Lately business networking site Referral Key has been making some headway in building its userbase, and connecting people to build business relationships. However, after my most recent round of updating my Referral Key profile, I believe that their workflow for adding new account contacts based on existing friend lists from 3rd party sites like LinkedIn is flawed and misleading. Let me explain.
In order to add new contacts, it’s necessary to connect the site to other 3rd party social networks. One such network, which has obvious crossover appeal, is LinkedIn. Normally to connect social accounts, the oAuth protocol is used to directly connect two sites – you click the “connect to facebook” button, sign in with your facebook account, click the authorize button, and now your info is being shared – and you have control over what information is shared.
However, with ReferralKey, in order to connect your LinkedIn account, Referral Key forces users to go to LinkedIn and export their entire contact list in CSV format, and then import it directly to the Referral Key site. After the import is complete, Referral Key now has a complete list of your LinkedIn contacts. Although the process is a bit convoluted, it’s not too bad, and I partially understand that they may need to do this to get around technical limitations with connecting directly over to LinkedIn.
Now for the rub. Normally when I’m connecting one of my established social accounts – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc to a new social network, the new network will go ahead and analyze my existing social connections, and allow me to selectively choose which of my existing contacts to add on the new network. It will usually tell me which contacts are already using the new network, and secondarily allow me to send invitations to select users who are not yet on the new network. That’s how it usually works, right?
Not so for Referral Key. Moments ago, I imported my entire LinkedIn list to Referral Key, and merrily clicked through to the next screen. And then, in the blink of an eye, Referral Key took the email addresses from my trustingly imported LinkedIn contact list, and emailed EVERYONE with a form message inviting them to connect with me. Referral Key didn’t bother to try to cross-reference my contacts with their user base. There’s very little warning that everybody will be emailed immediately, and it’s very difficult to unselect everybody – the entire list is selected by defauly, with no “uncheck all” button. I’m sure it did actually give me some sort of warning before emailing, but given my previous expectations, I really wasn’t looking for any warnings – or at all expecting for it to just go ahead and email everybody.
So, to everybody in my LinkedIn contact list whom I inadvertently spammed through ReferralKey: I’m Sorry!
On the flip side, I actually may end up making some good reconnections from this faux pas. As for the utility of Referral Key, and its ability to help users generate new business leads, only time will tell. I’ve started testing it out to generate a few more leads for my interactive media consulting practice, and I’ve heard of a few other colleagues using it too. More on actually using ReferralKey soon.