A Highly Automated LinkedIn Cautionary Tale


 

I have a lot of clients who are always looking for email addresses and phone numbers for prospects, especially the prospects they find on LinkedIn. As such, when I see or hear of tools that say they can gather this type of info, I will usually check them out, as I will get asked about them sooner or later. Often they don’t live up to the hype. 

A couple months ago I attended a webinar / online demo for one such company. They’re hot, getting a lot of buzz and claim to be the first to use AI for real time results. 

The first screen they showed was one with all their high profile customers. Among them were LinkedIn and Microsoft. Well, that’s reassuring. 

Part way through the demo, the presenter showed how this tool integrates via a chrome extension with LinkedIn. How it appeared to work was you set up a search on LinkedIn and then  the tool took over. It went out on the web looking for emails and phone numbers for the people found in the search and overlaid them on the LinkedIn results screen. All very well done, good looking and all around cool. 

At this point another webinar attendee asked whether this tool was approved by LinkedIn. The presenter did not reply directly but pointed out that LinkedIn was a customer. 

Except…

It didn’t seem like something LinkedIn would be happy with them doing. Among other things, LinkedIn doesn’t like tools or chrome extensions that:

  • Take control of your LinkedIn account
  • Scrape data from LinkedIn
  • Change the appearance of a LinkedIn screen

…and this tool appeared to be doing all three. Oh, not in a major way, but it still appeared to be doing it. 

So I opened up Sales Navigator – with the presenter still droning away in another window – and contacted LinkedIn tech support. Got a very chill dude in the tech support department and asked him flat out, “I am watching a  demo right now for a software tool called <redacted name> They claim it is okay for use with LinkedIn, but I am not so sure. Can you confirm that for me?” I had to wait a few minutes for him to look it up, but he did confirm it for me. That is he confirmed LinkedIn was pursuing all avenues in going after this company and preventing them from using their tools on LinkedIn. And that anyone using that tool on LinkedIn could be doing irreparable harm to their LinkedIn account. LinkedIn appears to have no problem tossing people that don’t follow the user agreement. Because – and this is my spin on it – LinkedIn signs up two new members every second, so terminating your account or mine won’t even count as a rounding error. 

I never did finish watching the demo.

So today’s lesson is one I have been saying for a while now: don’t use automated tools that integrate with LinkedIn. And courtesy of my little adventure today I can expand on that a bit: “…even if they say that LinkedIn allows them to.” 

Why do you think I put all these funny disclaimers all over my website, on my newsletters and on my LinkedIn profile saying I am not affiliated with or endorsed by LinkedIn. I want my prospects, my customers, my readers and especially LinkedIn to know I am not claiming any special endorsement or relationship with them.

These automation companies may make the claim that LinkedIn won’t come after you, but you are taking the risk, not them. Act accordingly.

The obligatory disclaimer:

I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month.