knowledge. It's unsettling and I don't want any part of it.


  1. I agree with you, Amber, I think it's a very strange, negative policy that LinkedIn seems to have adopted: Allowing people to "follow" someone they are not connected to, without their actually knowing who (or inviting). Rather like the social networking equivalent of a "Peeping Tom." Doesn't bode well for future LinkedIn policies. -- Judy Israel

  2. Judith: I know people manage their LinkedIn networks in different ways and what I find bothersome, others might not. I guess the bottom line is that when someone wants to connect with me on LinkedIn, they're given the opportunity to send me an invitation. I can accept, reject, or ignore their request. If I don't know them and they haven't provided a compelling reason to connect, I archive the invite*.

    The follow button, however, gives me no choice. No permission is asked, no notification is sent, no block option is available. Someone might have their reasons to follow a person, but again, I ask them to reach out. Come out into the daylight and be seen.

    Thanks for chiming in, Judy!

    * Here's my earlier post on the dangers of inviting people on LinkedIn that you don't know: http://wordsdonewrite.blogspot.com/2009/08/linkedins-blacklist-button_1296.html.

  3. Thanks for bringing this up Amber. I recently put a profile on LinkedIn and I'm not very familiar with it...
    Twitter's "block" option is not a strong one. The person can still go to your page and read tweets. FB did it right, made it where you can pretend the person doesn't exist and NEVER see their info/face again. Not even a comment on a mutual friends page.
    Hopefully LinkedIn will come around soon.

  4. I've never really been a fan of LinkedIn. I found it so "country clubbish", as if you have to wait for people to want to connect with you. I get LinkedIn invitations alot but, honestly, I don't have time to approve/deny or be approved/denied but I do hear what you're saying about cyber-stalkers. It is a little wierd.

  5. Shannon:

    Despite my complaint, I think LinkedIn is great. It's provided several business opportunities for me and I think it's a powerful platform. If you'd like me to give you a few pointers on getting started and maximizing your impact, just let me know.

    As for the blocking issue, you're absolutely right. You'd think block meant block, right?

    Thanks for chiming in, Shannon!


    Kassandra: So many of these sites are what you make of them. I guess I think of LinkedIn differently because it originated with a business focus.

    So many people like to rack up numbers on all these sites to prove how popular they are. My approach has always been quality over quantity. But, to each his own.

    Anyway, YOU are a prime example of how people should network. You reached out to me via Twitter to respond to something I said. No lurking, just connecting! I love that!

    Thanks for commenting and also for tweeting a link to my post. I look forward to seeing you in cyberspace again very soon!

  6. Amber I could not agree more with you. I see Twitter as my source for meeting new people. While Facebook (for me, anyway) is for people I already know...and LinkedIn is for people that I have had a business relationship with.

    I think if LinkedIn focused on it's strengths, like being an online space for bonafide business contacts, it wouldn't feel a need to compete with Twitter or Facebook.

    What's next? An office themed game similar to Farmville?

    Great post!

  7. After a few months I saw that top CEOS of companies AOL, .... don't send out random invitations to join their network. Instead, who does? People in India, or another country with no full name, and what looks like a spam site make money bla bla bla.

  8. Tom: Yikes! Games on LinkedIn would make me seriously mad. I know people use all these sites differently, but I concur. Business sites are for business contacts.

    Anonymous: Fortunately, I haven't ever gotten a spam invite. I do, however, get many invites from people I don't know. The thing with invites, though, is that you can accept or reject. The reason I dislike the follower thing is that you have no choice in the equation.


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