Hear this in a deep, scary voice (can you tell I’m getting ready for Halloween?!?) “Beware, beware the LinkedIn scams!!!” It’s true that all social platforms have their pitfalls and headaches, but LinkedIn marketing ploys seem to carry a certain … flair to them. So, if business retailers in search of online marketing haven’t gotten a taste of this one, enjoy. Does Referral Key take you on a wild ride of jumbled information or is it a legitimate business tool for online marketing?

Ladies and gentlemen, the elusive Referral Key.

The Invite

You may first experience Referral Key like you experience a door-to-door salesman. Someone you’re connected with on LinkedIn may send you a request to join their network. For me, this was someone I wasn’t familiar with at all.

Note to the public – beware of invitations sent via social media, whether you receive them from someone you know or not. Sometimes invitations are generated without user knowledge (or lack of user expertise).

The Perks

The site itself is described by Mashable as a mix between LinkedIn and Angie’sList. Much like referrals in real life, you build new business by sharing your own. A social profile in front and a list of businesses in back. Like a weird backwards mullet.

Referral key does have a growing list of reputable businesses on site for users to shop.

The Downfalls

It seems like nothing in life is free, except for LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Foursquare … ummm basically every other major social media platform. Sure, they advertise and sure they have monetary ways to “boost” your business online, but the fact remains. Having an account and receiving valuable feedback and response is still free across social media platforms. Referral Key allows a max of 3 referrals before they request a membership fee.

Um, you lost me there.

In addition, you receive very little if you don’t invite your friends and share business information on your profile.

In Short

Referral Key is bizarre to me. It COULD be beneficial. I’m sure that it has helped users to connect with new clients. In my experience, however, there is a wealth of free marketing connections on major sites, like Pinterest and Twitter, that produces results. Results that I, in my social media experience, can bank on.

My two cents on this matter, What do YOU think? Is this a valid source for business retailers? Have you used it?