Why Would Someone Create A Fake LinkedIn Profile?

I wrote an article a couple of months ago on some of the ways to identify a fake LinkedIn profile. One comment I received quite a bit was “why would someone do this?” It seems like a lot of work, for some nebulous benefits.

And it does not take a lot of work. I could build one in ten minutes and it would likely fool most people. Start with an email address and come up with a new name. Then just cut and paste everything from another profile…like yours, and copy your photo too. There. Done.

Here are four uses for fake profiles. The critical part is getting you to connect with them, because they can then indulge in a little…

Email address collection

This is the obvious one. Harvest email addresses from connections.

Identity theft

When added to the information most users include in their LinkedIn profiles, this is a good start. In addition to their email address, many LinkedIn users list their birthdays, and this is viewable by their connections.

Phishing, spear phishing and other scams

If a connection sent you a message with an attachment, would you open it? It could contain malware. How well do you know and trust this person?

Connecting adds credibility

This is the sneaky one. When you connect with someone there is your implied  endorsement that they are a real person. When they go to connect with someone you are connected with, that someone sees  you connected with them. They connect. They open the email with the attachment.

How do you fight this? When someone you don’t know invites you to connect, ask them a question. One other aspect to look for is comments on posts and articles. Faking activity by liking content or sharing it without comment is easy and fast. Taking the time to make comments on that content is not. It’s time consuming.

It’s one thing to cut and paste a profile together, but another to be taking the time to comment on posts, or publish posts.

Be careful out there.

 

A LinkedIn Allegory

(This could be a sunrise or sunset, but spam is spam. Photo courtesy Mark Johnston)

 

LinkedIn member:  I have come up with this great new social selling idea.

Me: Tell me

LinkedIn member: I put together a limited time offer, and I send it in a message to all my connections.

Me: Umm…

LinkedIn member: Hang on, here’s the best part. I can only send them one at a time, but all I have to do is copy and paste my message in, add the member name  and off it goes!

Me: Umm….

LinkedIn member: And I hire someone in the third world to take over my account and do it for me for peanuts!

Me: So you are going to send dozens or hundreds of the same message to people who didn’t ask to receive that message?

LinkedIn member: Umm…

Me: I think you just invented Spam.

Moral:

Think before you press “send”. This whole “trust” thing matters.

Keeping Your LinkedIn Network Healthy

You may have five hundred connections. You may have five thousand connections. But regardless of the number, your network should be tended to from time to time to keep it healthy. You built it to serve your purposes, and now that it is built, you have to keep it from getting unruly and out of control.

Think of your own network. There are probably times you have suffered from “connector’s regret.”

4 signs your LinkedIn network could use some pruning

You find someone on LinkedIn you would really like to meet, and seeing that they are a second degree connection, you are looking for an introduction. And then you see who is the first degree connection you will be asking to make that introduction  and it is someone you have never talked with or even exchanged messages with since you first connected with them over a year ago. And you can see they are not active on LinkedIn. If you find five people that could introduce you and they are all no good, you have a real problem.

Or you see a lot of odd people that seemingly make no sense in the “People You May Know” section. Gee, why am I getting all these people from Spain? Maybe because I just accepted the connection requests of a bunch of people in Spain. LinkedIn is just trying to help. And LinkedIn is helping by in effect asking me, “What’s with all the Spanish connections?”  

Do you suffer from low grade annoyance at your homepage feed? You see connections posting inane things and even worse, connections who comment and like inane things, clogging up your home page with worthless drivel. If you are constantly seeing this junk in your homepage feed, you have a problem. And it is kind of a problem you created because you connected with these people. If the sponsored content on your homepage is starting to look good to you, you know it is time to take action.

Then there are the people that you connect with but have never responded to one of your messages. I am a big fan of being optimistic in my connecting, but if you are going to just sit there like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, you are testing my optimism.

And course there are the people who connect with you and decide that you should be the recipient of a “special offer.”  You shouldn’t be suffering from people who treat their connections like an email list, fishing for customers and referrals with what are obviously form letters. I got a message last month from a connection offering to teach me the secret to LinkedIn. I was tempted to respond “I already know the secret to LinkedIn. It’s Don’t spam your connections with canned messages”.  

What you can and should do about an unruly LinkedIn network

For posts that annoy you: hide this post

Use the “three dot” drop down menu at the top right of the post and choose “Hide this post.” This works well for posts that are getting lots of comments and keep re-showing up in your homepage feed.

For posters that annoy you: unfollow them

From the same drop down menu, the next selection is “Unfollow”. You will stay connected with the person in question, but their content will be hidden from you. A good option for connections who are “judgmentally challenged” in their homepage activity.

For connections that annoy you: disconnect (ie: Defcon 3)

This option is for those times when the disadvantages such as spam or total unresponsiveness lead you to deciding that disconnecting is your best option. First go to your settings and privacy page, choose the middle tab “privacy” and change Profile Viewing Options to “Anonymous LinkedIn Member”. Now go to the connection in question’s profile, click the 3 dots to the right of their photo and select “remove connection” from the drop down list. LinkedIn does not inform the other person that your connection has been severed, and by being anonymous they won’t see you visited their profile. It’s all very efficient and discrete.  

Your network should be full of people that can help you and are around to do so, and of course you should be ready to offer the same to them. Keep your network clean and effective. 

Using The 80/20 Rule Of LinkedIn Participation To Your Advantage

Here’s a simple way to get more responses from more people on LinkedIn.

In LinkedIn’s last publicly announced quarterly results almost exactly a year ago, one statistic released was that seventy-eight percent of LinkedIn users show up less than once a month. LinkedIn consistently posted similar engagement percentages in previous quarters too, and as Microsoft surely would have informed the world if this number had improved, I assume it hasn’t changed much.  

The other twenty-two percent of LinkedIn users show up at least once a month. So who should you be trying to contact? Correct. The 100 million members that 22% represents.  

Sending a message or invite to connect to someone in the other 78%  is a questionable strategy. When is the next time they will show up on LinkedIn and see your message? Thanksgiving? New Years? Spring 2019?

So in theory, paying attention to the 22% is a good idea. But what about in practice?

Premium account badge

A little gold premium account badge on a LinkedIn profile means that person has (surprise) a premium account. The assumption being that someone who has a premium account actually comes around LinkedIn on a regular basis to use that account and get their money’s worth. But there is one thing that you still won’t know: you can’t tell whether someone is paying for their premium account or whether their company is. An individual covering their own costs seems more likely to show up more often. A possible indicator, but a mediocre one.  

Completed profiles

A complete profile tells you that the user realized the importance of LinkedIn…at one time. The problem being you don’t know if that time is now.

Lots of connections

Now we are getting somewhere. Someone with more connections typically means someone who “gets” networking, and they will check in on LinkedIn more often. Not completely reliable as an indicator, but I like the odds of getting a response from someone with two thousand connections over someone with two hundred.

Activity

This is the “aha” indicator. You can spot someone’s activity right on their profile. And because activity is date stamped, you can get a pretty good idea of what the minimum baseline of activity is for that person (because some activity you won’t see, like searches, or reading posts). Recent activity is the one indicator I use every time in considering whether to approach a person on Linkedin.

Activity with you

This may sound odd, but let me explain. People engage with you in one or more of five ways –  like, comment, share, profile view or follow. I added this one because most people don’t take advantage of the situation when someone shows an interest in them or something they have written. When someone tells me that they got twenty likes on their post, I will ask them what they did with all those likes, and often the answer is “nothing.” Well, why not? If I get twenty likes, I am all over those twenty profiles seeing if these are people I want to know better.

The ideal situation is when the LinkedIn user shows two or three of these indicators.

There no guarantees you will get a response after identifying one of these more frequent users, but at least you can put the odds in your favor.

Land Of The Canned: LinkedIn Messages That Are Wearing Thin

One of the great incongruities with the idea of social selling is the volume of messages that people wind up sending. Instead of cold calling a hundred people  once, it becomes a hundred people to monitor, share content with, comment on and send messages to.

To be social you need lots of engagement.

But lots of engagement sounds like a lot of work.

Enter the mass messaging.

Which sounds great. Come up with a message and send it to a hundred people.

But there are two problems with the mass messaging approach: zero customization and zero personalization. I receive messages all the time offering to help me…with my LinkedIn skills…or publish content on LinkedIn…or generate sales leads. It is apparent that these people didn’t bother looking at my profile, and that I was just one of a large number of people sent this same message.

Let me see if I can put this politely:

Actually reading the profile of someone you want to send a message to may seem like a lot of work, but there is a lot to be said for not looking like an idiot.

Not that polite? Sorry.

You wind up receiving messages like this: “I see you looked at my profile and based on your fascinating background I think we should connect.“ (this was an actual message a friend received a few weeks ago).

So what you have are irrelevant messages apparently being sent to a large number of recipients who didn’t request them. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call spam. So while people sending these messages may think they are being brilliant social sellers, they are actually closer to pond scum.

The worst part with this type of  messaging is the apparent contempt of the sender for the recipient. That’s what really grinds me the most. Your assumption that I will be flattered and stupid enough to fall for it.

The solution? Customization and personalization. For each person. And each message. The operative word is “person.”

And the people that send me those sad little boilerplate messages? I always respond courteously and thank them for my interest, point out that reading my profile would have saved them the effort, and wish them success in their next job.

Clues That A LinkedIn Profile Is A Fake

 

Last week I received an invitation to connect on LinkedIn from the person above. Let’s go over all the clues that this is not a real person:

1) The person has an absurdly low number of connections. Actually she had one when she invited me to connect, and had added a second before I could take this screen capture. This is a classic case of a profile not passing the smell test. Human Resources people use LinkedIn more than any other occupation. According to this person’s school and work history, they have been employed full time for four years. How many HR people on LinkedIn do you know with two connections?

2) Someone who is in human resources in Brazil would logically want to connect with people in, I don’t know…maybe Brazil? Nope. This person immediately figured in order to advance her career in HR in Brazil that a person in Toronto was the optimal person to connect with.

3) It almost goes without saying that the invitation to connect did not include a personalized note.

By the way, LinkedIn deserves all the credit in the world for this: within one hour of my reporting this person their profile had been removed by LinkedIn. The downside is that I didn’t have enough time to get a screen cap of her experience sections….

4) Fourth indicator that this was a fake?No job descriptions, just a listing. No Summary at all. I am always skeptical of people who want to connect who have really “thin” profiles.

5) Odd time sequences for jobs. Often you will see fake profiles with job dates left out, or apparent full time jobs overlapping (you worked for Oracle and IBM at the same time for a year? That’s impressive.) This is just sloppiness giving them away. In the case of this person’s “current” job, there were no dates at all.

6) In the example above, the photo belongs to someone else. I ran this one through TinEye (a browser extension which will look for a photo on the web) and TinEye showed me this photo being used six times in other places.

7) And does anyone else think a field of flowers as a background banner is an interesting choice for an HR professional?

The bottom line? Just look for the incongruities. They are there. Fake profiles often have pieces that by themselves look okay, but when combined together just don’t present a coherent narrative.

Oh, and the last reason I knew this was a fake? It’s a bit of a cheat but….

8) The young lady in question says she got an undergrad degree in HR at the University of Sao Paulo, and then she traveled to Canada and got a Masters degree at Upper Canada College. In what can only be an incredible coincidence, I also attended Upper Canada College.

It was my high school.

Stay safe out there.

The LinkedIn Secret Ingredient: Introductions

This is the “You don’t need a Sales Navigator or Premium LinkedIn account” strategy.

If you have 500 LinkedIn connections and those connections have 500 connections each, you have 250,000 second degree connections. A lot of them are going to be people you would like to connect with.

Want proof? Go take a company that you would like to get more deeply into and search for it. Choose “people” as the result. Now select just your second level connections. What you will probably find is that while you don’t have a “two” that is THE person you would like to meet, you have multiple pathways into the company.

So turn your connections into your ambassadors and ask them to introduce you to people they know at those target companies.

I know what a lot of people will be saying: I have 1500 connections but I really don’t know them all that well, maybe only 300 of them. Fine. Just work with the 300. If they have 300 connections each that’s 90,000 people they can introduce you to.  

What does an introduction take?

“A this is B, this is how I know B. B has some unique insights into the widgets.”  

“B this is A, this is how I know A. A has been in the abracadabra industry for fifteen years.”

That’s it. This isn’t rocket science.

Here’s why introductions are huge: Credibility.

The introducer bestows upon you credibility with the other person. It is just a sheen of credibility, a starter kit of credibility, but it gives you you a shot at making  an impression. You don’t get this credibility boost via InMail, email, or cold call.

What an introduction on LinkedIn decodes as is “This is someone I know. He or she is not going to waste your time.”

By the way, this is one of the reasons I try and have an introductory call with my new connections: I want them to know me a little better and have them comfortable with the idea that I may ask them for an introduction, and that I welcome them asking me for an introduction to someone in my network. They can feel comfortable that if they introduce me to a third party that I won’t be wasting the third party’s time and I won’t be saying anything that may damage the credibility of the person that introduced me.

And the secret to making this strategy work? Offer to do it for your connections first. Then when they ask you for an introduction, follow through for them. It’s a variation on “give to get”.  

 

An Arcane LinkedIn Search Filter You Should Be Using In Sales Navigator

Arcane (adjective): understood by few, mysterious or secret

LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator has a lot of search filters – twenty-three at last count. Many are pretty obvious and useful including geography, industry, and title. Many are not as obvious or useful: Profile language? First name? Member since?

But I want to talk about a Sales Navigator search filter that is not among the  twenty-three obvious ones. A filter that is both obvious and arcane at the same time, and one of the most useful filters LinkedIn has.

Once you have performed a search using Sales Navigator, and your search results are in front of you, four filters appear across the top of your results screen, along with the number of people from your search who fit with each of these four conditions.  

 

These four – changed jobs, mentioned in the news, posted on LinkedIn and share experience with you – are what I call the “hook filters”.  They are possible hooks, promoted as social selling excuses to contact someone. While the other three are interesting, the one I use in almost every search is:

Posted on LinkedIn in the past 30 days.

For me, this is one of the most powerful filters on LinkedIn, because it tells you about the person’s behavior. Over three quarters of Linkedin members show up less than once a month. People who post are people that are active.

Which leads me to Bruce’s Rules of Responsiveness on LinkedIn:

Rule number 1: People that are active are more likely to see your message to them.

Rule number 2: And people that see your message are more likely to respond.

It’s obvious when you think about it, but most people don’t think about it. Why not play with the people that have shown they are players? And even better, you can go to profiles and go and see what that activity is – Articles? Posts? Comments on other people’s posts? Now you have both a better opportunity to reach that person along with possible insight into how they are using LinkedIn.

The “Posted on LinkedIn in the past 30 days” filter gives me an edge in getting responses.

Making The Connect First Strategy Work For You On LinkedIn

(I asked that new connection to call me after lunch…)   Photo courtesy Mark Johnston

LinkedIn users appear a lot more open to connecting than they were a couple of years ago. So a lot of people are bypassing getting introduced or using InMails and just flat out inviting people they would like to be connected with to connect.

There is a possible downside to this approach though. On the LinkedIn help area it says, “If you’ve sent a large number of invitations, your account may be limited from inviting more members. This is generally due to many of your invitations being rejected or ignored by the members you’ve invited.” But for the most part, people seem to be more accepting of connection requests these days. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I am hearing from a lot of people that their new connections are unresponsive. They ask for a phone call: no response. They send a message.  Silence. So they ask me for suggestions. I always wind up asking them why they think the new connection should respond.

“Because we are connected.”

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. They assume that being connected conveys privileged status to them and that the new connections will want to respond to them. They are half right. Being connected has privileges, primarily that you can send each other messages. But neither one of you has to respond.  

The reason that these people are not getting responses is simple: they have little or no credibility with the other party. If you are going to ask for someone’s  attention, they had better feel up front that you are worth paying attention to. And that’s the problem with most blind connection requests. They often result in a connection, but you haven’t established your credibility or possible value to the other party. That still needs to be accomplished.  

So what can you do? Well, you need to figure out how you can build credibility with this person. What do they want? What problems do they have? How can you show them that you have answers to those problems? Show them your value. This can be in sending them information they can use (I understand your problems) or in offering assistance they can use (I can help with your problems).

People will talk to you once they think it is worth their while talking to you.

 

Some Thoughts On Going Viral On LinkedIn

 

While you should publish on LinkedIn with a goal of getting engagement, there is no doubt that getting a lot of views is good for the ego. Just don’t let the Holy Grail of going viral drive you batty.  

If you have ever had an article you published on LinkedIn go viral, or even one that did really well in terms of views, it is easy to get caught up in trying to go viral again. But if the odds of it happening once are pretty low, then the odds of it happening a second time are very, very low. Note that I am talking articles that require clicks here, not the “drive by” views that posts get.

My LinkedIn articles tend to get in the middle to high hundreds of views each week. Once every every six weeks or so, one will get over a thousand views, once every three months one will get two thousands views and once I got over three thousand.

And then there is the article I published back in early 2016, over a year and half ago. It has forty-five thousand views, and is actually getting stronger, pulling in an extra thousand or twelve hundred views every week.

Every week I get an email from LinkedIn telling me the three articles that got the most views in the previous week. Almost every week that old article is on top, handily beating out the ones I have published in the past couple of weeks.   

The upside is that  eighteen months ago I wrote something that readers really liked. And apparently they still do. The downside is I have had around 80 shots at publishing new articles and replicating that success. Not so far.

But I don’t worry about it and here’s why: I have no clue why that article went semi-viral and why none of my other couple hundred articles did not. I think you can write as well as you can, hit publish and then it is out of your hands. If it goes viral, enjoy your moment in the sun. I published one article that got one hundred times the views I normally get. I don’t know what was different about that one from others I have written. I don’t know the secret.

And no one else does either. Anyone who writes that they know how to go viral is full of it. Otherwise they would be viral every time they published…and wouldn’t have to write articles on how to go viral.

And while views are good for the ego, engagement from those views is the real deal. LinkedIn doesn’t tell me who my viewers are, so I have no way to identify and contact them if I wish to. People who like, share and comment are identifiable so I can contact them. I consider an  article with three hundred views and sixty people engaging with me to be more successful than having three thousand views and thirty people engage with me.