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Tread CAREFULLY If You Are ANONYMOUS On LinkedIn…

Andy Foote | Anonymous, LinkedIn, Networking, Privacy & Settings, Settings Panel
14 Jun 2013
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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 opt between 3 settings in ‘Privacy & Settings’ – Profile – Privacy Controls – ‘Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile’.

 

(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 never mess with this Setting, you will always be identified by your Name & Headline. It’s recommended by LinkedIn because it’s designed to maximize engagement between users:

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SEMI ANONYMOUS can be fairly specific OR incredibly vague, depending on how you’ve filled in your Profile (Headline),  but can be clicked, for example:

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ANONYMOUS always looks the same and your footprint cannot be clicked:

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BEWARE! ANONYMITY CAN BE TEMPORARY
You may have perfectly good reasons for being anonymous when you surf 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 fleeting and you run the real risk of being exposed. 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 showing your Name & Headline DO NOT visit the same Profile you browsed anonymously, because if you do – LinkedIn will switch your previous anonymous footprint(s) to your Name & Headline. LinkedIn currently allows paid users to see 90 days of browsing activity. So that person you browsed anonymously will be able to see all the times you visited their Profile, anonymously or otherwise.

 

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 10 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 300m+ professionals.

 

WHAT IF YOU WANT TO BE FOUND ON LINKEDIN?
It’s important to understand that Profile Completeness is a trump card in the search game. If you don’t have a 100% complete Profile, you will be invisible when searched, so do spend the extra time to add the information which LinkedIn requests. For step by step instructions on how to get to a 100% complete Profile (a.k.a “All Star” status), please read this article: Why You Should COMPLETE Your LinkedIn PROFILE.

 

CONNECTION STRATEGY
One of the questions I get asked a lot is: who should I connect with on LinkedIn? The short answer is: everyone……who passes your connection strategy test. There are general guiding principles which I believe everyone on LinkedIn can apply and benefit from when considering whether to connect with someone. I describe my networking approach to LinkedIn as “strategically inquisitive”, this approach has worked really well for me and could also work for you. To learn more about this technique, please read: I AM THE ONE WHO KNOCKS On LinkedIn.

 

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, consistency, 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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33 Comments

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. […] 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 […]

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

  15. David says:

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

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

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