LinkedIn removes reply before accepting invitations, accelerating the devaluation of connections [UPDATED]

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[UPDATE] LinkedIn has now restored this functionality. They have variously said that it is a test they were running and a technical issue. Whatever the reality, hopefully the weight of users’ voices is helping LinkedIn to focus on supporting valued connections.

In 2011 I wrote about The continuing devaluation of LinkedIn connections.

When I first wrote the article I incorrectly thought there wasn’t a way to message people who had invited you to connect without first accepting the invitation. Commenters on my post as well as LinkedIn’s local PR company let me know that you could in fact do that.

The broader point I was making about the devaluation of LinkedIn connections still held, but the feature allowed me and others to sort through requests.

I and many others get deluged with LinkedIn requests. Some are from people I know and want to connect with. Many are from people I don’t know or remember.

If I get a LinkedIn request from someone who seems interesting but I don’t know, I have until now replied without accepting, asking them first why they’d like to connect before accepting.

In many cases I get no response, suggesting they are following the very easy path of asking for connections from everyone LinkedIn suggests. In fact I regularly get people telling me they’ve done exactly that, simply sending dozens of invites to people they don’t know but LinkedIn has suggested. A sure way to devalue connections.

In other cases I am reminded that we do know each other (my memory is fading!) or find there is a specific reason they’d like to connect with me.

In all cases the ability to reply to LinkedIn invitations without accepting is a critical tool in maintaining the value of connections.

When you invite someone to connect on LinkedIn, there is a message saying “Only invite people you know well and who know you.” Sound advice, yet much of the design of the site suggests LinkedIn’s strategy is in fact to encourage new and in many cases meaningless connections.

There is a thread on the LinkedIn Forums Can no longer Reply to an Invitation to Connect BEFORE Accepting where many users of a similar mind to me are expressing their unhappiness with this feature change, saying things like:

Without this feature LinkedIn becomes useless as a tool for me.

LinkedIn can be counted on to always find new ways to make the LinkedIn website more “user-surly”.

This is a major “value-subtract”

I’ve no idea why LinkedIn made this harsh decision and removed this valuable feature.

This has to be the worst decision EVER…in my humble opinion

I do hope LinkedIn reconsiders this very poor decision to remove this feature.

If this change stays, it makes a (further) mockery of LinkedIn’s official admonition to only connect with people you know and trust.

… and so on

In the thread a couple of people have posted a response from LinkedIn:

You can still reply to the person who has sent the invitation by clicking on ignore and then you may click on reply from that invitation message which is located in your archived folder. Please note that you should not click on I Don’t Know or Report Spam if you consider to accept the invitation at a later time.

For many reasons this is an extremely poor workaround, which is placing a massive burden of inconvenience on the user.

Which brings us back to the point I made in 2011: LinkedIn appears to be happy for the value of connections to decline, potentially to the point of irrelevance. I may at some point discuss their underlying strategies that are leading them to these decisions.

For now, I’m just another pissed off user.

  • LinkedIn is making changes to become a publishing platform as well as professional network site but all these unpublished and stealth amendments are being focused in the wrong places IMHO

    http://bpmredux.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/what-linkedins-acquisition-of-pulse-means-for-content-marketing-and-enterprise-networks/

    LinkedIn needs to sort out Groups etc and the constant stream of spammers now using the platform rather than annoy the people you are trying to genuinely use it as a professional tool.

  • Harold Jarche

    I guess the real question is: who are LinkedIn’s customers? Perhaps they have no intention of being a professional tool, but just a media broadcast platform.

  • Peter Burgess

    In the early days of Internet metrics, the idea of ‘eyeballs’ to create financial valuation was very much in vogue. Seems that LikedIn is going in a similar directions by making connection invitations very easy, and in the process devaluing the system for serious users. I want a few good connections, not thousands of irrelevant ones.

  • And now it is back. Guess LinkedIn heard us.

  • 100% agree with you Ross. I know every single one of my 800 odd LinkedIn contacts and I can say that I’m happy to have every single one of them in my professional contact network. And that’s exactly what LinkedIn is for me. It’s my professional contact network and I don’t want to have the quality of it diluted by having questionable people in it. Those who have approached me out of the blue will know that I will not accept their connection request without first having spoken to them or met with them. My standard reply is to advise them politely that I don’t connect with people I don’t know or haven’t spoken to but that I’m only a phone call away. It’s surprising how few actually do call. So putting the onus back on them to call me acts as a very good filter for me as it quickly sorts out the serious ones fromt the not so serious ones. However some do, and some of those have turned into very good relationships. So it’s worth the effort of a phone call, and sometimes even a coffee.

  • John Wayne

    I guess habit of constantly complaining about LinkedIn’s poor features for screening the requests for connection or even complaining about people that you do not know but requesting connection is a way of expressing how important or elite you are. Some people are so arrogant that they are now directing connection requests to their twitter account: sorry but you are not a celebrity, why am I supposed to follow where you had your breakfast. I believe we all need to rethink about what the business network is. The future shape of LinkedIn or any other networking tools will be determined by the global society but not by so-called futurists, strategists or x-ists. So adapt otherwise stick with your mobile’s address book.

  • ….and now its gone again.

    Basically LinkedIn are only giving you two options again “Accept” or “Ignore”

    LI support are saying if you want to reply before accepting then you have to send a InMail message eg…..you’ve got to pay or they don’t want you sending messages.

    Thanks LinkedIn….you suck!!