Tread CAREFULLY If You Are ANONYMOUS On LinkedIn…

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There are 3 Settings to choose from when deciding how others see you on LinkedIn when you’ve browsed their Profile. This article examines the 3 settings and explains why the Anonymous option can come back to bite you – if you don’t know how to use it.

THREE SETTINGS
You can choose from 3 settings in ‘Account & Settings’ >’Privacy & Settings’ > ‘Manage’ > ‘Profile’ > ‘Privacy Controls’ > ‘Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile’. Here’s mine:

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(1) FULL: “Your name and headline (Recommended)”
(2) SEMI ANONYMOUS: “Anonymous profile characteristics such as industry and title”
(3) ANONYMOUS: “You will be totally anonymous.”

FULL is self explanatory and the default setting – if you join LinkedIn and don’t change the Setting, you will always be identified by your Photograph, Name & Headline. It’s recommended by LinkedIn because it delivers maximum engagement between users.

SEMI ANONYMOUS can be fairly specific OR incredibly vague, depending on how someone has filled out the Sections of their Profile, but bear in mind that the Semi Anonymous Profile visitor icon can be clicked, for example:

 

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ANONYMOUS always looks the same and the icon cannot be clicked:

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BEWARE! ANONYMITY CAN BE TEMPORARY
You may have perfectly good reasons for being Anonymous when you browse Profiles on LinkedIn and it’s none of my business why you would want to but you ought to be aware that anonymity can be temporary and you run the real risk of being exposed if you don’t understand how LinkedIn works. Here’s the scenario – you decide to cloak yourself in anonymity and change the appropriate setting before you go off and browse. You feel confident that no one you browse can identify you and you’d be correct. Except that if you then switch back to FULL, DO NOT visit the same Profile you browsed anonymously within a 90 day period, because if you do – LinkedIn will switch all of your previous anonymous footprint(s) to your Name & Headline. LinkedIn currently allows paying (subscribed) users to see 90 days of browsing activity.


SEMI ANONYMOUS…..WHY?

When you opt for the Semi Anonymous profile characteristics, you’re neither identifying yourself nor being Anonymous. Because your footprint can be clicked, you’re encouraging a hunt in your general direction. I’ve been using LinkedIn since 2008, I have yet to hear a good reason for being Semi Anonymous. It wastes time and could result in a false positive for the folks who use it. A  person you browsed could simply click on all of the potential browsers (including you) and you’d think that your identity had been revealed. My advice? – go FULL and reap all of the potential rewards of being found on a network of 330m+ professionals.


YOU CAN (AND SHOULD) DO MUCH MORE WITH YOUR HEADLINE

Here’s the deal: you are boring…..by default. Yep, LinkedIn forces you to think conventionally by automatically inserting your (boringly functional and unremarkable) job Title in your prominent and most widely seen Headline space. This is a problem if you think about yourself in branding terms. If you are the brand, your Headline is your brand’s slogan. Now ask yourself are you proud of your slogan? Is it what you’re all about? Does it actually achieve anything? If the answer to those questions is no – there is something you can and should do about it. Come up with something unique, something so stunningly original that makes people think, smile or better still, act. Here are 3 of the best ‘stunningly original’ LinkedIn Headlines I’ve seen in a long while.


CLEVER HACKS
LinkedIn can be a incredibly useful site but there are numerous hidden tricks/techniques you should know/use to get the full benefit. My recent post ‘5 Astonishingly Clever LinkedIn Hacks’ shows you some of these useful ‘hacks’ and specifically, how to do the following:

(1) Find (kinda) Your Semi Anonymous Browser.
(2) Re-order Your First 12 Endorsements.
(3) Find out how many Connections somebody has.
(4) Find out how much a Long-Form Post has been shared.
(5) Find out who disconnected from you.

 

LINKEDIN CONSULTING
If you liked this article, you’ll love my customized consulting service. I’ve helped many professionals to achieve their full potential on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not somewhere you paste your resumé, sit back and wait for things to happen. It’s a complicated and nuanced website portal that requires action, insight, branding strategy and marketing know-how. What you don’t know – could hurt you. Whether it’s getting more traffic on your Profile, engaging with a stunningly good Summary or refreshing your LinkedIn presence and brand – share your goals with me and I’ll help you to achieve all of them via LinkedIn.

 

Contact me now: linkedinsights@gmail.com / 773.469.6600 to get started.

 

That’s all from me for this week. Please take a few moments to share this article with your network. I read and respond to all comments.

By Andy Foote

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42 Responses

  1. Linda says:

    Great article Andy, and very well laid out. Thanks for sharing the info.

  2. Larry says:

    Some very good points Andy that I had never considered. It may be time to open up my profile permanently.

    • Andy Foote says:

      Thanks Larry. I think most people go into Settings, change their visibility and don’t give it much thought, which obviously has implications not just for them but for everyone on the LinkedIn platform….

  3. Suzi Benoit says:

    Yesterday I received a phone call at my employer from someone whose profile I had viewed. He had viewed my profile so I had clicked on his earlier in the day. He looked up my company phone number and asked for me by name seeming like someone who knew me so was not screened out by the receptionist. When I picked up the call he said that because I had viewed his profile, he was wondering if I wanted to buy some insurance from him. Unbelievable!

    I keep my profile transparent when I view others so I can view my LinkedIn stats which are not available when you are anonymous. I was very interested to learn of this material in the article. Thank you.

  4. Suzanne says:

    Great points! I’ve been a linkedin user for several years, it’s time to make some updates and open the profile

  5. Ian says:

    Good Read Andy why anyone would join Linkedin and remain anonymous is beyond me it is supposed to be a networking tool not a snoopers site.

  6. Greg Cooper says:

    Interesting insight into anonymity setting Andy. How did you discover this? Are you 100% certain about this? :-)

    • Andy Foote says:

      Thanks Greg. Wrote about Anonymity last year and some of the comments to that original blogpost got me thinking about the way that LinkedIn treats ‘footprints’. I’m 100% certain and have tested it on several accounts. It’s a fact today but that could change tomorrow – LinkedIn make software changes all the time, often without any notice/fanfare.

  7. Stefano says:

    I think it’s t is unethical and unprofessional that anonymous members could look at others people profile.
    I believe that Linkedin should limit this, allowing users to stop anonymous look. Reciprocity should be the role.

  8. On the profile of one of my clients the first name listed under “people also viewed” hasn’t changed in months. It’s somebody he has no connection with, from another state. He’d like to get it removed. Is there anything we can do?

    If you write back, I can give you the name so you can see what I mean.

  9. LadyHaha says:

    Hi Andy,
    I am an avid fan of your website and advice and have been following your posts for a long time. However,I simply cannot understand nor agree with your idea that everyone’s browsing activity should be public, nor that people who choose to keep their browsing activity hidden should not be able to browse other profiles.
    I think the reasons for keeping one’s browing activity hidden are serious and legitimate, for example:
    – There are “internet stalkers”, as on any online social network. Maybe they look more professional but still there is always someone out there, there’s alwys a chance that you will get unsolicited communication and attention.
    – The chance that a stalker (or anyone else from whom you don’t want any contact/attention) contacts you increases if they know you have been checking them out.
    You may ask why I would go and check stalkers profiles… well, the answer is how do we know whether someone is a stalker or not just based on their profile?
    What LinkedIn does when it allows people to see who viewed their profile is creating a perceived interaction between them. But this may be unwanted.
    I prefer to view LinkedIn, like most other networks, as a showcase which can help decide whether to interact, but not bring unwanted interaction!
    Should every showowner know the personal details of all those who pass in front of the shop and take a look at what’s on display? Even before they are a customer?
    Would appreciate to hear your thoughts about this!

    • Andy Foote says:

      Thanks Lady. I’ve never said that “everyone’s browsing activity should be public”- I’ve been strongly in favor of not keeping your identity hidden (unless absolutely necessary) on the world’s largest professional networking site. I am against the ‘partial’ semi-anonymous option which serves neither the browser nor browsee well. I don’t care that people wish to browse my Profile anonymously and as I’ve said before there are plenty of legitimate reasons to do so. What I am against is the pointless, non-actionable notifications I receive from LinkedIn every time a ‘ghost’ browses me. It wastes my time. Do I think all LinkedIn users deserve an option to be able to block anonymous browsing? Yes. Or at the very least the ability to block the useless notifications. Paying to browse anonymously also makes sense to me.

  10. Ish K says:

    Thanks indeed for very good and informative article.
    I have one question though- If someone views the profile of other person and then goes back and changes the setting to Anonymous (at the time of viewing it was public)… will that person’s name appear as Anonymous or with the details in “who have viewed your profile in last 90 days”?

    • Andy Foote says:

      No – changing your setting to ‘Anonymous’ AFTER you have viewed someone’s Profile publicly (i.e without your identity hidden) will not change the ‘footprint’ you left on their Profile to Anonymous.

  11. Bob says:

    Very nice article, i also have a question, the opposite of Ish actually, what happens if you view someone with the Anonymous setting and then switch to visible/regular?

  12. Mark Hack says:

    I would propose that anonymous views are automatically restricted in what they can see to the same level of visibilty, regardless of your settings.

    You want to limit what I can see then you should be limited to the same level of visibility.

    Quid pro quo.

  13. David says:

    As of recently if you block the user, you disappear from their “Who recently viewed your profile” list…

  14. Jeff says:

    Hi Andy. Thank you for the insightful posts, always useful and on point. I completely agree with everything you say about anonymity and would also be happy to see at as a paid service (I myself can’t see any use for it at all on a professional platform).

    I may have got this completely wrong but I’ve played around a little bit with my account and it looks to me like viewers see your profile in its current setup, so if you’ve publicly looked at someone’s profile and then changed your profile to anonymous, your past views do seem to get changed into anonymous as well. If you switch back to public, all your views become public again.

    This is what I found out by looking at a friend’s profile publicly, then anonymously – he said whilst he could see I’d checked his profile publicly (and he could check my profile back), when I changed my settings he couldn’t tell I’d seen his profile as my ‘footprint’ also became anonymous. Does that make sense, or was he trying to humour me?

    • Andy Foote says:

      Hi Jeff. If that’s true – your footprint changes with your privacy settings, it basically means that you’re only anonymous if you stay anonymous…..I’ll investigate.

  15. Amy Weingartner says:

    Very nice, Andy. I don’t like people being anonymous on facebook, either, but it’s much worse on LinkedIn. I know people on FB who just sort of watch everything and keep their knowledge to themselves and don’t share at all — which feels creepy. Back to Linkedin, though, it is interesting what questions are sparked in one’s mind when one sees who has been looking at their profile and it would be good to not have to do the hack game to find out, and then to engage with those curious people. Might be up for some consulting, too. thanks! Amy

  16. Ashton says:

    If you view someone’s Linkedin profile when you have the recommended setting of full view turned on(opt. 1), then switch to hidden/anonymous(opt. 3) after viewing, do you show up visible or anonymous to the person you viewed?

    P.S. – great article, very well laid out and easy to read! Thanks!

  17. Ken says:

    Sure there are creepers out there, but 99 of 100 anonymous views are probably recruiters (recruiters with real open jobs). Linked in started as a recruiting tool. The people who fund this site are recruiters who purchase the bells and whistles for advanced search options.

    A recruiter looks at a profile decides if they are qualified (contacts them) and if not moves on. We could set perfect search parameters and still pull up someone who has nothing to do with the job we are searching for. If we have a job posted that 100 people apply for, we have to look at 100 profiles. For the 10 we like we can’t have the 90 other folks contacting us asking why I looked at them and why I didn’t think they were qualified.

    I’d love a button, I could check, that says “I’m in the recruiting field” My partial says too much. That would help.

    But I also love the aggressive job seeker. If they take the extra effort to figure out I’m the one with the job, and reach out to me, I’ll give them a second look and a response.

  18. Eric says:

    Just to piggy back on Ashton’s question, If I view a profile with full information turned on, the profile I viewed will show that I was there. If I then decided that I don’t want my visit to show, Could I change my settings to anonymous and revisit their page, thereby superseding my previous visit with an anonymous visit.

  19. Denise says:

    Hi Andy, Very good and informative article. I want to update my linkedin profile with my current position, but do not want to publish the actual name of my company. Can you help?
    Thank you,
    Denise.

  20. Erin says:

    Very interesting article….I have frequent views from an anonymous member and I also feel it’s a waste of my time….especially when the purpose of this site is networking.
    However, I am curious to know…..If I have a suspicion of who might be viewing as an anonymous member, and I search for their name…..will they show up in a Linked In search – or – does Anonymous mean they cannot be searched at all? I was not sure if it works both ways.
    Any insight you can provide would be much appreciated!
    Regards,
    Erin

    • Andy Foote says:

      Thanks Erin. They’ll show up on a LinkedIn search, in other words – the only time they are Anonymous, is when they are visiting Profiles.

  21. So says:

    What if you’re NOT a LinkedIn member who just so happens to be browsing LinkedIn? Can the members still see that you viewed their profile? For example, I live in Washington. Will it show as Anonymous in Washington? I’ve searched everywhere for this answer but could not find it.

  22. Diane says:

    Quick Question. I am looking to changer offices and I was looking at a past-co workers page and I seen my name in the “people also viewed” Would that mean they had looked at mine previously?

    • Andy Foote says:

      No one knows exactly how the PAV section gets compiled, it could populate by people looking at you, you looking at them and people in your network.

  23. Diane says:

    Gotcha. Yeah. I wasn’t even logged in when I was looking.

  24. Erica says:

    I wish they would remove the ability to view anonymously, or at least allow members to set their profile to not be viewed by people who wish to view their profiles anonymously, as I think it can be some what of a saftey risk ( military and their family members, for instance)

  25. Mark says:

    Legitimate reasons why you might want to view people anonymously:
    – Recruiters (explained very well by Ken in a previous comment).
    – I search for a person by name and get multiple hits. It takes me a few clicks to find the right person. I don’t want the other people to know I clicked them, too, because it is not relevant to them or to me. There is no “there” there, so leave it alone.
    – I am viewing information that people have made public. I think it’s creepy that I am tracked every time I access this public information. If you didn’t want me to see it, don’t display it out in public.
    – I don’t want people to think my looking at their profile is an invitation to contact me. I will invite them to talk if I want to talk. Perhaps looking at their profile, I realize I do not want to deal with them any more. Keep me anonymous.
    – As LadyHaHa mentioned, just because I pass by a shop window does not mean I want that shop to know my contact details. Same goes for LinkedIn.

    Ultimately, this is a privacy issue. Many people have posted their profiles on LinkedIn publicly (including me). I don’t see how that translates into us having an expectation of knowing about everyone who viewed our information that we willingly put out into the public domain. Our sharing of private information does not compel others to give up their privacy, too.

    To me, the real debate is all about options. Other people do not share my views above, and that is 100% fine. All of your concerns and preferences seem to be pretty legitimate, and I think mine are too. If LinkedIn provided a full range of privacy options, we could all set up our preferred levels of public/private visibility. For example:
    – Who can view my profile (check boxes)? _ Anonymous, _ Semi-anonymous, _Public (non-anonymous)
    – How will LinkedIn display who has viewed me (radio button)? All, Public only, Anonymous individually, A single non-anonymous avatar with a count.
    – How will I view others’ profiles (radio button)? Anonymously, Semi-anonymously, Publicly, etc.

    Think about it, when LinkedIn first started, this “recently viewed by” option didn’t even exit. Does that mean there was no point to LinkedIn back then? Of course not. Like all other networking sites, we opt in and make public all sorts of information of our own free will.

    • Andy Foote says:

      Thanks Mark, I agree with most everything you write except for one thing- Anonymous (and for that matter Semi-Anonymous) browsing is not really about privacy, it’s about choice and I think LinkedIn should provide the kind of choices you suggest. We can’t realistically expect privacy when we are voluntarily putting our own data on a public domain like LinkedIn.

  26. Ashley says:

    I know someone viewed me on linked in (not anonymously) around 4 months ago. Is there a way of seeing past the last 90 days to find out the date they viewed me?

    • Andy Foote says:

      No. Paid LinkedIn users get up to 90 days of browsing history, so unless you took screenshots or manually entered all of your prior (i.e 90 days and beyond) browser history into third party software (i.e excel), you won’t be able to see it.

  1. June 19, 2013

    […] via Tread CAREFULLY If You Are ANONYMOUS On LinkedIn… | linkedinsights. […]

  2. September 5, 2013

    […] when others check to see whose viewed their profile.  You can learn a bit more about doing that in this article but my response to that is “why bother?”  A quick check of my own profile reveals […]

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