I have had several questions from followers and customers recently regarding problems they are having with their account being restricted so I thought it would be useful to write an article regarding this tricky matter.
Firstly let me explain what the problem is; A restricted account is where you are able to login normally and use all the functions of LinkedIn but you are not able to invite another user to connect unless you have their e-mail address.
A restricted account is not the only reason why an e-mail address may be required, there are actually four occasions where you may be asked for an e-mail address when inviting someone to connect;
- You have selected 'Friend' as your reason for inviting
- You have selected 'other' as your reason for inviting
- You have previously invited them and they have either selected 'ignore' or just not responded at all.
- Your account has been restricted.
Your account will become restricted if on five separate occasions (over any time period) a recipient of an invitation to connect clicks 'ignore' to your invitation and then decides to further specify that their reason for not accepting was that they do not know you or report it as spam (see below)
Because this is a secondary option I believe that it is unlikely that someone will state that they don't know you unless they have good reason to do so. This could be due to several things, they may be an inexperienced user and therefore unsure of what to do or they may have been irritated by your approach, this could be directly your fault or you may just be the victim of other peoples poor invitation practice and it just happens to be you who gets the punishment!
Let's examine briefly why LinkedIn have created this restriction in the first place. The LinkedIn user agreement has always clearly stated that you should not connect to someone that you do not know (see below)
LinkedIn have always stood by their belief that the network will work more effectively for all users if people only connect to those that they know. Whilst I can fully understand that view and I largely agree with it, the reality is that users will decide themselves on who they wish to connect with and this will be based on a variety of factors depending on what they are using LinkedIn for.
Your visibility on LinkedIn is determined by the size and relevance of your network and it therefore cannot be denied that users who connect extensively (often with those they don't know) will always gain the greatest advantage from a wider level of visibility. This is why researchers, data analysts and recruiters will often build massive networks because by doing so they get the best access to other users and with it more information and data.
The "I don't know" feature is simply designed to prevent people from building large networks.
It is impossible to completely avoid any problems when building a network but there are some sensible things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of an "I don't know" response.
- Focus on inviting people who are 2nd tier connections (LinkedIn will only allow you to invite 3rd tier and others if you know their name anyway)
- If you do not know the targeted individual aim to engage with them before inviting them to connect, this could be an email exchange, a LinkedIn message exchange (free group message or Inmail) a LinkedIn group discussion, a telephone call or even a meeting. The key is to introduce yourself first and receive a reply before inviting them to connect, the invitation should swiftly follow the engagement if you wish to avoid problems.
- Always personalise the invitation, never send the default message "I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn" even to someone you know well. Also be careful of saying too much as this often appears desperate or too 'salesy'. A short simple message, relating to the above engagement and 'lets connect' tends to work best in my experience.
- Always remember to connect with everyone you interact with in the course of your business activities (assuming they are relevant). A common mistake users make is to forget to connect to someone who they have just engaged with during the normal course of their work. Most of us will speak or make contact with several unique people (at least) every week and if we remembered to connect with them all we would have no problems in building a strong and effective network providing an excellent level of visibility.
- Never use an invitation as a cheap (free) message, you can send free messages through groups or find another way (email, telephone call) to contact them. The invitation message should only be used for explaining why you wish to connect not "I would like to connect and by the way have you considered advertising in".....or "I have a great vacancy you might be interested in" etc!
I am not a fan of invites that ask you not to click on the "I don't know…" link, this just seems desperate and may even highlight an option that had not previously been considered!
If you apply the above guidelines to your invitation technique then you should avoid most problems but there is no guarantee that you won't find your account restricted and you may still have pending invites out there that could still be rejected in this way. When you get your fourth "I don't know (IDK)" response LinkedIn will send you a warning stating that you have nearly reached your limit, at this point you do need to be careful but I wouldn't let it stop you from continuing to grow your network provided you stick to the above guidelines.
Upgrading your account does not really help with this problem, having access to Inmails might make it easier to engage with someone first but upgraded users are still in as much danger of an account restriction, no matter what level of upgrade they purchase.
If you do get restricted then all is not lost as there is a fairly quick and easy way to get it lifted (provided this is the first time it has happened).
Firstly click on the Help Center link in the bottom left corner of any page (see below)
Then type "restricted Account" into the search field (see below)
The first answer contains a link (see the arrow above) which should on most occasions allow you to release the restriction, the 5 IDK's are wiped and you start with a clean slate again.
Hopefully you can find the right balance between continuously growing your network to achieve greater visibility and not going too far and start collecting IDK's. Whilst there are clear benefits to a large network I really don't believe that these days anyone needs to connect with thousands and thousands of people, in the days when LinkedIn had less than 50 million users I could see an argument for massive 10,000+ connections but LinkedIn is so mainstream these days that I believe you can normally achieve effective levels of visibility with much smaller networks.
My final point is this - If you receive an invite from someone you don't know and don't wish to connect to just click on 'ignore' and leave it at that. I can see few sensible reasons for stating that you don't know them, it could cause their account to be restricted and why would you want to do that to anyone? I have only ever done this once and that was to someone who invited me numerous times over a short time period. Can anyone give a credible explanation as to why you should use the IDK response in any other circumstances?