Using Automation Software on LinkedIn. Don’t. Here’s Why.


I get emails all the time from companies that sell browser extensions and apps for use on LinkedIn. The idea is that you can automate and scale up your interaction with others by getting the extension or app to do the work for you. They will do things like view profiles, invite people with certain keywords in their profiles or titles to connect, automatically send them welcome messages when they accept, automatically endorse them, automatically send them congratulatory messages when they have a work anniversary or change jobs, and automatically send sales messages to large swaths of your connections.

The result is you can have a lovely and productive relationship with a connection without ever having to go to the trouble of really being aware of who they are. 

But these tools – all of these tools – contravene the user agreement you have with LinkedIn.

As in these parts:

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

  • 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);
  • 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;

The bottom line is that anyone telling you that automatic scraping or viewing tools  are a good idea is someone who is not doing you a favor.

And doesn’t anyone else find it ironic when these companies say: “We will automatically look at 500 profiles, scrape the data from the profiles, then  automatically accept invitations to connect sent your way, and send the new connection a welcome message. It’s the ultimate in social selling!”  

Wait a second, where was the social part? How social is it when you are starting off your relationship with someone by conning them?

Quite frankly, the use of automation software cheapens the user experience for everyone on LinkedIn. They introduce an element of doubt in your interactions with people. Is that really you that sent that message or your bot? Was that you that sent me a “welcome to my LinkedIn network” message or a browser extension? If I send a real message of thanks to someone who commented on one of my posts, will they see the headline and just assume it as another piece of app-generated spam?

Don’t get tempted by the idea of using automation on LinkedIn. LinkedIn doesn’t like it, and it puts your focus on numbers. And numbers don’t have relationships with you, people do.

An unusual but valuable LinkedIn Search: content

You can search for content on any topic on LinkedIn. Here’s how.

Most people don’t realize that they can search for content on LinkedIn, but here are four good reasons why you might want to start:

1) you are doing research on a topic

2) you want to see if other people are writing about, have recently written about, or have covered an aspect of a topic you are thinking of writing about

3) you are looking for prospects and this is the type of thing they would be reading and commenting on

4) you want to see if your competitors are writing about a topic

All you need to do is to type the word or expression in the search bar, click enter and then click on “content.”

If you use an expression, put quotation marks around it. If you want to look for people writing about genome sequencing, search for “genome sequencing”, as the quotation marks tell Linkedin to look for those two words together. Without the quotation marks, LinkedIn will look for the two words, but not necessarily together. 

And a word about hashtags: not everyone uses them, so I usually don’t search for them. You get more results from “genome sequencing” than from #genomesequencing. 

Try it. Once you have tried it a couple times, you will start thinking of ways to use it to your advantage. 

LinkedIn now measures dwell time. They what? 

First some background: How does LinkedIn decide what we see in our homepage feed? 

The homepage algorithm figures out the following: 

  • The probability that you will “react” to this post, a reaction being a like, comment or share. This probability is based on your history with this poster. LinkedIn doesn’t mention it, but I assume they also look at your history with this post’s topic, or I assume, with a specific hashtag)
  • The probability that other people will react to your reaction – take action of their own. Are there people that typically are drawn to your comments or likes of a post? 
  • The value to the content creator of your reactions. Do your reactions give valuable feedback to the author? I am not sure how LinkedIn would measure this unless you were to “like” their comment or share. 

All the thousands of possible posts that could be presented to you are weighed, and the “best” ones according to the algos go into your stream. 

Limitations of this approach:

  • Some people read posts and appreciate them but are just not people who react. 
  • Someone may click “more” and open a post, but then realize that the post isn’t for them, and goes back to the feed. LinkedIn calls these click bounces. 

So now LinkedIn has added “dwell time” in it’s calculations as to the value they are assigning a post. 

There are two types of dwell time: the time a post is sitting in your feed, and the time the post is sitting in your feed once you click on it. 

Until now, LinkedIn had measured clicks, comments, reactions and shares to rate a post. Now dwell time will be factored in as well. 

If this is the case, less crappy posts will be presented to you and you will see more posts that actually have something to say that people read through end to end. 

Two observations in all this:

  1. One factor in all this that really should be emphasized is your “history” with posts from a given author. If you have a history of reading and / or reacting to a person – whether a connection or someone you follow – LinkedIn will remember and favor their content being put in front of you. Whenever you react to a post, you increase the likelihood that more of that person’s posts will appear in your feed. 
  2. Everything you do on LinkedIn, no matter how small, has consequences. Everything you do gets interpreted by LinkedIn (which is a little disquieting). 

Check your own homepage feed and see for yourself. Just don’t pull up a post from someone you don’t like and choose that moment to leave your device and have lunch.