Why You Should Think Twice About Using Automated Tools On LinkedIn

One of the odd side effects of the social selling movement is the seemingly endless stream of messages and interactions required. This has given rise to automated tools on LinkedIn – apps and browser extensions that will do a lot of this work for you. And I can understand the temptation. But doesn’t anyone else find the whole idea of “automating your social selling” a little contradictory?

Here are reasons why you should think twice about automating your LinkedIn interactions.  

Many of these apps and extensions violate the User Agreement.

Specifically section 8.2 (the points that follow are a subset of the forty-five or so  bullet points in this section).  

8.2. Don’ts. You agree that you will not:

  • Use manual or automated software, devices, scripts robots, other means or processes to access, “scrape,” “crawl” or “spider” the Services or any related data or information
  • Use bots or other automated methods to access the Services, add or download contacts, send or redirect messages;
  • Send spam or other unwelcomed communications to others;
  • Scrape or copy profiles and information of others through any means (including crawlers, browser plugins and add-ons, and any other technology or manual work);

As the sole arbiter as to whether you have overstepped the lines, LinkedIn is judge, jury and executioner.  And good luck explaining yourself to Microsoft, the company that just paid twenty-six billion dollars for that data they just caught you scraping.

Note that while getting caught may be a low probability event, the consequences –  excommunication – can be nasty. Think of crossing the street with your eyes closed. All the cars will probably stop. Would you bet your life on “probably” ?

Anybody who recommends products like these are not looking out for your best interests.

Automated messages have to be generic

This is the easy way to tell when someone is using automated messaging with you. In order to cover all the possibilities with all the people the message will go to, the message has to be generic and bland. It doesn’t sound authentic. In attempting not to alienate anyone, it doesn’t appeal to anyone either.

And being boring at scale isn’t something you should aspire to.  

It can be sorta, kinda, well…fraudulent

You set up your browser extension to look at LinkedIn profiles. What you are doing is giving the other person the impression that you found something interesting in their activity so you had to go and look at their profile.

Merriam Webster defines fraud as  “deceit, trickery; specifically : intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value”.  

That would be you committing fraud. Great way to start a relationship with a connection, isn’t it?

Let me close with a hypothetical situation and a final thought:

Here’s a partial list of abilities I have seen one company advertise:

  • You can set up their browser extension to search and view profiles one after another (in the hopes that the people will think you are interested in them and invite you to connect).  
  • And speaking of connecting, you can set up a search and the browser extension sends connection invites to everyone in the search results.   
  • Then the browser extension accepts invitations to connect for you
  • And then the browser extension sends a welcome message to the new connection
  • And then it takes the three popular social selling trigger events – birthdays, work anniversaries and new jobs – and sends messages to all of those connections.
  • And then the browser extension will “like” your connections’ posts and add generic comments like “This is a really good post!”  

So you could set up this software to look at a certain type of person’s profile, automatically accept their invitation to connect when they bite at your profile view, automatically send them a “welcome to my LinkedIn network” message, congratulate them on any birthdays, job changes or work anniversaries, and then start liking and commenting on their posts. Four months later, you have this lovely, completely automated relationship with this connection, whose real  existence you are blissfully unaware of.  

It seems to me that your browser extension is the one with the connection, not you.

 

This Is Why I Don’t Trust Any Social Media Or Social Selling Statistics

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Back in the spring I wrote a post about a hoary old (for social media) statistic and showed how people liked to take it completely out of context to use as proof of whatever it was they were flogging (you can read it here  http://practicalsmm.com/2016/02/18/linkedin-is-277-more-effective-than-just-about-everything-wait-what/ ).

It hasn’t stopped. I found more. Here are four of them. I have no desire to identify the people in question, but can provide links to the articles in question to anyone who sends me a message.

As background to these startling statistical stories, here are four statistics from LinkedIn’s Q3 results announced October 27th, 2016:

  1. LinkedIn now has 467M members.
  2. 106M – or 22.7% – of LinkedIn members log in once a month or more often.
  3. LinkedIn’s sales for the quarter were $933M
  4. LinkedIn’s sales of premium subscriptions for the quarter were $162M

The Case Of The Out Of Context Statistics

A couple of weeks ago I came across a post from someone making the case for Sales Navigator. In the post, they mentioned that since only 15.1% of LinkedIn members pay to use the service, it is obvious that a lot of salespeople don’t have Sales Navigator accounts, but they should.  

This one was easy as I knew this statistic was flat out wrong. Let’s do a little math using the LinkedIn results statistics above and you will see why.

15.1% of 467M total members means there would be 70.5M paying members.

Those 70.5M paying members paid $933M for the privilege in Q3

So $933M divided by 70.5M would be…hang on, carry the three…$13.23.

But that’s $13.23 for the quarter.  

So one of these statements is true:

  1. The average LinkedIn premium subscriber pays $4.41 a month for their premium subscription.   
  2. This statistic is bullshit.

So I decided that clearly a little investigation (rubbing his hands with barely restrained glee) was warranted.  

It turns out that Company A, the writer of this post, got their data from Company B (cue ominous music), and that Company B got their data from a study done by Company C. (I should point out that Company A quite rightly gave prominent credit for their statistics to Company B.)

Then things got really weird as Company C turned out to be…Wayne Breitbarth. For those of you who don’t know him, Wayne Breitbarth has been training people in the mid west on how to use LinkedIn for years. And he has a reputation that makes straight arrows ashamed of themselves. How could Wayne be involved in such a sham statistic? Well, it turns out, quite easily.

Every year Wayne sends out a survey to clients and other LinkedIn enthusiasts (I’ve participated several times myself), asking about their LinkedIn habits. The survey is where this statistic came from. So it wasn’t 15.1% of LinkedIn users that said they paid for their LinkedIn, it was 15.1% of Wayne’s email list; people he has trained in how to use LinkedIn, his social followers and connections, and probably friends and connections of those people.

And all of these people who follow Wayne in one way or another, are more likely to be paying customers than a random sample of Linkedin users. 15.1% of Wayne’s  demographic being paying members is plausible.

So Company A, in trying to imply that there was lots of room for more Sales Nav subscribers because only 70M people pay now, would have actually had a much better argument if they just divided how much a premium member like me pays a quarter ($150) into the dollars received by LinkedIn last quarter for prem subs ($162M). So  there are more like 1.1M paying subscribers out there. 1.1M out of 467M leaves a lot of room for more subscribers.  

As Company A was honestly trying to make a point that more people should use Sales Navigator, it is obvious that there was no advantage to them in portraying this statistic they way they did.

But I can’t forgive Company A for one thing. When you click on the link taking you to Company B’s report, you see that company B based their data on Wayne’s 2013 survey. And right at the top of Company B’s post is the date that post was written: Nov 19, 2013. Company A used data in their current post that was both out of context and three years old (and you were wondering why I had three birthday candles in the photo). Three years is a long time in social media. Actually, was Sales Navigator even around when Wayne did his 2013 survey?

By the way, the results for Wayne Breitbarth’s 2016 survey can be found here.

http://www.powerformula.net/linkedin-infographic-portrait-linkedin-user-2016/

 

The Case Of The Big Honking Outlier

Remember statistic number 2 above, where LinkedIn announced 106M people – or 22.7% – of LinkedIn users were now checking in at least once a month?

Imagine my surprise when I read an online article from an Australian company  informing their readers that a top LinkedIn influencer had stated that “of the more than 7 million people in this country on LinkedIn, 40 per cent use it every single day”

If 22.7% – and no that number didn’t used to be a lot higher – of LinkedIn users log in once a month, how can 40% of Australian LinkedIn users log in every day?

A request for clarification to the website in question went unanswered.

 

The “Of One Questionable Statistic Is Good, Two Must Be Great” Incident

Two weeks ago I ran across one of those long lists of incredible social media and social selling statistic infographics. Apparently part of the incredible part is being not true. Among all the Facebook and Twitter and other stats that I couldn’t verify I came across a couple that I could.

  • Daily logins on LinkedIn: 27%

My first thought was, have these guys been talking to the Australians?

Later on the infographic informed the reader that:

  • LinkedIn now has 100 million members.

Gee, these guys aren’t even making me do math. This is too easy.  

In this case, an email request for clarification was answered immediately, directing me to the other online source they had used. I see this from time to time. Someone else wrote it on the internet, so it must be true.

 

The Case Of “Repeat It Often Enough And They Will Believe It.”

And for our finale, let’s take this old one out behind the shed and shoot it.

nsea-official-stats

 

How many of you have seen this one floating around from time to time? Hands up everyone who has actually seen it and liked it, commented on how pithy these statistics were, or shared it with their network?  

Well, sorry to say, but there is no evidence to support these marvelous statistics.

To start with, google “National Sales Executive Association” and see what comes up. Mingled in with lots of people sharing this are lots of articles on how this whole slate of statistics is completely made up (one excellent one can be read here http://askthemanager.com/2014/06/92-percent-of-linkedin-users-believe-made-up-statistics/#.WCoerWorKUm )

You will note that one thing won’t find in a search for the National Sales Executives Association is any reference to such an organization existing or ever having existed.

And here’s the thing. We believe this slate of stats because we want to. We want to believe that these stats show that perseverance is critical to success and will be rewarded.   

A lot of social media statistics and social selling statistics are used with very little reference as to where they came from or how they were generated. People love to cite statistics and a lot of statistics that started out as legitimate become “massaged”, whether by design or by accident.

So let me suggest that if someone quotes a statistic without referencing a source you can verify yourself, consider it crap.

And let me suggest that if someone quotes a vague data set that can’t be quantified “we interviewed a hundred top performers” or “social sellers outperformed their peers”, consider it crap.

And finally, in the immortal words of Peanuts character Charlie Brown: “Tell your statistics to shut up.”

Why Do As Many As 75% Of Outreach Messages Fail on LinkedIn?

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No One Is Home.

LinkedIn announced Q3 2016 results a couple of weeks ago on October 27th. There are now 467 million LinkedIn members. They also announced 106 million unique monthly logins, which sounds great until you realize what that means. 106 million people now log in once a month or more often than that. The flip side of the coin is that 361 million people log in less than once month. Think about that for a second or two…that’s 361 million people, some of whom may log onto LinkedIn once before New Years. Many of them will show up once between now and the Spring. And many won’t really show up at all.

If you send a LinkedIn message today to someone you would really like to speak with, but if they are one of the 361 million, the odds are pretty poor that they are going to respond to your message.

Why? Because they will likely ignore it. These are people who don’t use LinkedIn very often. They don’t “get” networking. They have never seen the value in using LinkedIn regularly, and they still don’t. So messages from LinkedIn are more likely to just be ignored. This is what I mean by your outreach failing because no one is home.

  And in an oblique way, LinkedIn acknowledges this problem.  I think it is instructive that if someone responds to your LinkedIn InMail you get a credit for a new InMail to use with another LinkedIn member. How long does LinkedIn give them to reply? Ninety days. It sounds to me like LinkedIn wants to give them every opportunity to show up and respond, but they aren’t that confident either.

So you can knock on the door, but if no one is home…what can you do?

Your homework.

Before you reach out to someone, go to the recent activity part of their LinkedIn Profile and look for two things: number of followers and recent activity. If someone has 1200 followers and you can see they are active posting and responding to other people’s posts, you can feel comfortable that they appreciate what LinkedIn has to offer and will likely respond to your message. It may not be the response you want, but at least you will know where you stand.

On the other hand, finding someone with 41 connections and no activity is the kiss of death. Likelihood of this person responding is effectively zero.

What else can you do about it? Be realistic and use alternatives. If you are confident in your email abilities you can try emailing them. Or you can try  approaching the target company through someone else at the company who does look approachable.   

The bottom line is that no matter how fabulous a candidate may seem to be for your product or service, you are going to have a really hard time getting the attention of someone who is not there.

Learn to recognize low probability situations and don’t invest your time in them.