Broadening business horizons and expanding professional networks is the norm for 400 million LinkedIn users across 200 countries, but how many of us know our own contacts – I mean REALLY know our contacts?
Yes, it’s common practice and commonsense to connect with friends, colleagues, business associates, customers, suppliers and peers, but where should we draw the line?
How many users elect for quantity over quality, in the misguided belief that the higher the number of connections, the better the perception of their LinkedIn status?
A ‘more the merrier’ approach could so easily damage – rather than enhance – your reputation.
Accepting a LinkedIn connection request could, at the very least, be construed as a tacit endorsement of a contact.
LinkedIn issues a standard guideline of ‘Only invite people you know well and who know you’ when seeking a new connection, but fair to say many of us don’t adhere strictly to the advice.
I must confess to being one of them.
As an ardent sports fan – football in particular, specifically Manchester City – and an occasional benefactor to charities and worthy causes, I accepted not one, but two, LinkedIn invitations from a man called Chris Spencer.
Spencer purported to be the owner of a company called Premier Sports Memorabilia, based in Manchester.
He also connected with me under the guise of Chris Spencer, Licensed Football Agent, accredited with both the English and Ukranian Football Associations.
Spencer was already LinkedIn to three people on my network – two who were affiliated to Manchester City FC, and another who works as Football Agent as well as in the legal profession.
As such, a trio of people who I could vouch for any day of the week – hence the tacit endorsement.
It turned out that Spencer’s real name was Christian Spencer Cassidy – a convicted criminal, found guilty of an £86,000 fraud via eBay.
Now operating out of Odessa in the Ukraine, Cassidy is still committing criminal offences, but hides behind a false name and a veneer of respectability.
Having discovered ‘Spencer’ was a low-life slime ball, I ‘messaged’ my three connections to find out more about him.
All the answers were the same – they’d simply taken him at face value, identified common professional ground and accepted the connection request.
It all comes back to knowing your connections.
How many of us ever consider we might be linking up with someone whose illegal or distasteful actions could impact on our reputation, whilst giving false credence to theirs?
Mine was a costly case in point – one which presently resides with ActionFraud, the UK’s fraud and internet crime reporting centre team, in the City of London.
A lesson learned and one now shared with the LinkedIn community globally.