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/

LinkedIn: the database that doesn’t decay and go bad

very early database

Rule number one for any database: it goes bad over time

…and at its core, LinkedIn is a database.

Today’s newsletter starts in the old paper catalog days, makes a side trip into the email database realm, and ends with LinkedIn, but I can do all this in three minutes, so stick with me.

My first high tech sales job was selling my employer’s low end products – those under a thousand dollars – through catalog companies. This was 1985, and there were maybe three dozen catalogs in North America specializing in the products we made, datacom and telecom test equipment. In each catalog I would typically be allotted a quarter, a third, or half a page for a photo of a product and the accompanying copy.

I learned a lot about the catalog business (these were my customers after all) and one of the basic principles was that their mail lists decayed at the rate of two percent every month. Every month two percent of the people on their mail list would change companies, jobs or addresses so that a catalog sent to them was undeliverable. If a catalog company had a hundred thousand people on their mail list, that’s two thousand people that disappeared every month, and sending two thousand catalogs out that were not going to generate any revenue was something these companies wanted to avoid. This monthly decay in their mail lists was a major cost for them.

So imagine my surprise when I was reading a post on Hubspot’s blog and they said statistics show that 22.5% of email databases go bad every year. Things haven’t changed much in 35 years!

So what does this have to do with LinkedIn? Just this:

LinkedIn is a database that updates itself. It is the exception to the database decay rule.

When someone changes jobs, one of the first things they do is change their LinkedIn profile (if this wasn’t the case you wouldn’t see recruiters paying eight thousand a year for access to LinkedIn’s recruiting tools). If I am connected to a thousand people on LinkedIn, on average around twenty of them are changing jobs, departments or locations every month. But I don’t lose them. They update their profiles, and LinkedIn even notifies me when connections get new jobs or promotions.

This is one of the things I love about LinkedIn as a database. Is it perfect? No, of course not. But it is the most up to date one there is. LinkedIn is the place to search for people and the place to research those people.

But you actually have to do that work yourself. There are utilities and apps and extensions that will crow about how they can access LinkedIn, scrape the relevant data from profiles and they can also look for email addresses and phone numbers, but you risk the wrath of LinkedIn if they catch you using automated tools like that. If you are ever tempted to use automation on LinkedIn, I want to you to keep these three points in mind:

  1. The people that sell those tools aren’t the ones that get in trouble, it’s the people that use them on LinkedIn that do.
  2. The usual punishment for someone caught using these tools is being tossed off LinkedIn for good.
  3. LinkedIn signs up two new members every second. That means it will take LinkedIn half a second to replace you.

Take advantage of the LinkedIn database, but do it wisely.

Today’s newsletter is one of my shorter ones. Next week, one of my longer ones: My adventures discovering hundreds of fake LinkedIn Profiles in the past few weeks.

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/

LinkedIn Newsletters – What I Have Learned In 12 Months Of Publishing  

In late July 2020 I received an email from LinkedIn saying I now had publishing privileges for the LinkedIn Newsletter. I published my first LinkedIn Newsletter a couple weeks later. The tacit agreement you have with LinkedIn is that you publish on a regular basis and in return, LinkedIn will notify your subscribers when you publish. So I have had this thing for a year now and here are my (very opinionated) observations so far. 

When you publish your first issue, LinkedIn sends a notice to all of your connections and followers telling them you have a newsletter and offering them an opt in. It seems LinkedIn only does this the one time

I mentioned above that you have a tacit agreement with LinkedIn on publishing frequency. I have never tested this part as one of my core practices in publishing regularly is paying attention to the “regularly” part. I don’t know what, if anything, would happen to someone who failed to publish regularly. 

As of this writing I have just over 21,000 subscribers, with another 200 or so signing up each week. That’s the awesome part. There are some not so good parts. The first is that LinkedIn doesn’t really give you any tools to parse your subscribers. I can scroll through the list and that’s it. 

LinkedIn says they send a notification to all my subscribers whenever I publish, either on their mobile, via email or through their notifications on LinkedIn. It’s configurable. While I have heard from a few people saying they have not received notifications, it seems they are the exception, not the rule. I have no clue whether there is any distribution of the newsletter outside of the subscribers.

For each newsletter, I can view the same statistics we would see for a post or article – the number of reactions, comments and reshares, along with the vague stats on top companies my readers came from, where they are located and their job titles. I wish LinkedIn would provide statistics that were more valuable. For example, I would love to be able to see the distribution of my subscribers by title, function, geography, and company size. I would love to be able to see how many of my readers are regular readers. 

The one stat that is different and it’s a big difference is the number of “views”. In the case of LinkedIn newsletters, these are all the people who opened it. I can see that my newsletter from last week has been opened over 5700 times. That’s an open rate of around 27%. I don’t know how other LinkedIn newsletter writers do with their open rates, but this 27% area seems to be how I usually do. It’s lower than my email newsletter’s open rate but my gut feel is that my LinkedIn Newsletter subscribers are a little more ephemeral in terms of their interest than my email subscribers. One of the indicators for this is the fact that I get thirty new subscribers every day, but only one or two bother looking at my profile. 

And as I was able to ascertain a couple weeks ago, a goodly number of my subscribers really are ephemeral. I was able to identify a whole whack of fake LinkedIn profiles, a handful of which had signed up for my newsletter. I will have more on that little adventure in a future newsletter. So maybe we should be taking those subscriber numbers with a large grain of salt. 

I am also thinking that that “opens” percentage is going to become more important as the “open”  statistic looks to become less usable on email newsletters this fall (for more info on this, just look up changes Apple is making to their email utility).

I have found that with the LinkedIn Newsletter that I don’t have to publish opuses (is the plural of opus “opii” ?). I have the same attitude towards the newsletter that I have always had towards other publishing on LinkedIn – less is more. If I can explain some aspect or idea about using LinkedIn in three hundred words then that’s how long the newsletter is going to be. I have never had complaints that my writing is too long (though maybe I will today, as this edition is just shy of eleven hudnred words).

As someone who writes and publishes on LinkedIn, I think the LinkedIn Newsletter is a very good feature that has some drawbacks. As someone who also publishes a weekly email newsletter, I wish there was more information and feedback on the people who choose to unsubscribe like how many and why. 

LinkedIn says they are rolling this out to everyone. It is invite-only right now. I know a dozen people (out of the hundreds I know pretty well on LinkedIn) who also have the Newsletter feature. It seems to have been offered to people who have a track record of publishing regularly which makes sense. Maybe LinkedIn thinks these people will write better newsletters and keep it going (which is kind of important for a newsletter). I don’t know this to be the case but I had heard something similar was done with LinkedIn Live when it came out – you had to apply and LinkedIn was looking for people who were used to doing this type of thing already. They seemingly wanted it to look good for the masses. 

But…LinkedIn says they want to support Creators. And this rollout is taking forever. My only guess would be that LinkedIn is concerned that the newsletter will make a mess of some other program that either exists now or is in the works. Maybe newsletters will somehow sidetrack users and make them less available for sponsored content in the feed.

As a LinkedIn user, this is the feature that would truly allow me to curate and create a feed of content from the people I truly want to follow and whose content I want to be aware of. Having that ability would make me want to invest more time on LinkedIn and also get me more involved. I don’t think I am the only person who feels this way. 

LinkedIn has added a pile of new features in the past year – big deals like Creator Mode and Service Pages, and their Clubhouse killer is in the works. So why is the newsletter rollout so slow?

LinkedIn Creator Mode: Is It Worthwhile?

Creator Mode: the path to more engagement?

 

I am not sold on Creator Mode. Not yet anyway. 

Let’s talk about Creator Mode.

I got an email a few weeks ago from LinkedIn inviting me to use Creator Mode on LinkedIn. I have known about Creator Mode for a while now. It is one of a series of new features (video, LinkedIn Live, LinkedIn newsletters, Service Pages and so on) that are in various stages of being rolled out. As a lot of these things are experiments, I am usually cautious about embracing them, but I have been writing and publishing on LinkedIn for five or six years now and anything promising value for writers is something I am interested in exploring. This email prompt encouraged me to give Creator Mode a more indepth look.

In a nutshell, Creator Mode makes and allows some changes to your LinkedIn profile.

The first is you can create up to five hashtags related to topics you write about to put on your profile.

This is interesting, but strikes me as superfluous. I already use three hashtags on all my content. And if someone sees my content, it’s not like they don’t know how to then go to my profile. I don’t really see the big “value add” in this one.

Next up, the Featured and Activity sections of your profile get moved to the top so they are more visible. This sounds good, but it is not as big a deal as LinkedIn makes it out to be. When I look at my profile, under my headline are:

  1. A short section with come ons from LinkedIn urging me to add “open to work”, or that I am hiring someone, or I should add a service page to my profile
  2. A section with suggestions on how to strengthen my profile
  3. My personal dashboard section
  4. And another section showing I have things like Salary Insights turned off
  5. My About section
  6. My Featured Content
  7. My Activity
  8. My first Experience section

So on face value, it looks like I have a lot of clutter and Creator Mode would move my good stuff to the top. But all of these first four sections are only visible to me, not to profile visitors. Visitors to my Profile just see my About section as the first thing. Adopting Creator Mode appears to be just the same thing as saying “we will move the truncated two line “About” section down below your activity.” Hmm, not as big a deal after all.

Well, what else is there to Creator Mode? The default changes so that your “Connect” button becomes a “Follow,” button, “to help you engage your community and build a following.”

I find this – and LinkedIn’s seeming fixation on following – to be really odd. I don’t seem to see any more content and activity from people I follow than I do from my connections. So why would I follow someone instead of connecting with them? If I am connected to someone I can send them messages and see who they are connected with (a vastly undervalued benefit of connecting).

Unless LinkedIn is going to make major changes to the algorithm to promote following, this idea just doesn’t make sense to me. And if they were making changes to the algo, you would think they would do that first, and then offer this change to take advantage of it.

Finally, your number of followers gets more prominently displayed. The number will appear up top under your headline. This is nice…if you already have a ton of followers. I am fortunate in that I have around ten thousand followers. So for me, this would be a nice feature, and gives me a bit of credibility. But if this had been there six years ago when I was just getting going in publishing content on LinkedIn, and my followers were in the hundreds? I am not so sure.

The bottom line is I am not sold. If LinkedIn can be shown to be boosting distribution of Creator Mode people’s content, that would be a different story. Or if they were showing Creator Mode people as people you may want to follow, same thing. But to mind, it’s just not enough, there’s something missing here.

I would be interested in your comments if you have tried Creator Mode. Are people in Creator Mode getting more distribution for their posts? Other benefits?

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. Does that make me a thought leader? I hope not. I hate that term, it’s just pompous. And don’t get me started on “guru.”

Want more like this? (the newsletter I mean, not the disclaimer, or the tangent on the disclaimer) I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two or three 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/

Should Salespeople Be Using A LinkedIn Premium Subscription?

(wrong navigator)

This is the inevitable question I get asked in my first conversation with any LinkedIn user – especially from salespeople. “Should I have a Premium Subscription?”. Usually the person does not really know what a Premium Subscription does, or the differences between the different subscriptions.

For salespeople, I suggest they avoid the Premium Business subscriptions. They are less expensive than Sales Navigator, but contain some odd features that are not really that beneficial to salespeople.

I do recommend Sales Navigator Pro for salespeople who have a lot of potential prospects and need the search filters to find them quickly and efficiently.

I also recommend Sales Navigator Pro to people who will use it as a research tool, in order to better figure out approach methods and messages for their prospects.

The InMail tool can also be invaluable, but as I have pointed out many times, a lot of LinkedIn users don’t actually use LinkedIn that regularly, so InMail is a double edged sword – it works great for some users, abysmally for others.

I am also a little more iffy on using Sales Navigator to track activity from people you designate as leads…that’s a little too reactive for my liking. You could be waiting a long time, and in my experience most Sales Managers are not known for their patience.

There are also limitations that come with Sales Navigator that will potentially get under your skin: LinkedIn profiles are displayed differently in Sales Navigator than in free LinkedIn, and the messaging utilities are not interleaved. You can have a message thread with a connection on free linkedIn and have another one with the same connection on Sales Navigator.

I like the idea that you can try Sales Navigator on a monthly basis. It costs more per month than buying a year up front, but I think trying it for a month or two to test drive it makes that higher monthly price worthwhile.

Using LinkedIn as the core tool in a solid introduction / referral strategy does not require a premium subscription. It will be harder to find the people you want to get introductions to, but even then, there are ways to short circuit that idea. If you have a decent sized network – say 1500 or more connections – it might be worth your while working the introduction route and going to Sales Navigator after you have exhausted that tactic.

LinkedIn does offer further Sales Navigator offerings – Team and Enterprise. They each have some interesting features, including CRM integration, but really they just offer more – more InMails and more saved leads you can follow. Of course, for Enterprise you need about the same budget as it would take to build the Starship Enterprise. Anytime – as with Sales Navigator Enterprise version – where under pricing it says “contact us for more information” you can bet the reason is not going to be “because we want to hear your screams of delight when you hear how inexpensive it’s going to be!”

My recommended rationale for salespeople getting a Premium LinkedIn subscription has not changed in the past couple years:

  • Only get it if you really know how to use and are getting the most you can from free LinkedIn now,
  • and if you find yourself repeatedly running up against the commercial search limit,
  • or you wind up with “flabby” search results with too many people in there, then yes, get Sales Navigator Pro.
  • But do so for two or three months first to make sure you were right and you really need those  extra features.

Bruce Johnston is a sales and marketing consultant who specializes in LinkedIn. He has a wealth of experience from his over 35 years in high tech sales and marketing, although he sometimes lapses into talking about himself in the third person.

And 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 (sixty months later, I am still on the monthly plan. It’s complicated).

And an offer:

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. Today’s newsletter is actually the summary from a four part series I published on Free LinkedIn vs Premium linkedIn. It’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page: https://practicalsmm.com/contact/

An Unusual But Valuable LinkedIn Search: Content

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 “posts”

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If you use an expression, put quotation marks around it. For example, 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. I think I got better 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.

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 three 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/

How I Increased My LinkedIn Message Response Rates

Anyone home? (photo courtesy Mark Johnston)

A simple idea that improved (as in quintupled) my response rates to messages on LinkedIn. It can for you too.

So you are sending outreach messages on LinkedIn and your response rate is abysmal. See if you do any of the following in order to improve your situation:

1. Improve your message writing skills

2. Change your call to action at the end

3. Work on improving your subject lines

4. Try sending your messages at different times of the day

5. And different days of the week

6. Throw money at the problem

May I suggest that before you do anything else you should check to make sure that the person you are trying to contact actually sees value in LinkedIn and uses it regularly.

Let’s say I find someone who nominally fits my customer demographic. I check their profile and here is what I see:

  • They have something like 122 connections.
  • And no activity.
  • No meat in their experience sections, just company, title and years worked there, in other words, the bare bones.
  • They have eight skills listed, each of which has been endorsed by three or four people.

I can see that this person places little value in LinkedIn as a work tool, and that they likely come around every couple months…or less often than that.

It doesn’t matter how good my message may be. If the other person is not there to see it, how can I hope for a response?

The last statistic I saw said that sixty percent of LinkedIn users show up less than once a month. So what percentage use LinkedIn at least once every two weeks? Twenty?

My point is that sending a message to someone who will next come around to LinkedIn around Thanksgiving is not a recipe for success. And my guess is that someone who doesn’t see any value in coming around to LinkedIn that often is not going to carefully go through all the messages and notifications that have piled up since the last time they were here. So my goal is to identify that unresponsive crowd and avoid sending them messages on LinkedIn. For those people I will try introductions or referrals (via email), or Twitter, or cold calls for that matter.

One of the advantages of LinkedIn is you can get a fair idea of who the regular users are – you can see lots of connections or followers, you can see if they are active, and you can see if they have a completed profile with things like lots of recommendations and endorsements. When I send a message to someone who fits in this category I can feel confident that they will see my message, and because they are a regular LinkedIn user who sees value in LinkedIn, at least give me a fair hearing.

Not hard to do. Doesn’t cost a pile of money. And can increase the number of responses you get by two to five times.

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 I am very thankful, especially as this feature’s rollout speed could, at its kindest, be called “stately.”

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/

Well, What Is In It For Them, Anyway?

As I am always going on about, “it’s not about you, it’s about them” in your interactions with others on LinkedIn – especially in connecting and outreach – it was only a matter of time before I got asked this.

I had someone ask me this the other week. They were sending connection requests to prospective customers and they were having a tough time coming up with a good reason for the person to connect with them.

To their credit, they were honest with me in describing the situation. “I want business from them, so this is kind of a one way street. What can I offer them?”

This is what happens when we have the blinders on. We see something we want – in this case a connection to a hot prospect – and all we can see is what that will do for us. It blinds us to the other person’s perspective and their problems, wants and needs.

There are three things you can offer the person you are connecting with.

1) Your knowledge. Everyone seems to forget this. You spend every hour of every day helping people like your prospect solve the problem they have. This is what you do. While it may be a new and novel situation for them, it’s something you see all the time. They are the person looking online for the recipe for a dinner dish, while you’re a chef who cooks twenty of those every night.

2) Your experience with their industry. This is different from your knowledge in that you are putting the knowledge into practice in different situations. This is important because your past experience solving problems like the ones they have will reassure them that you are someone worthwhile they should know.

3) Lastly, you have something that is uniquely LinkedIn: your network of connections. And this applies to most anyone you meet on LinkedIn. If you have any size network at all you have the ability to introduce or refer this new person to someone they want to know. Need help with CRM? I have connections who work for CRM companies, I have connections who are independent CRM consultants, and ones that are CRM power users. People in similar positions to themselves? No problem. Suppliers? Got you covered.

Access to your network is actually a pretty powerful thing to be able to offer.

Your job in making your request to connect or in sending an outreach message for that matter, is to show the recipient that the potential benefits of responding are compelling.

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/

The 8 Components Of An Effective LinkedIn Outreach Message

I have been using InMail as an outreach method on LinkedIn for years. I am good at it – I usually get a response rate ranging from sixty to sixty-five percent, depending on what I am trying to accomplish with a given program. 

Most people are not good at InMail: they take a couple swipes at it, get lousy – or no – responses, and give up. 

This week, I thought I would cover the eight basics I use for any InMail. These eight ideas are also transferable and usable in your emails. This is not an in depth InMail how-to. When I teach how to put InMails together to a client or a company, it usually takes three Zoom sessions, with lots of practice in between. Some people are put off by that idea, but I make no apologies. A sixty percent response rate takes work. 

If there is one overriding principle behind my InMail teachings it is that you write a specific personalized message for each specific individual you are sending a message. When you send a generic message to twenty individuals you will get a generic response rate, that is, a low one. When you send twenty individualized messages to twenty individuals you will get a very good response rate. Most people are used to getting crappy messages, so that when we send a good one it really stands out.  

Component #1: Send your message to people who will see it

Sounds silly doesn’t it? But this is the biggest single problem I see with using LinkedIn for outreach. As maybe 80% of LinkedIn users use LinkedIn less than once every couple weeks, 80% of your messages are going to people who either won’t see them, or yours is just one more message that has piled up since the last time they used LinkedIn.

If you have a 3% response rate now, paying attention to this idea alone can quintuple your response rate. 

Component #2: A great subject or title line

The role of the subject line is to make your recipient want to read the message. That’s it. 

Component #3: A hyper personalized message

What personalization is not: “Hi <insert first name>, I see you are the <their job title> at <their company.>  Hyper personalization means writing something that shows you have done their research; it means mentioning something that is completely idiosyncratic to them. This involves research, but it is worth it because you want to show the recipient that this message has been written specifically for him or her.

Component #4: Establish your credibility

There are several ways you can do this. The best way to do this is to allude to the specific, tangible results you got for someone or some company that the recipient knows. 

Component #5: Provide the reason you are reaching out to them

Many salespeople are taught that they should hide the “real” reason they are contacting someone. If you do a good job with these InMail components, the recipient will understand why you are reaching out to them and they will be willing to respond. 

Component #6: Focus on their potential results

Always, always, always talk in terms of their results. And there are effective ways of doing this that they will accept and be interested in. There are effective ways of doing this and setting them up so that the only question they have is, “How do they do that?” 

Component #7: Have a call to action that is realistic

Too many people over reach. They ask for a sales call or to set up a demo or a trial in the first message. That’s ridiculous. 

Component #8: Make it short. 

You should aim for 100 words. 80 would be ideal. That’s the real art in an outreach message, whether it is via InMail or Email. Can you accomplish everything I have listed above in eighty or a hundred words? Yes, it absolutely can be done.

If you went back over the last few outreach messages you sent, how many of these eight would be present?

 

 

Who Shows Up In Your LinkedIn Homepage Feed?

A lot of people complain because they don’t see their Connections’ activity on LinkedIn. What they don’t realize is that there is no way they could realisitically see it all even if LinkedIn did present it to them…and LinkedIn may actually be doing so.

Allow me a small diversion in order to illustrate this.

I have just over 5,000 connections. In the past thirty days over 2,000 of them posted on LinkedIn (I have a Sales Navigator account where I can run a specific search and find this number), an average of sixty every day. So in order to see all my connections activity there are sixty posts a day from those people that LinkedIn needs to somehow stuff into my feed so that I have the chance to see them.

  • That’s if those posts are spread out evenly over the 30 days in a month so there are only sixty or so a day,
  • and that’s if I log into LinkedIn every day and posts aren’t piling up while I am gone resulting in a backlog of posts LinkedIn needs to show me from the days I was off LinkedIn,
  • and those 2,000 people only posted once each.

And even if all of those unlikely conditions can be met, those sixty posts have to be shoehorned in and around all the other stuff in my feed – group posts, paid ads, new comments on posts I commented on, the always bizarre “maybe Bruce didn’t see this post the first time so let’s keep showing it at the top of his feed till he does something with it” posts and so on.

Now it is completely possible that in fact LinkedIn is placing those sixty or more posts in my feed every day. After all, LinkedIn does say that when you post that it is put in your connections’ feeds (I looked it up in the LinkedIn Help section, that statement is there). But with those sixty posts interleaved with all that other content I mentioned above, I am going to have to do a lot of scrolling to see them. Or let me put it another way: when you logged in to LinkedIn today, how far down did you scroll in your Homepage feed?

So LinkedIn is left with a conundrum: if we can’t show Bruce everything, how do we figure which of it is the most relevant stuff to show him?

Enter the Connection Strength Score. Another of LinkedIn’s many algorithms, this one tries to figure out whose content would be most relevant to you by calculating which of your connections you are closest to. It does this by looking at which of your LinkedIn connections you have interacted with lately, and how often you have done so. We don’t know if it weighs different types of interactions in different ways, but that seems likely. So if you have a connection you have not interacted with in months, and another you have been trading comments with on a post over the past few days, and both of those connections publish a post this afternoon, which one do you think LinkedIn will favor to put prominenly in your feed? Correct, the recent publisher, the person who currently has a higher connection strength score.

And “currently” is the operative word there, as one thing I have figured out is that the CSS is transient. If you and I interact a lot over a three month period and then we each take two weeks off LinkedIn, our CSS seems to reset back to zero. There appears to be a heavy reliance on recency in the CSS. And that’s smart, because who is more likely to read, comment, share or otherwise engage with your next post, someone you have been trading comments with in the past few days, or someone you haven’t engaged with in months?

This explains why when you comment on my post and we trade messages back and forth on LinkedIn, all of a sudden my posts are all over your feed.

This brings me to Following on LinkedIn. If I follow someone, the reason I usually do so is in order to see more of their content. But how does LinkedIn put that content in front of me given the absolute packed feed I already have from my connections, promoted posts and other sources? This may indirectly explain why Following doesn’t seem to “work” that well on LinkedIn. And it may explain the role of LinkedIn Newsletters. As Newsletters are nominally “guaranteed” to be delivered via notifications to subscribers, this may be the feature that LinkedIn is ultimately counting on to solve the Homepage Feed issue.

And one final note: if you do want to follow specific people – and companies for that matter – you can do so if you have Sales Navigator by designating them as “leads”. Your Sales Navigator feed consists only of the people and companies you want there in that feed.

What are your thoughts on this? Is LinkedIn getting it right? Getting better or worse?

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. LinkedIn gave me early access to this Newsletter feature. I have no idea why, but thanks for reading.

Want more like this? I publish an 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/