If You Aren’t Measuring Your Results, Maybe You Shouldn’t Be Doing It 

I see this all the time. Someone will tell me about their great habit of finding content to share on LinkedIn, or commenting on posts, or publishing posts, or participating in LinkedIn groups or any number of LinkedIn related activities. 

And I will ask them what their goals are in performing these activities. 

“To generate sales leads.”

“Great! How many leads have you generated, and how many do you expect to generate over what time period?” 

“Um…”

Exactly. They have an idea of what they would like to do, they are putting lots of work in, but they aren’t measuring the results coming out. Are their results commensurate with the effort they are putting in?

If you or your company are in this position, let me offer a couple suggestions, using my early days as a content creator on LinkedIn as an example (this was back before “creator” came with a capital “C”).

  • Have a specific goal in mind. 

Back when LinkedIn first granted publishing abilities to us users, I figured I could write content that would generate leads. I didn’t know if generating leads was possible, but I thought that if I posted regularly I would be able to devise a way of tracking the response to my content and turning that into a lead generation system. I figured if I could generate ten leads a month, I could convert one or two of them into steady customers. This was just my hypothesis though, and as writing content can be fairly time consuming, I was going to track and test everything I did.

Back in those days (six years ago), articles seemed like the best type of content to use, as I could write longer pieces if I wanted to, and there were more formatting options than with posts. So I started writing and publishing one LinkedIn article every week. 

  • Track what you are doing

Whenever I published an article, I measured everything – views, likes, comments, new connection invites, new followers, the number of people who visited my profile – you name it, I tracked it. Spreadsheet madness (and I hate spreadsheets).

  • Figure out what is meaningful

Over time, I came to understand that there were people buried in all these statistics that could be prospects. How did I find that out? By reaching out to them. I made a habit of reaching out to all of the people I could identify that interacted with my content who appeared to fit my ideal client profile and I sent them outreach messages. If they were amenable I would connect with them and see where things went from there. I found that people that fell within certain categories were more responsive than others – for example, I found I could get a response from upwards of seventy percent of the people that commented on one of my articles, but a less than fifty percent response rate from the people that liked my articles.

An unexpected benefit from all this outreach was I got pretty darn good at writing outreach messages.  

  • Apply what you have learned and narrow your focus

In my case, I set about developing a system that went after the commenters and followers that fit my client profile. By that time there were a lot of people publishing on LinkedIn talking about new features and changes to old features, so I tried to focus on writing content that was interesting and novel in the way I looked at using LinkedIn. This helped to gather followers and comments from the type of people I was looking for. 

Here’s the key to this whole endeavor: after a few months I found that I could predict pretty accurately how many leads I would generate from an article by late in the same day I published it. 

Note that the one thing that most people measure – views – is the one thing I discarded almost immediately as being worthless to me. I wanted to be able to contact people and I couldn’t tell who my specific viewers were.

How I personally use LinkedIn continues to evolve, both as the platform changes and my needs change. I am constantly experimenting – there are LinkedIn engagement metrics I still monitor every day, and I am tracking another idea with this Newsletter – and measuring the results of those experiments.

So that’s today’s message: there are multiple ways you can use LinkedIn. Once you have figured out what you think you can use LinkedIn to do, figure out how you are going to do it and especially how you are going to measure your results. And even when you find success, keep measuring to ensure you are on the right path. 

 

Is LinkedIn Throttling Back Our Content Distribution?

Is LinkedIn barring the door to wider content distribution? I don’t think so.

I have been hearing a lot lately from LinkedIn users complaining that they are not getting the same number of views that they used to get on their content, and that LinkedIn is throttling back on content distribution; the upshot being that LinkedIn is not as good a place as it used to be for publishing content and should we be putting the effort in and so on.

So why does content distribution seem to be growing smaller and smaller?

Some people are gravitating to the theory that LinkedIn is limiting distribution in order to make everyone pay for enhanced distribution, and indeed LinkedIn is offering a “pay for post boost” feature for company page content.

But I think there are several factors that, taken together, offer a simpler explanation.

New feature experiments

Think of all the new content oriented features that LinkedIn has introduced over the past two or so years – videos, LinkedIn Live, polls, newsletters and so one. Every time LinkedIn introduces one of these, the algo gets tweaked to feature these and get us users interested in them. I know that for a while last year all it seemed I saw was LinkedIn Live, and then this past summer that changed to a blizzard of polls in my feed. And if LinkedIn is pushing polls to the forefront, all other types of content are being pushed further back in the queue.

More paid content in the feed

More sponsored content and now, more boosted content from companies. Every time one of those shows prominently in our feed, something else has to be moved out of the way for it.

More people are publishing 

Using my Sales Navigator account I can get a good idea of how many people are posting on LinkedIn. Over 17 million in the past 30 days. And that’s just people’s posts, that does not include companies.

So it’s also just plain more competitive out there.

The net net here is that I agree it’s tougher to get noticed but I don’t think LinkedIn is purposely throttling back. After all, LinkedIn keeps offering these new posting features like polls and video in order to get more people involved. Getting them involved and then immediately cutting them off would be weird.

So what can we do about all this? May I suggest that you stop thinking in terms of reach or views? That’s because I think focusing on views misses the point. I think the big opportunity is in writing content that will be discovered when someone comes across your profile or searches for a topic or hashtag associated with you. For example when someone goes to my profile they can see three things – I have featured content I have written, they can see my activity and what I have written and they can see I have a newsletter and can read my back issues.

Let me put it another way. Which would you rather have: someone by chance seeing that post you wrote appearing in their feed. And “someone” could be anyone. Or… someone visiting your profile and seeing what you have written. That person has found you and your content by intent, not by chance. They are looking for more info on a topic, or have heard of you somewhere and want to know more.

I will take one of the latter over twenty of the former any day.

That’s who you are writing for. Not the possible ten thousand largely random people chosen by LinkedIn who could have viewed your post, but the few dozen who chose themselves to come to your profile.

Write for your ideal reader, not for the masses.

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.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter where I don’t talk about “levelling up” or “surface new ideas”, just about using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

More and more people have LinkedIn Newsletter privileges these days. Thanks for choosing to read this one.

Connecting vs Following On LinkedIn (part 2)

I wrote one of my newsletters a few weeks ago (October 6th) about how LinkedIn seems to be gently pushing us towards a “Follow First” strategy instead of just connecting with anyone we come across. I received some comments and messages pointing out that for all practical intents and purposes, following is just as good as connecting.

While you may not think there is much of a difference, there are some differences you should consider in whether you would rather be a connection or a follower.

Some interesting characteristics of connecting and following:

  • In order for me to connect with you, you have to accept me as a connection. Following someone does not require such permission. I can follow you and there is nothing you can do about it. Oddly, as the follower, I am in control of our relationship (such as following constitutes a relationship).
  • As a follower, I can’t send you messages. If we are connected, I can send you a message. Whether you welcome that message and wish to respond to it is another story. These days, having messaging privileges is a double edged sword. People accept connection requests more easily these days than five years ago on LinkedIn, but being connected does not mean you have a collegial relationship with your connection. You still have to establish that.
  • In most cases, you won’t even know that I am following you. You can see a list of your followers by clicking on the number of followers when you look at your activity. Most LinkedIn users don’t ever have a look to see if anyone is following them
  • You can’t search your followers. I search my connections at least once a week. People are always asking me if I know someone with a certain skill or experience. I have over five thousand connections so out comes the LinkedIn Search tool. I also have around five thousand followers. I can see a list of them, and scroll through them one by one, but that list can’t be put in any order and is not searchable.
  • Another aspect of this that is kind of backwards is what we see in our homepage feeds. Typically, you follow someone in order to see their posts and content. And LinkedIn has talked about this. But there is a difference between appearing in our homepage feed and appearing prominently in our homepage feed. At any given time you or I will have hundreds of posts of all types in our feed. What’s important is what is at the top where we are more likely to see it. LinkedIn tells us what we see featured prominently in our feeds is largely based on our Connection Strength Score, which is based on the interactions we have on LinkedIn with our various connections. To my knowledge, there is no Follower Strength Score. And how would you measure it?

The bottom line? If you want to see the person’s content, follow them. Following tends to be a one way street. The person you are following sends information your way. I say “tends to be a one way street” because you can always comment on their content.

If you want to connect with someone on LinkedIn, then by all means do so. But realize that in order for you both to benefit that you will need to put some work in.

And a suggestion for LinkedIn: get a move on with the implementation of the LinkedIn Newsletter to everyone. If I subscribe to your newsletter, I know I will be notified when you publish your next issue. Following is nice, but I think subscribing is better.

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. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Embrace Your Inner Sherlock Holmes On LinkedIn

I have been a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories since I read “The Adventure Of The Dancing Men” back in high school. In that short story, Holmes resolves the mystery behind what appear to be children’s drawings that start appearing in the garden of a client who retains him. What is obvious to Holmes – that the series of dancing figures are in fact messages – eludes everyone else involved.

In the short story, “A Scandal in Bohemia” Holmes utters one of his most famous lines to Doctor Watson, “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”

That is the way most users are on LinkedIn. They take what’s presented to them at face value, and don’t think of what could be behind what’s happening or of the cause of what is happening. And this is a shame, because if people saw all the information presented to them and stopped to ask themselves what that meant they would make much better use of LinkedIn.

Let me illustrate what I mean with a couple examples.

A LinkedIn user goes to the profile of someone who is a prospective customer. He sees that the prospect has the right title, though no additional information about their current responsibilities is listed, just the title and years in that position. The same holds true for their previous jobs. The prospect has a couple hundred connections, a smattering of skills, and the other key sections of their profile filled out.

Using what little information he can glean from the user’s profile, our sales person sends the prospect an outreach message via InMail. He uses a solid message format that has been very successful in the past.

And receives no reply.

Does it take Sherlock Holmes to see that the prospect in question was a poor candidate for this approach? The low number of connections, the spartan profile, and the absence of activity all point to someone who places little value in LinkedIn and does not come around that often. How can a person who doesn’t show up see our salesperson’s outreach message?

The better approach would have been to try this person through an introduction if possible, or via email, with a direct LinkedIn message being the last resort.

Our LinkedIn user had all the evidence he needed to decide on this better approach. He saw but did not observe.

A second LinkedIn user is looking at a competitor’s LinkedIn Company Page.

She sees that the company in question is publishing to their Company Page on a regular basis. This competitor has many more followers than her company does. It appears obvious that regular publsihing to a Company Page leads to more followers.

Thus inspired that company pages do work for companies in her industry, she goes back to her company page and starts publishing posts about her company’s capabilities. But nothing much happens.

What our second user has done is seen that a company page can be a success, but not really examined her competitor’s Page to see why it was a success. Closer examination would have shown her that the competitive company is publishing content their prospective customers will find valuable – case studies, white papers, technical articles, how-to lists – and the competitor is publishing this type of content on a regular basis.

Our second user saw the regularity of the posting, but did not observe the type of posts being published.

When you see something on LinkedIn, ask yourself, what does this information really mean for me?

Look at the data that LinkedIn has presented you with. There is a lot more there than you would think, things like that little “2” beside someone’s name, meaning they are a second degree connection and you know someone they know, or that all of their activity is date stamped so you can infer when they are using LinkedIn and how often.

Taking an extra moment to look for these things will in the end save you time and you will use LinkedIn more effectively.

Wearing a deerstalker cap while doing so is optional.

And an update:

A couple months ago I published a newsletter where the subject was fake profiles on LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s Trust and Safety people clamped down on several hundred fakes I identified, but as soon as they get rid of one batch another seems to spring up. One company that I am monitoring had 700 “employees” with LinkedIn profiles a month ago. They now have 1600. I am not sure LinkedIn is winning this battle.

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. I was going to write this disclaimer using the Dancing Men code, but after seing how long it would take, I decided some ideas are better off just left as ideas.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Connect on LinkedIn…Or Follow?

“Dude, you look familiar. Aren’t we connected on LinkedIn?”​ (photo courtesy Mark Johnston)

“Dude, you look familiar. Aren’t we connected on LinkedIn?” (photo courtesy Mark Johnston)

LinkedIn seems to be pushing the idea of following as an alternative to connecting lately. It seems like we may be headed for a “third era” of connecting on LinkedIn. But to understand what this may mean, here is the abridged Bruce Johnston history of connecting on LinkedIn:

The early days of Connecting on LinkedIn (pre – 2018)

In the early days, say up until around 2016 or 2017, the mantra on LinkedIn was to “only connect with people you know well and that in turn know you well.” There was lots of talk about having tight, close networks of “trusted connections.” People would cite the Dunbar Number as proof that connection networks were impossible to maintain over a certain level.

Oddly, in the middle of all this talk about close knit networks and only connecting with people you know well, LinkedIn had an upper limit of 30,000 connections on any one individual’s network.

The permissive era of Connecting on LinkedIn (2018-2021)

Sometime around three years ago, a trend emerged where people started connecting more easily, and the trend has accelerated into this year. Whereas in the “old” days people tended to establish a relationship or at least trade messages before connecting, over the past three years LinkedIn users have just started sending connection requests to anyone who looked interesting. And to a large extent, those requests have been readily accepted. But the problem with this new loose concept of connecting was that the relationship still needed to be established.

This idea can easily be seen if you have asked a connection lately for an introduction to one of  their connections. The answer that often comes back is “I really don’t know that person that well and wouldn’t be comfortable introducing you.” Of course what they could also add is “…and to be honest, I don’t know you that well either.”

A third era?

Over the past six months or so, I am seeing more and more of LinkedIn pushing following over connecting, such as prompting users to put a “Follow” button instead of a “Connect” button as the default on their Profiles. And LinkedIn has talked about people complaining they are receiving too many invitations to connect.

What LinkedIn doesn’t talk about is all the spam messages from those connections we all so easily accepted. Because my guess is that one of the unintended side effects of this easy-connecting second era is that it has seeded the ground for automated tools on LinkedIn. Automation on LinkedIn five or seven years ago largely consisted of scraping tools and profile viewing tools. But these days the new tools take advantage of the new enthusiasm for connecting. Apps have been introduced that can send hundreds of connection invites and then hundreds of spam messages to those new connections. And those tools are not good for LinkedIn because if users see LinkedIn as a spam fest they will stop coming to LinkedIn. If that happens LinkedIn can say goodbye to all that lovely advertising revenue that Microsoft was highlighting in their last quarterly report.

There are things that LinkedIn can do – limiting the number of invites users can send is a good example. And LinkedIn could apply the algorithms to see if people are sending lots of the same generic message to connections, or checking to see that messages to connections actually are getting responses, or even limiting the number of messages users can send (I am an extremely active LinkedIn user but I do not initiate a hundred conversations with my connections every week). But what they really need to do is change user behavior. And one way to do that is to put the idea front and center that the default should be to follow someone instead of connecting with them.

Following could also be made more attractive if LinkedIn placed the content of people we follow more prominently in our feed. Typically, you follow someone in order to see their posts and content. And LinkedIn has talked about this. But there is a difference between appearing in our homepage feed and appearing prominently in our homepage feed. At any given time you or I will have hundreds of posts of all types in our feed. What’s important is what is at the top where we are more likely to see it.

LinkedIn tells us what we see featured prominently in our feeds is largely based on our Connection Strength Score, which is based on the interactions we have on LinkedIn with our various connections. To my knowledge, there is no Follower Strength Score. And how would you measure it? One alternative would be more subscriber type content like LinkedIn Newsletters, but that roll out is more of a crawl out.

Where do you stand in all this? Are you a fan of following or connecting? Has your idea of connecting versus following evolved over the past twelve months?

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. And in the spirit of transparency, I did not know several of my five thousand connections well before we connected. I won’t say which ones. Don’t tell LinkedIn.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

A Sales Story: An Inadvertent Lesson In Crowdsourcing 

Many moons ago I was a Regional Sales Manager based in Atlanta. There was another RSM named Ed that occupied the cubicle next to mine. We both spent eighty percent of our time out of the office in our respective territories, so we were only in the office at the same time two or three times a month. 

One afternoon, I could hear Ed on the phone next door to me, and I could hear him getting more and more exasperated as the call went on. He finally hung up, wheeled his chair back around the divider so he could talk to me and we had the following conversation.

Ed, “I have been searching for the key guy for our products at IBM. I have been looking for him for months now.” 

(this was pre-LinkedIn of course, and actually pre-Internet. You had to do everything by phone and networking)

“So I was just talking with your brother.” 

(my brother was a product manager at our offices in Toronto)

“And it turns out that your brother knew who the key guy was all this time!” 

Me, “You mean Henry Steinbecker?” 

Ed, “WHAT? YOU KNOW WHO HE WAS TOO?” 

Me, “Well yeah. He’s in their offices in RTP, off Six Forks Road. I went to see him back when I was selling our catalog products. I think it was maybe two years ago. Want his phone number?”

At this point Ed’s face turned a rather alarming shade of red, and he proceeded to use a lot of words I am quite sure his mother did not teach him. 

But here’s the thing. The information Ed so badly wanted – for months – was four feet away. All he had to do was mention it to me. 

So what does Ed’s predicament thirty years ago have to do with us and LinkedIn? Just this: with LinkedIn you have two huge avenues to crowdsource for help with your problems. The first is your connections. Your connections are a searchable database. Anything you need help with, information on, or opinions about, can likely be found among your connections. I have asked my connections for advice on tools, ideas, approaches, you name it. And I am happy to share my experience and knowledge back with them. This avenue in particular would have saved my colleague Ed a lot of time and trouble.

The second avenue is, well, all of LinkedIn. If you are searching for a new CRM to use, why not put together a post about what you are doing and what you need and publish it on LinkedIn? Yes, you will get a pile of salespeople, but you will also get a lot of good opinions, advice and you may meet some people that are worth connecting with.

Crowdsourcing: An under utilized – but valuable – use for LinkedIn 

 

LinkedIn Polls Have Worn Out Their Welcome

Last week was the breaking point for me.

When I logged in to linkedIn, there was a poll waiting for me on my homepage feed. A few minutes later I was notified that there I had new posts waiting for me. Another poll. Later on, another one. So I started counting. I refreshed my feed ten times before I stopped. Here is what was at the top of my feed those eleven total times.

Poll

Poll

Poll

Poll

Poll

Poll

Poll

A post by a connection

Poll

Poll

Poll

I am sick of polls taking over my feed.

The way I see it, there are two reasons for the proliferation of Polls on LinkedIn. The first is that the algorithm for some reason seems to think that Polls are what we want to see. The second is that when people see LinkedIn rewarding Polls with prime placement in the feed, that’s what people are going to post. And how can you blame LinkedIn users if they see LinkedIn rewarding the Pollsters?

But the problem isn’t the Polls in and of themselves, it’s the general low quality of them. Yesterday I saw one asking which of the colors listed wasn’t a primary color. A few minutes ago someone asked who the respondents wanted to win the football game tonight.

The worst part is that now I don’t participate in Polls that I think are worthwhile as the LinkedIn algorithm may take my participation as a signal that I want to see more polls.

So I came up with my own system for a low Poll diet. For any poll that is mundane or uninteresting (which is most of them at this point):

  • If it was posted by a connection, I unfollow them.
  • I see a lot of Polls from second degree connections. In these cases I mute the Pollster so I don’t have to see any more of their junk, and I unfollow the connection who commented or participated or liked the poll.

My feed has already started to improve.

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. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

Want more like this? (note that that was a question, not a poll) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Cleaning The Deadwood Out of Your LinkedIn Homepage Feed

I was notified by LinkedIn that someone had commented on one of my LinkedIn articles yesterday, and going back I realized I had written and published it over five years ago in August 2016. With thanks to that person, Brendan G, whose comment nudged me to write this update.

There are two parts to this, the “macro tuning” and the “micro tuning.” In the Macro tuning you “tell” LinkedIn what type of content you want to see, and who you want to see it from. Micro tuning refers to the adjustments you make on the fly.

Macro tuning – telling LinkedIn what you want to see

On a macro level, LinkedIn decides what you see based on who you have interacted with lately on LinkedIn, and what your settings are in the My Network tab. Here’s how mine looks:

Clicking on any of these eight network sources will allow you to manage them. For example, clicking on Pages allows you to decide which companies you want to Unfollow to remove their posts from your feed.

Some quick thoughts:

  • Connections I manage on a case by case basis from my homepage feed itself. I talk more about these below in the Micro part of this newsletter.
  • People I follow are the people you have chosen to follow that you are not connected with.
  • Groups are the ones you have joined.
  • Similarly, events are the events you have signed up for. I have a bunch of events because as the company page admin for my clients, when I set up an event on their pages, I am automatically signed up for the event.
  • Pages are the companies you follow.
  • Newsletters are the newsletters you subscribe to.
  • And hashtags are the topics you have chosen to follow. Hashtags have a real effect, one that you see in your feed. I suggest you go for categories and hashtags that are as narrow as you can find. Selecting #strategy – which has millions followers will result in all kinds of posts pertaining to strategy. But #designstrategy with twenty thousand followers will result in much more targeted content. This is another area you should experiment with. Like performing searches, there is a sweet spot for getting the “right” amount of results that will fit your purposes.

“Micro” tuning – telling LinkedIn who and whose content you wish to see

Micro tuning is adjusting your feed based on what LinkedIn presents you. Note that while you have indicated to LinkedIn which people, topics and companies you want to see, LinkedIn is making constant adjustments to what you see based on both your activity on LinkedIn and how you respond to what’s in your feed.

You can adjust your feed via each individual post presented to you. On each post is a menu that presents itself if you click the three dots at the far top right of the post.

For the purposes of this discussion, the three important options here are “Unfollow”, “Mute” and “I don’t want to see this”.

Unfollowing applies to connections and people you follow already. Unfollowing is a good option if the person you are connected with is worth staying connected with, but they tend to overpost, or post non-professional content or content you are not interested in. I tend to unfollow someone who is a repeat offender.

Muting appears to be the case when someone you are connected with or following posts something you are not interested in, and someone you follow or are connected with liked it, commented on it, or shared it.

I have found the ability to mute and unfollow people to be particularly valuable with the prevalence of Polls on LinkedIn. I am not interested in general-interest or quirky polls from connections, and I am not interested in them from non-connections either.

Clicking “I don’t want to see this” will bring up another list to choose your reason why you don’t want to see it.

Usually, I click on “I don’t want to see this” when the post is one of:

  • Non-professional
  • It’s the same post LinkedIn showed me earlier. This happens to me a lot. I will come back to my homepage ten times in one day and every time, LinkedIn presents the same post. LinkedIn must really think I should see it.
  • The post is old. I am surprised but this happens more often than I would have thought. LinkedIn will show me a post that is four days old.

I will be honest though, in that while unfollowing people has had a wonderful effect on cleaning my feed, I am not sure that rendering my reasoning why I don’t want to see an individual post has any effect at all.

Since I started aggressively unfollowing the Poll people, my feed has improved immeasurably. I actually see posts on topics I am interested in instead of a poll on whether I prefer coffee or tea.

And because everyone asks: no, you can’t choose to just “unsee” likes or comments from individuals. You either follow them and see everything, or unfollow them and see nothing.

In closing, I would encourage you to do two things: Be cognizant that there are things you can do to improve your feed, and experiment with your settings, both macro and micro. See if your feed “feels” more relevant to you after a week or two.

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. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

Connecting On LinkedIn Has Its Privileges. Here Are Four Of Them.

One is obvious, the other three less so. But the more you use LinkedIn, the more the “less so” ones become important.

When you are connected to someone on LinkedIn:

  • You can send each other messages directly over LinkedIn. This doesn’t replace email, the phone or whatever messaging system you use, but it does come in handy for LinkedIn-centric messages such as referencing someone you know mutually on LinkedIn, or drawing their attention to someone or something of interest on LinkedIn.
  • You have visibility into your connection’s actions on LinkedIn – you will be notified when they do things such as posting or commenting, sharing or liking someone else’s post. Once again, the same notifications apply in reverse – they will have a window into what you are doing on LinkedIn. By default you are considered part of each other’s network on LinkedIn, and connections see what the other connections in their network are up to.
  • You rank higher in your connection’s search results on LinkedIn. As LinkedIn is one huge database full of people, an obvious application is to use that database for searches – for suppliers, vendors, prospects, experts, new staff, information, discussions on specific topics …anything. And one of the things you will find is that LinkedIn wants search results to be relevant to the searcher, and if one or more of their connections get found in the search, LinkedIn will tend to list them at or near the top of the search results. If you are searching for a WordPress expert, it makes sense for LinkedIn to list WordPress experts you are already connected with first.

So if one of your connections looks for someone in your field, you are going to appear high in the search results. This is why it is a good idea to connect with prospects. This may seem a little odd, I mean, who would forget you and what you are good at? Why would a search be needed? The answer is actually quite simple. Some people amass huge networks of connections on LinkedIn – two thousand, five thousand or more. It is pretty easy to forget people when you have that many in your “connection rolodex.”

This happens to me often – I have a large network and I will be asked something like, “Bruce, do you know anyone who works at Goldman Sachs?” Often it is a skill, profession or company I am not as familiar with and I really don’t know what I am going to turn up (I picked the company name at random, but it turns out I do know someone at Goldman Sachs).

  • Connections show pathways to other people on LinkedIn that you didn’t know exist. You may find a prospect on LinkedIn and see the little “2nd” postscript after their name and then the person or people both you and that person are connected with on LinkedIn. You can use this information in two ways. The first is to name drop the mutual connection’s name in a message or invitation to connect, which implies you are worth connecting with too. To be fair, this is the easy thing to do, which makes it the thing most people do, but it’s a pretty weak approach. The second – and better – use is to use that mutual connection or one of your mutual connections as an intermediary, and ask them to introduce you to the person of interest to you. Alternatively, you can ask if you can use them as a referral, or even just ask them for information that can help you with on this person you are interested in.

Any tool that provides pathways and ways of contacting prospects, suppliers and vendors, experts, or prospective partners is a good thing. Any tool that allows you to build thousands of pathways is a powerful thing.

Direct messaging, notifications, search result prominence, pathways to prospects. Being connected means a lot more than you probably think it does. Start taking advantage of the privileges you have been given.

Obligatory boilerplate: 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. But I was an early subscriber to Sales Navigator and have a grandfathered subscription where I pay a lot less than I should. Don’t tell LinkedIn. Thanks.

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two to four articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

An Epidemic Of Fake LinkedIn Profiles

 

Prologue

I would like you to meet Emily Barber. I found Emily among my new subscribers to this LinkedIn newsletter a few weeks ago. Have a good look at Emily’s LinkedIn Profile. We will come back to Emily in a moment.

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As part of my morning routine, I review the list of new people who have signed up for my LinkedIn newsletter.  One morning in late July, two people showed up with the exact same headline structure. Emily was one of them.

This struck me as incongruous, so I looked at both of their LinkedIn profiles. You have seen Emily’s. Now let’s have a look at Alma Orosco, who also signed up for my newsletter on the same day as Emily Barber:

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I would draw your attention to the following:

  • Emily and Alma feature the same headline structure…right down to the brackets, exclamation point and rocket ship emoji
  • They each have a vaguely high tech but abstract banner image
  • They are both CEO & Founders with a bullet point list of responsibilities
  • They have each had one previous job
  • Both of them speak three languages
  • Both have Master’s degrees
  • Both have almost no LinkedIn connections
  • And of course, both decided to subscribe to my LinkedIn newsletter the same day.

Conclusion: these are non-people, fake profiles, the LinkedIn undead.

Then I wondered, well, if there are two, are there more?

So I did a LinkedIn People search as follows:

Keywords: “CEO & Founder” AND “(we’re hiring!)” Comment: this should find profiles with the same headline as Emily and Alma.

Geography: USA Comment: both profiles were U.S. based

Connection level: 3rd+ Comment: No or very few connections makes it likely any such profiles would be a 3rd degree connection

Yikes, Look At Them All

Result: Hundreds of people showed up in my search results. But the people on the first page of results sure seemed real – they had activity, lots of connections, heck, a lot of them had premium LinkedIn subscriptions. So it seemed like I was finding real flesh and blood LinkedIn users. But then as I continued to page through the results I hit this page…

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This was the first of many pages of results that looked exactly like this one. Someone’s been busy.

Time To Call In The Cavalry

So I had found a couple fake profiles, and suspected I had found over a hundred more, but I had a dilemma. If I were to report either one of the original two fakes individually, the profile may look odd, but it is only when you see the two (or more) of them together that you are certain that they are fakes. So I sent an InMail to someone in the LinkedIn Trust and Safety team explaining what I had found and why I wasn’t using the auto-reporting system. I also noted that I thought there were hundreds of these things on LinkedIn, with more being generated every day.

That got their attention.

Someone in Trust and Safety reached out to me and we set up a phone call where I went through everything I had found, sent them links to more POTU (Profiles Of The Undead), and went over the search I used to find them all.

Having thus left this with Trust and Safety, I figured that was the end of my little Zombie adventure.

I was wrong.

Well, I Didn’t This One Coming  

A couple weeks later, over a two day period, I gained 112 new subscribers to my newsletters. With my newfound Zombie identification skills, I could immediately see that 12 of them were suspicious looking.

But there was a twist: All of the suspects were now employees of a single company. So I had a look at the employees from that company. Here is a sample page of my results.

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I did a few further people searches on the employees for this company and there were a few….peculiarities.

The company in question has 467 employees listed on LinkedIn.

450 of them…

  • Are either product managers or senior product managers
  • Are scattered all across the USA.
  • Are all women
  • With Masters degrees
  • They all have experience working at exactly one previous company
  • Stop me if you have heard this before: they all speak three languages

One final thing: of the 467 employees at this company?

446 of them joined LinkedIn between July 18 and August 18, 2021.

Now maybe this company is looking to develop a work at home product management team strategically placed all around the country. And maybe they specifically want people with Masters degrees who have only worked at one other place in their lives and speak three languages. And every single one of these product management types had, prior to their employment with this company, not been a LinkedIn member. But then maybe, they all got together and went, “Oh, yeah, we should all join LinkedIn at the same time.”

But I doubt it.

So I reported all of them too.

I have obscured the company name here as I found a couple companies on LinkedIn with very similar company names that do not appear to have any connection or affiliation with the Zombie people.

Why Do These Fakes Exist?

The original “we’re hiring!” fakes I found make me think about data or identity theft. If I say I’m hiring and you send me your resume, you have voluntarily given me a lot of useful information.

In the second set of company specific profiles, the profiles are heavy on their advertising for the company in question. So in the second instance, these are not so much profiles as billboards.

What Can LinkedIn Users Do? 

I had the benefit of seeing a couple of these together which prompted my search efforts. I also have the tools and experience to be able to do some of the searches that were needed. I am also curious and very, very stubborn. Calling “Shenanigans” on these things is second nature to me by now.

But there are a few things you can look for. None of these may be a deal breaker by themselves, but the little things add up.

  • Look for odd, or stilted writing

Here’s a typical opening line from one of these profiles: “I am a highly skilled CTO with a storied history in the technological sector.” It just sounds a little odd, doesn’t it?

  • Look for incongruous data

In the fake CEO and Founder profiles, a good example was the three languages. Often when you see a LinkedIn user talking about knowing two or more languages, there are obvious clues as to how or where they learned a second or third language – they studied abroad, or they had sepnt time for their employer in a different country, or at least they were a language major in school. The languages on the fake profiles I found just seemed…random.

  • Look for connections and activity on LinkedIn

My general rule of thumb here is that if it takes work, a fake profile will tend to be thin on those attributes.

  • Look for unknown companies online

Lastly, here is something that can work if you see someone from a startup company, or a company name you don’t recognize. Just Google the company name. In the case of my “we’re hiring!” fakes, you have someone claiming to have been the CEO of their company for 6-8 years, yet the company doesn’t have a website.

What Can LinkedIn do?

I think LinkedIn Trust and Safety is in a thankless position. If they have a pattern pointed out to them like I was able to, then they can get rid of fakes en masse. Otherwise for the most part they have to depend on you and I coming across the fakes and letting T&S know. But they have a thornier problem with automation. Automation companies don’t break the LinkedIn service agreement, LinkedIn users do when they use this stuff.

But there are things that I think LinkedIn could do:

1) write more often and let users know what they are doing about this stuff. If LinkedIn Engineering can have a blog, why can’t Trust and Safety?

2) As part of this, LinkedIn Trust & Safety should publish a post talking about how T&S has deleted X number of fake profiles, and suspended Y number of people for using or being suspected of using automation. I don’t know about you, but I would be very grateful that LinkedIn is actively tossing the spam kings and queens. The goal would be educating and reassuring the LinkedIn membership that T&S is on the case. Scaring the sh*t out of possible transgressors? That’s a bonus.

3) Trust & Safety may not be able to take action on the Automation companies involved outside of LinkedIn, but they sure can on their activities within LinkedIn. Automation tool company pages and all their employees should be banned. Surely, isn’t having these companies encouraging LinkedIn users to break the terms of service agreement reason enough? I had a client say he was going to use one of these tools. I told him they were illegal under the terms of service. He pointed out that if these tools were illegal, why did LinkedIn allow the tool company to have a company page to talk about their services? He had me there.

I have other ideas as to how Trust and Safety could identify these clowns, and welcome them to contact me again.

This whole little exercise has taught me three things:

  • There are more fake profiles on LinkedIn than I thought. And they are getting better. Everyone needs to be vigilant.
  • Trust and  Safety has a tough job. They do it pretty well, but they need our help.
  • I am now thoroughly sceptical of anyone who says “we’re hiring!” in their Profile headline. And if you ask me to connect but have a rocket ship emoji on your profile, don’t get your hopes up.

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. For some reason LinkedIn gave me early access to the LinkedIn Newsletter, though I am beginning to wonder how many of my subscribers aren’t real.

I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two or three articles, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/