LinkedIn has always been a bit of an outlier in the social networking world, which is often to its advantage. But oddly enough, the site that bills itself as the professional’s social media hub lacks one basic component of professionalism: discretion.
Specifically, I’m talking about the ability to see who has viewed your profile, a feature that is now being automatically pushed to your inbox in the form of occasional email alerts.
This has always been an odd feature, one you won’t find on almost any other reputable network. For years, I assumed the increasingly vocal push for online privacy would motivate LinkedIn to drop the feature, but instead the site has increased the visibility of your profile viewers, making it harder to avoid seeing (and obsessing over) who has browsed your info.
To be clear, yes, you can disable this feature — somewhat. In your profile settings, you can choose to “Select what others see when you've viewed their profile.” There are three options, one of which is complete anonymity. Certain privacy settings also prevent you from seeing recent viewers if you are not publicly viewable yourself.
However, I have not found a setting to turn off the email notifications you receive about people viewing your profile. LinkedIn offers many email subscription options, but none is specific to updates about your profile views.
You may be wondering why I wouldn’t want to know who has viewed my profile. It’s interesting info, and it’s their fault for not setting their privacy better, right?
I realize I’m likely in a tiny minority of users who don’t like this feature. Our chief strategist told me today it’s his favorite LinkedIn feature, one that motivates him to log in almost daily.
I admit it can be fun to play the guessing game of who was checking out your profile, but I still don’t like it. Here are my beefs with this feature and why I think it should be dropped from LinkedIn:
1. It’s a waste of time that plays solely to our curiosity.
You don’t gain some sort of insight into the social strategic landscape of corporate America by seeing who viewed your profile. It’s simply not information you can put to good use.
At best, you’ve learned about a potential customer, client or employer. But if they don’t take the extra effort to reach out to you, guess what? They don’t want to.
Obviously you’ll be tempted to contact the person or their company, but you shouldn’t. Responding to a profile view on LinkedIn is creepy, awkward and unprofessional.
Instead, you’ll spend minutes, hours — maybe even days — thinking about why certain people were looking at your profile. You’d be better off simply not knowing it had ever happened.
2. It creates false expectations.
“Hey man, any idea why one of your coworkers was looking at my profile?” I’ve gotten that question several times over the years, and my response is always the same: “No.”
When LinkedIn shows you your recent profile viewers, it creates an often false expectation that this person is interested in learning more about you. Hey, maybe they are, but to my point earlier, it’s best to wait until they act on it.
Was the HR manager from a major company looking at your profile as a prelude to a job offer? Maybe. But he or she might also have been browsing job titles and descriptions to help flesh out the posting for a job similar to yours. Heck, they could have clicked on the wrong person.
In this case, the only possible value to seeing this kind of viewer is if it inspires you to keep your job information and successes up to date. And LinkedIn has plenty of other ways to remind you about that.
3. As a lucrative centerpiece of LinkedIn, it could inspire similar features.Listen, I want LinkedIn to be profitable, but is this really the route to take? “Who’s Viewed My Profile” is now the No. 1 feature on LinkedIn’s upgrade chart, meaning the site obviously knows users are willing to pay to see more about the people seeing them.
I worry that the success of this feature will guide LinkedIn’s future development, making it more about rubbernecking than networking. Even worse, it lends believability to all those “see who viewed your Facebook profile” scams — and could eventually even convince Facebook to create the feature for real. (Facebook has firmly promised this will not happen, but never say never when stock prices are on the line.)
So what’s your take? Are you obsessed or annoyed with seeing who has viewed your LinkedIn profile? If you’re a fan, what do you like most about it? Let us know in the comments.
Photo credit: Howard Owens on Flickr.