Want to buy Facebook fans? Why not buy some Twitter followers to boot? There are companies that you can actually pay money to to achieve this. With the recent LinkedIn IPO, now there are companies not only selling LinkedIn connections, but also saying if you use them to create a LinkedIn Group, they will make sure it gets filled with (name your price) members!

The title of this blog post probably surprised, if not shocked, most of my loyal readers because they know I have always evangelized the LinkedIn Open Networker, better known as the LinkedIn LION. I wrote about them in great detail in my LinkedIn book. The problem, though, is just as you can buy connections and Group members, Internet marketers have exploited the LION movement by seeding LinkedIn with enough fake profiles to allow you to actually purchase them. These marketers have taken advantage of the fact that LIONs will traditionally and sometimes religiously accept all invites and thus guarantee that these fake profiles can amass a great number of connections in a short time by sending out mass invitations to the LION community. Often the purpose of these fake accounts is simply to acquire the email address that a 1st degree connections gains access to.

I have long ago deleted the term “LION” from my profile and have already left groups that are purely associated with the movement. Why? To me, they were attracting the wrong type of users and I ended up getting invites from many apparently fake profiles. I wrote some time ago about how to spot a fake LinkedIn profile, but I was surprised the other day when I received an invite request from a face that I actually recognized that had a completely different name!  Here is the link to an interview with this person that many of you active in social media may recognize and then her “fake” LinkedIn profile. Crazy, right?

Let me clearly state that my own concept of Windmill Networking is based on the belief that the value of networking is in reaching out to people outside of your network, and thus I continue to do so on LinkedIn and throughout social media in a variety of ways. I consider the entire growth and popularity of Twitter to be based on this concept of open networking. I still believe in accepting LinkedIn invites from real people in the hopes that through the virtual connection we can somehow help each other out in the future. But I have long ago stopped accepting all invites, and in some cases will aggressively report spam back to LinkedIn, from the following types of profiles:

  • Profiles with no photos (why would you not show me who you are?)
  • Profiles with company logos or photos that don’t clearly depict the person
  • Profiles with company names
  • Profiles that don’t display their entire name (I want to know who you are)
  • Profiles that have a name that is too SEO optimized or include a phone number, email address, or URL (I don’t want to be sold to)
  • Current Titles that make no sense
  • Profiles from companies that simultaneously send out invites from a number of different profiles
  • Profiles that have either very few connections, no summaries or very little experience indicated, and/or no recommendations

In summary, I am still very much an open networker as embodied by my own Windmill Networking concept, but I am no longer a LinkedIn LION. I don’t need to be affiliated with a label or a particular group to be an open networker. Open networking is depicted by your words and actions, not a label or membership which is unfortunately attracting the wrong crowd. The existence of the LinkedIn LION is just attracting too much spam now, and I only want to be associated with real people and profiles.

What is your LinkedIn connection policy? Do still consider yourself an open networker or LION? Please share your thoughts to better understand the different opinions regarding LinkedIn connections and LIONs that exist. Thank you!