LinkedIn Needs to Read Timothy Ferriss’s book on outsourcing

February 13th, 2013 | by Jason Alba |

Recently I’ve been engaged in discussion with a number of virtual assistants and resume writers who are concerned about people getting disciplined from LinkedIn because they are logging into their client’s account, with permission, to do stuff for them.

Resume writers will login for their client and then make changes to their Profile.  The client asks them to do this, pays them to do this, and wants them to do this.

Virtual assistants will login for their clients and do various things, including respond to invitation requests.

The problem is that LinkedIn thinks that no one should ever log in for someone else.  I don’t know where this antiquated thinking comes from, but it’s caused a stir recently.  Here’s a snippet from their user agreement (Section 2, #4):

The first part of #1 is to keep your password secure… you can do this if you trust a professional resume writer or VA to access your account, in my opinion.

The second part of #1 is to keep your password confidential. I think sharing it with the right professional, who you might even have a confidentiality agreement, is still okay and within the bounds of this agreement.

#2 says you will not permit others to USE your account.  This is were it gets hairy, I think.

I’m not a lawyer, and I’m not LinkedIn, but in my opinion letting someone update or edit your Profile is not letting them “use” your account.

I think that getting an agent (that is, someone to act on your behalf), to do things for you, which is common practice in business around the world, is different than what I’m guessing LinkedIn intended.

I think their intention was that you don’t let someone login as you and do searches on your network (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.).  In other words, don’t build anetwork and then share it with your entire sales team… each person on the sales team should build their own network….

I think THAT is what “USE” means.

The problem is that resume writers and virtual assistants have been handslapped (disciplined, and made to promise they won’t do it again) for logging in as their clients.

How come you can get a legal document to act on behalf of someone else for things as serious as ending life, making financial decisions, etc., but LinkedIn won’t let these professional service providers meet their clients needs and login as them to act on their behalf, or update their Profile?

Having it in the terms of service is one thing (seriously, no one really reads that, or cares), but since LinkedIn started enforcing it with their own ridiculous interpretation, it’s time they reevaluate.

Please call Tim Ferriss and ask him for 20 minutes of consulting time to learn about virtual assistants.  Stop handicapping professionals from doing their job.

Not to mention the people who ask for the services… my heavens this is so out of touch.

(By the way, if you are going to start penalizing LinkedIn members for allowing others to login as them, start with Obama, Romney, Bill Gates, Sarah Palin and others who I can almost guarantee aren’t in there, or haven’t been in there, to do their own stuff.  Yeah, like that will happen… then treat the rest of the members with the same respect!)

  1. 20 Responses to “LinkedIn Needs to Read Timothy Ferriss’s book on outsourcing”

  2. By Thea Kelley, GCDF, CPRW on Feb 13, 2013 | Reply

    Who is Tim Ferris and what’s he got to do with it?

  3. By Thea Kelley, GCDF, CPRW on Feb 13, 2013 | Reply

    Awesome post, by the way! About time somebody stirred up some discussion about this awkward subject.

  4. By Cheryl Simpson, ACRW, COPNS, G3 on Feb 13, 2013 | Reply

    Couldn’t agree more, Jason! A more precisely written user agreement could surely differentiate between inappropriate and appropriate sharing of one’s profile. And the immense popularity of Tim’s book should demonstrate to LinkedIn how many millions of people outsource functions like this when they can.

    Why couldn’t they create an admin function in LinkedIn and set it up so members can authorize up to a certain number of folks to login to that account and make X or Y types of changes? That technology exists in lots of other SaaS offerings and is surely an option for LinkedIn.

    It’s in LinkedIn’s best interest for its members to actively use the service. Making it outsource-friendly will help them achieve that goal.

    Thank you for jumpstarting this dialogue, Jason!


  5. By Lauren Nise on Feb 13, 2013 | Reply

    Great post Jason. It will be interesting to watch what happens and see if the LinkedIN user agreement evolve to meet the needs of Virtual Assistants/Resume writers and their clients.

  6. By Robin Schlinger on Feb 13, 2013 | Reply

    I agree with you! I used to set up profiles for my clients – and then provide information how to use it.

    Now I don’t because of the threat of being taken off of LinkedIn (I checked with Friends of LinkedIn about this – and the threat is real). In addition, I had several instances, due to LinkedIn’s checking of IP addresses, where I could not log into client profiles (good for security), even after they confirmed it was a valid login.

    I will help clients when they log into profiles and I am with them. Apparently that is OK, because we are there with them.

    I now send forms with all the information for them to fill in with instructions what to do.

    I think not allowing folks to get the help they need. I think this is a security policy (based on a highly-publicized breach of security for LinkedIn) they are now enforcing -but it has unintended consequences.

  7. By Kornel Rost on Feb 13, 2013 | Reply

    Jason, I think you are taking the word “use” to literal. I am not a legal expert either,but “use” to me is when you are in the account, regardless if its change something or not. The concern I suppose that there will be someone that will misrepresent the individual by actually using the account to contact others.Maybe an admin with limited access maybe the solution, but I am sure there will be arguments against that as well.

  8. By Norine Dagliano on Feb 13, 2013 | Reply

    This is the first I’ve heard of this. It’s one thing to include a dozen words in a user agreement (that probably are skimmed over by the majority of users); it’s a whole other issue when LinkedIn begins “policing” activites and treating users like children who are incapable of managing their own business affairs. How exactly are they enforcing this? Since I frequently create profiles for my clients and login at their requests to help them manage them, I’d like to have my guard up.

  9. By Rabbi R. Karpov, Ph.D., CPRW on Feb 13, 2013 | Reply

    I’m grateful for the heads-up, and am looking forward to the webinar. Cannot say enough good things about CDI; or about Jason Alba either, for that matter. Thanks to all my teachers, without whose guiding wisdom I couldn’t have been doing any of this.

  10. By Christine Edick on Feb 13, 2013 | Reply

    Jason, thanks for getting up on the soapbox for the masses of professionals that are affected by this rule.

  11. By Karen P. Katz on Feb 14, 2013 | Reply

    Like Robin, I work through my clients in making changes to their LinkedIn profiles. The resulting process is more frustrating and time-consuming, but IMO, there is an integrity issue at-play here.
    Compare the LinkedIn situation to other forms of teaching or coaching, e.g., working with aspiring college students.
    *Would you actually write the essays for your student/clients, or would you guide, advise, revise?
    *Would it be okay for colleges and universities to reject your children in favor of those who have access to paid ghost writers?

  12. By Roberto Lebron on Feb 14, 2013 | Reply

    The analogy with aspiring college students is inexact. Students are expected to write their own essays to show they have learned what they’ve been taught, and to express their vision and character. There is no equivalent requirement for an engineer or medical doctor when it comes to putting their professional experience into words. Hiring resume writers does not constitute an ethical breach; it’s an accepted business practice. Linked In is being unreasonable.

  13. By Angie Jones on Feb 14, 2013 | Reply

    Jason, thanks for bringing this to light.

    Many of our clients lack the technical skills to create their own profiles and as a result hire professionals to do it for them.

    When a client has a basic portfolio, I assign a temporary password to them for my use only. When the portfolio is complete, I’ve asked them to change their password to whatever they’d like and adjust their privacy settings.

    If it were left up to each individual to create their own profile they would not be celebrating their 200 million LinkedIn profile milestone. In fact, they would not have near the success as a business if we weren’t encouraging our clients to create profiles in the first place.

    It’s time LinkedIn rethinks their policy.

  14. By Debbie Melnikoff on Feb 14, 2013 | Reply

    I agree with you Jason and as you said, our highest government officials are certainly doing this. I can’t imagine LinkedIn going after one of Obama’s staffers from posting on his behalf. If they don’t do to him they should not penalize the rest of us. Having a profile writer/resume writer sign a confidentiality agreement with the LinkedIn user is the best defense in my opinion

  15. By Carolyn Smith on Feb 14, 2013 | Reply

    Jason a good point in particular for anyone working on behalf of clients to improve their profile and clients wanting (needing) this service.

    Certainly LinkedIn needs to clarify ‘to use your account’, – as logging on to improve a clients profile for their benefit is very different from someone networking or searching through networks on a clients behalf.

    One for the lawyers/executives at LinkedIn.

  16. By Virginia Franco on Feb 15, 2013 | Reply

    I couldn’t agree more — if the login is done with the client’s permission than no rules have been broken — it is no different than an admin checking her boss’s emails, or booking travel with a corporate credit card.

  17. By Amelia Hamilton on Feb 15, 2013 | Reply

    The bulk of our clients are executives who are used to delegating many major functions to trained professionals, including resume writing. They simply don’t have time to master LinkedIn and post their own profile, even if we write it for the.

    LinkedIn’s current policy is akin to your city passing a law that you can’t hire anyone else to renovate your home–you have to do it yourself.

  18. By Amelia Hamilton on Feb 15, 2013 | Reply

    The bulk of our clients are executives who are used to delegating many major functions to trained professionals, including resume writing. They simply don’t have time to master LinkedIn and post their own profile, even if we write it for them.

    LinkedIn’s current policy is akin to your city passing a law that you can’t hire anyone else to renovate your home–you have to do it yourself.

    Hi Jason! Would you please delete my previous comment? It has a typo. Thanks!

  19. By Melanie Lenci on Feb 15, 2013 | Reply

    Angie Jones stated it perfectly.

    When our clients lack the technical skills to make the most of their LinkedIn profiles, that’s where professionals like us can be of tremendous value.

    By providing profile development services we’re not only constantly educating others on the power of LinkedIn, but we’re also helping to consistently raise the bar on quality standards for profile content, look and feel.

    Penalizing professionals who have found that using temporary passwords (set by the profile account holder) to log in to their clients’ accounts only creates an additional hurdle to allowing account holders to maximize the platform’s capabilities.

    While my practice has always been to spend time educating my clients on key LinkedIn functions and profile aspects to maintain, update and utilize, walking my technically challenged clients through copying and pasting profile content from a Word doc I developed takes away from the time I would’ve been spending educating them on some of LinkedIn’s more robust features.

    My hope is that LinkedIn will be able to offer some clarity on their policy so that I can continue to provide the highest quality, most efficient service to my professional clients who want nothing more than to get the most out of LinkedIn.

  20. By Karen Huller, CPRW on Feb 19, 2013 | Reply

    The term “use” definitely could use some more legal defining. I do hope they take into consideration the reason people use LinkedIn in the first place and see how enabling professionals to access and update their profiles, status updates and account settings supports the success of its users.

  21. By Steven Burda on Feb 23, 2013 | Reply

    Good read!

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