Why you shouldn’t send holiday cards on LinkedIn

May your days be spam-free and bright.
May your days be spam-free and bright.
Image: Reuters/Mark Makela
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LinkedIn is a must-have for many professionals, even the happily employed. It pays to have some presence on the career-oriented social network to generate an early and recognizable Google search result where you have control over how your background is portrayed.

But with ubiquity comes overreach.

People increasingly are using LinkedIn in a way that feels intrusive or spammy—often not intentionally, but simply because of what the network is. A particular example is the tendency around this time of year to send holiday e-cards en masse over the platform. Not a great idea.

Group messages of any kind often feel impersonal, rote, and inconsequential, regardless of the content, and even if you know the person. That’s particularly true on LinkedIn because people associate the platform with work, and with being contacted by people they don’t know very well. That means the barrier to connection generally is lower than on truly social networks like Facebook—and that’s what makes something that should feel personal, like a holiday card, seem off when sent via LinkedIn, no matter how well-meaning the thought behind the card.

It’s ironic that these holiday intrusions are happening just as LinkedIn is taking steps to cut down on the number of unsolicited messages that people on the platform receive.

Currently, paid users get a limited number of “InMails” that they can use to message people outside of their network. If you don’t get a response, you get that message refunded, presumably LinkedIn’s way of trying to make sure that you get what you paid for. That’s not ideal, though, for people in high-demand professions like engineering, for example, who say that they often a raft of badly targeted messages from recruiters.

Starting in January, paid users instead will get InMail credits back when they get a response to a message, rather than when one gets ignored, in a move intended to make sure that those initiating the contact write more thoughtful, relevant messages to a better-targeted audience.

The principle that might restrain a paid user with a limited number of InMails should apply to everyone, and every message sent, on the service. Make sure it’s fitting and personal, and that it has at least a shot of being welcome by the recipient.

That doesn’t mean you need to rewrite all your holiday cards this season. But if you don’t have somebody’s address or personal email, you probably don’t need to send a card in the first place.