A Highly Automated LinkedIn Cautionary Tale


 

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

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

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

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

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

Except…

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

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

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

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

I never did finish watching the demo.

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

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

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

The obligatory disclaimer:

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

 

Four Advantages Of Using LinkedIn Inmail Over Email For Cold Outreach

I was going to write about three advantages, but I thought of a fourth as I was editing this post. It’s at the end.

The closed system

The first advantage is that InMail takes place within the confines of LinkedIn’s closed system. This makes it safer for users to open, and less likely to contain malware and viruses and other nasty stuff. LinkedIn users can be more confident opening an InMail message from another LinkedIn user.

The possible hooks

One of the great aspects of LinkedIn and Sales Navigator is that the same place you can send those InMails from is the place where you can do the research that can give you ammunition to use in those InMails.
When I am going to send someone an InMail, I am doing research in three places: that person’s LinkedIn profile, the profiles of his or her obvious company peers (that I have found using Search in Sales Nav), and their LinkedIn company page. In all of these areas I am looking for hooks, information I can use that will help me get a response. For example, I have commented on how someone took what appears to be a hard turn in their career fifteen years ago (“I see you went from IT into sales. I would love to hear the story behind that career move.”) Or I will see something on their company page such as their headcount is way up in the past year (or way down!). Either of those two extremes can give me instant ways of couching my message, appealing to their growth or their need to cut costs.
These things don’t always jump out at you, but there is usually something there you can use.

The Tacit Approval

What almost no one knows is that you can opt out of receiving any InMail messages. In sending thousands of InMails I have never run across one of them. People seem to accept that part of the price of using LinkedIn is that non-connections may send them messages. They don’t have to open them, but they will show up in their inbox.

The user who is more likely to respond

This is my secret InMail weapon. I have found that LinkedIn users who use LinkedIn a lot are more likely to “get” LinkedIn, and are more likely to be open to receiving a message from a stranger. This makes sense. So I wondered how I could identify those people and it turned out to be pretty easy. I just look for people with lots of connections  – which I can see on their profile – and even more so, I look for people that are active on LinkedIn – which I can also see through their profile.
If I find someone with two thousand connections who shows up on LinkedIn once or twice a week and comments on posts or shares other people’s posts, I like the odds that if I send him or her a message that they will read it –  and of course it will have the hooks we just talked about in it. But if I send a message to a LinkedIn user who has two hundred connections and doesn’t look like they have been on LinkedIn for months, well that person doesn’t “get” LinkedIn and my odds of them ever even seeing my message let alone responding to it are awful.
And the bottom line?
My experience is that when I send outreach emails and outreach InMails with the same message, the ones I can send to active people get a 14% higher response rate. And that makes the effort worthwhile.

One Disadvantage About Using LinkedIn InMail For Cold Outreach

No sunscreen? Yes, that’s a disadvantage.
The disadvantage is your perception of what InMail is.
Here is the awful misconception many LinkedIn users have when they start using InMail: a method for sending messages to prospects on LinkedIn that pretty well guarantees a response.
They start using InMail thinking it is some magical method that somehow – because it is InMail – will cause otherwise rational business executives to respond to a message like some kind of Walking Dead Zombie.
So thinking that a response is pretty well guaranteed, the sales type sends generic “aren’t we wonderful, let’s do a phone call” cookie cutter stuff with just the name changed at the top.
And they get no responses. And they blame LinkedIn and InMail and just about everything except the real culprit: themselves.
Simply put, here is what InMail is: a method for Premium LinkedIn users to send messages to people they are not connected with on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is like email: your message needs to be really really good for you to stand out from the crowd and earn a response.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you are willing to put the time in to do it well, InMail can be very very rewarding. How good? My response rate runs in the 60-65% range. That’s the culmination of sending several thousand InMails over the past five years and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.
I am going to talk a lot about InMail over the next few months, and give you ideas and best practices that you can put into use.
And one other thing: LinkedIn has three big advantages over email. I will talk about those next week.