My Biggest Social Media Mistake

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As an early adopter of social media, I have enjoyed my fair share of ups and downs, trials and tribulations. (But more so, joy and success!) I share with you best practices and strategic advice, but I don’t often share my biggest mistakes. Well, this week, you are in luck! I’m sharing with you my biggest social media mistake.


In an attempt to conveniently boost my LinkedIn profile, I provided my e-mail contact list to LinkedIn and allowed them to send invitations on my behalf. That was way back at the start of 2011, after I had returned from living overseas and needed to rejuvenate my professional contacts in the US. BUT –  the innocent mistake still haunts me today. I still find outstanding invitations in my message center, even though I took careful measures to clean up the mess inviting my email contact list created. How may of you have also made this mistake?

We must remember that social media sites are not necessarily in the connection business, but in the data collection business. That’s how they make money and so the more data we give them (like access to our email list), the better it is for them LinkedIn is not alone in this practice. Facebook and Twitter practice this tactic, as well. A few screen grabs from all:

LinkedIn’s request to contact your e-mail list:

linkedin find friends


And the current promise LinkedIn makes when you click “Learn More:

linkedin data

Facebook wants to help you Find Your Friends:

facebook find friends


Twitter shows you a sample of what they will send on your behalf:

twitter invitation


They all look so innocent, right? Well, my friend, LinkedIn got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. LinkedIn has taken those very emails we provided them, and they have used them to solicit business. A big no-no!

This article from Bloomberg and this article from Venture Beat well outline the lawsuit LinkedIn faces for violating privacy policies and downloading emails. The lawsuit also addresses the very real possibility that user reputations may have been damaged from excess emails LinkedIn sent.

Let’s learn from my biggest social media mistake. Don’t share your e-mail list with social media sites! Don’t share you e-mail list with apps or anyone who asks! Protect your contacts from unwanted notifications and solicitations. If you have already made this error (recently or a while ago), take the time to withdraw invitations and “unsend” friend requests. Check your privacy settings and reset passwords. Take the time you need to make sure your social media sites function the way you want them to and that you are not giving up your contacts or too much personal information.