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/

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/