There seems to be a valid point here. So why would LinkedIn even offer the option of “totally anonymous” profile viewing? Are there any scenarios that would make fair-minded people think it can be justified, or at least excused?
You are a new LinkedIn member.
If you joined recently, you want to explore how people in your field present themselves. Viewing enough profiles will give you some guidance about the way you want to tweak your own profile.
But perhaps you are concerned about how people view your profile while it is still very much under construction. You wouldn’t want people to think there was nothing more to be said for your experience besides that skeleton information, and those 26 connections were as much effort as you were going to put into your networking. Therefore, you’d rather stay anonymous until you feel comfortable showing your profile to new contacts, as a first impression of you.
Fair enough, for now—as long as you do get your profile up to par reasonably soon, and then change your visibility back to the name-and-headline option.
You have concerns about LinkedIn-style networking.
On outdoor lots at car dealerships, you will see a few car shoppers driving past every car on display very slowly, stopping every so often, but never getting out of the car or even rolling down the window, lest they get “pounced on,” and then high-pressured, by a car salesperson.
Some LinkedIn members seem to have similar concerns about the “lot” that is LinkedIn. Here the equivalent to staying in the car would be staying anonymous, lest you get on the radar of some aggressive service promoter—or of some creep looking for information to use in identity theft or some other type of cyberspace foul play.
Yes, some people will try to sell their services, including career coaching, business consulting, or enhancing your LinkedIn profile (!). As long as you haven’t specified any contact information, all they can do is approach you through LinkedIn. And if your gut tells you they really are after your money (usually after some initial “free review”)—don’t even hit Reply. Think about it: you are not even under pressure to say no or to start walking away.
And remember you can flag InMail as spam, and now you can even block or report LinkedIn members. Actually, to fully understand your privacy and member-communication options, be sure to explore all “Privacy & Settings” features. You can access those by mousing over the small profile-photo icon in the far right corner of your LinkedIn toolbar. (Since you will be entering a sensitive area of your profile configuration, you will probably be asked for your LinkedIn password again.)
Once you have found you can deal with these concerns, I suggest you give up your anonymity. Don’t you think other LinkedIn members deserve the same sense of transparency as you—by being able to see who it was that visited their profiles?
You are a recruiter.
If you seek talent, you will probably search LinkedIn profiles. Quite a few of those whose profiles you visit are probably looking for a job with growing desperation. If they see a recruiter affiliated with the company of their dreams has visited their profile, then it is not hard to imagine they will start chasing you.
And of course you don’t want to set yourself up for being stalked, or your inbox for being clogged up. Sorry, job seekers, but in this case, I do get the potential survival quality of the “totally anonymous” option.
You may still have ethical concerns about needing to be visible at least some of the time. Let me just mention I know people who have alternate profiles. Those profiles don’t receive the same degree of “marketing upkeep” as the primary profiles; meaning, those profiles are less likely to trigger the same “chasing” response from job seekers, even when fully visible.
You have fear of rejection.
So those movers and shakers see you viewed their profiles. Now what is the worst that can happen? They won’t return your profile visit. Or—not much better—they do visit your profile back, but don’t follow up with any communication. If you stay anonymous, at least you can avoid setting yourself up for that frustration, right?
Think again. Yes, rejection can be frustrating, but isn’t it just as frustrating for others when they check who viewed their profiles, and time and again a viewer “chose to be shown as anonymous”? Moreover, bear in mind that if you change to full visibility later, then your anonymity cloak will be removed from any past profile visits.
In short, as has been so often said: don’t take it personally. Maybe they just have a gazillion other things on their plates. Furthermore, take a look at your headline and profile photo—they are the first impression people get when they check who has viewed their profiles. (Maybe you can do better than that cliché “Results-Driven Strategic Thinker” headline alongside that happy-hour selfie.)
You are, or have, something else.
Imagine you are at a major networking function, with hundreds of people in the room. Everybody is engaged in conversation, trading business cards and other information. And then there is that one figure who looks and acts like “Spy vs. Spy” right out of MAD Magazine—unrecognizable features, always keeping mum, never offering any information, but peeking over everybody’s shoulder and eavesdropping on every conversation.
And you find that type of behavior…rude? Selfish? Creepy? Of course you do—all of the above, and then some! And chances are just about everybody would agree with you on that.
All right, that scenario was set in a brick-and-mortar environment, and obviously, LinkedIn is Web-based. Even so, many LinkedIn members get ticked off about anonymous LinkedIn profile viewing, because they think of profile viewing as essentially the same thing as a networking function. After all, signing in to LinkedIn can be compared to checking in at the door.
And if you are going to check out profiles because you want to get back at someone for something in the past—ugh! LinkedIn really isn’t the place for any sophomoric agenda and antics. There are other online environments that seem to “align” better with people who are looking to act out certain things.
There is a way to be anonymous and still keep good netiquette—but….
If you are going to look at profiles and don’t want people to know you did—don’t sign in! Stay signed out and stick with people’s public profiles. As long as a LinkedIn user has a public profile, it is fit for viewing by—well, the general public. That way, not only will you stay anonymous, people won’t have a clue their profiles were looked at in the first place.
With that said: If you want to get the most out of LinkedIn, then sign in, and be visible. Networking is about being visible and approachable. Getting your brand out there is the idea. If you do something to defeat that purpose, you will only have short-changed yourself in the end.