Back in the day, when I was just getting started with my early days around social computing evangelism, I must confess that I used to think that people who didn’t have a social profile in all of the major social networking tools out there just didn’t get it. You know, you had to have a profile out there all over the place. Silly me. I guess it was my inner self trying to rebel against that good old notion of people saying one thing and doing something completely different. As in never walking the talk, something that I know still bothers me from all of the so-called social media “gurus” out there who tell you about all of the wonderful things around the Social Web to then be stuck themselves in their Inboxes for the rest of the day, processing email. It’s funny though how I keep getting irritated by all of those “gurus” who behave that way and yet I have become, over the course of the years, a whole lot more understanding of practitioners who somehow don’t see the need to be everywhere on social networking tools. I guess that’s what reaching a level of maturity is all about. Let people figure out what they would want to do. After all, it’s their choice.
Is that the main reason why I then went ahead and deleted my LinkedIn profile for good over a week ago? Was it my personal choice? Will I be telling everyone else to be doing the very same thing? Is it time to think smarter about how we make use of these social networking tools? Will I survive as an independent trusted advisor on Social Business & Digital Transformation without having an active LinkedIn profile? Lots of questions looking for an answer, I suppose, but, for now, what I do know is that deleting my LinkedIn identity was an educated and informed personal choice. And if I were given the chance of doing it again, I would. Without a single doubt.
Why? For a good number of reasons, but, essentially, to me, for perhaps the main one: it’s 2014 and it’s now perhaps a good time to put your actions behind your words. And make it count. To you, to me, and maybe to everyone else. In a previous article I pointed folks to a superb read by Heather Bussing under the rather provocative heading of “Why I Killed My LinkedIn Account”. It’s an eye-opener. Perhaps one of the most important reads you will do this year around something that we may all have been taking for granted for far too long: our individual rights as customers for the services we decide to make use of and invest our time, energy and effort.
You see? We are just not end-users anymore. We are just not the product, either, even if it is free. We are customers. Your customers. We make a very conscious decision to use one service over the other one, whether it’s free or not. It’s a choice that people go for LinkedIn vs. XING, Viadeo or Somewhere (or whatever else, for that matter, to name a few). And the least that LinkedIn, as well as other social networking tools, could very well do is to treat us all, as their customers, with something so powerful, engaging and, equally, inspiring as respect. But LinkedIn has forgotten about that as they keep positioning themselves on that mindset that they know way better than all of us, their customers. How? Well, mainly, through a rather draconian terms of service that, if anything, confirms how toxic some social networking tools can well be without most of us perhaps even knowing about it. Right from the beginning. I mean, after all, who reads the terms of service nowadays, right? Well, maybe we should! Starting the sooner, the better.
And that’s exactly what Heather’s tremendously insightful article did for me, when I first read it. I eventually made the conscious exercise of reading it multiple times to digest something that I never thought I would be internalising this way: there is a great chance that 99% of the times that you may have used LinkedIn you may have violated their terms of service. Yes, that bad. And I am sure at this point in time you may be wondering why, right? Well, let’s have a look and revisit LinkedIn’s Don’ts that Heather mentions as well on her blog entry:
- “You cannot post any inaccurate information,
- You cannot invite people you don’t know to connect,
- You cannot use a content field to post information that doesn’t belong in that field– i.e. publish your real contact information anywhere on Linkedin,
- You cannot “duplicate, transmit, distribute, or display” any information found on Linkedin except your own content,
- You cannot use any information you see on Linkedin to provide any service that competes with Linkedin and Linkedin gets to decide what “competes” means.”
If that short list doesn’t act as an eye-opener for you in terms of how we, as customers, have consistently broken LinkedIn’s ToS then I don’t know what will. Well, yes, I know what will. Read the remaining of the article to see how LI is currently abusing your choice (and trust!) in making use of their service, even if you are a Pro customer. It won’t leave you indifferent, I can guarantee you that.
After reading that piece it was a no-brainer for me to go ahead and delete my account in there. For good. And never look back, as I am pretty sure LI’s lawyers won’t be very keen on adjusting those ToS to treat their customers better. Otherwise they would have done it already. So why give in to their game? Yes, I know, I am fully aware and realise that this is a decision that may cost me some business (in terms of social presence -as my good friend Gautam Ghosh annotated rather accurately not so long ago, potential client prospects, future collaborative initiatives with other customers, etc. etc.), but then again I think I may have reached the point where one has got to back up their words with their actions, act accordingly, and stop behaving like plenty of those so-called social media gurus who preach one thing and then do rather the opposite. That’s not how an Open Business operates, I am afraid.
I wouldn’t want to treat my customers like LinkedIn’s treating theirs, that’s why it’s my informed personal choice to have deleted my profile in there and figure out how I can move on without it. I know it may well prove to be a challenge, but then again enough is enough. If you can’t treat your customers with respect and appreciation for making use of your service(s), then I don’t want to be your customer. It’s that simple. I’ll just move on elsewhere where I am valued and respected as such.
Written by Luis Suarez
Chief Emergineer, People Enabler and Charter Member of Change Agents Worldwide and a well seasoned Social / Open Business evangelist and 2.0 practitioner with over 15 years of experience on knowledge management, collaboration, learning, online communities and social networking for business; and has been living, since February 2008, a (work) life without email challenging the status quo of how knowledge workers collaborate and share their knowledge by promoting openness, transparency, trust, sustainable growth, engagement, connectedness and overall smart work. He can also be contacted over in Twitter at @elsua or Google Plus.