(HINT: Don't Automate!)
Have you noticed an increasing number of LinkedIn connection invitations from the people who are selling to you while asking you to connect for the very first time?
It’s been happening to me quite a lot lately and many of my clients and LinkedIn peers have reported the same annoying behavior.
If you’re reading this article, you are likely not one of these individuals who are trying to come off as ‘helpful’ while in reality, coming across as rude and presumptuous. And, to make it worse, these people may be doing this using questionable automation methods via a third-party app, which violates LinkedIn’s Terms of Service.
Here’s an invitation request I received last week:
There are oh-so-many things wrong with this!
First, he’s pitching me a LinkedIn service. If he’d taken the time to actually read my profile, he’d see that I’m a LinkedIn coach, trainer, profile writer, etc. He’d know that I’m definitely NOT his ideal client. He’d also see that I don’t label myself as a “business coach.”
Second, this is his first-ever outreach to me via an invitation request AND it’s a sales pitch!
I equate his methodology to someone showing up at my door – without even knocking – and barging in to sell me something. If that happened in real life, I’d send him packing and give him an ear-full about bad manners and bad business tactics.
Third, and what is most often the case in these scenarios, he likely ‘found’ me through an automated third-party app. These apps are designed to scrape one’s data specifically from their LinkedIn profile and then send an automated message to connect. (The messages are “disguised” to seem personal.)
Some of these apps include (and if you use them, you do so at your own risk of getting your LinkedIn profile shut down…permanently) DuxSoup, Meet Leonard, LinkedHelper and many others.
These apps are designed to work as a browser extension and help you automate a bulk message to send to hundreds of people inviting them to connect with you on LinkedIn. Many of these app developers will claim it’s okay to use them without any risk to you. Indeed, they’re correct in that it’s not illegal to use these data scraping tools but they DO blatantly go against LinkedIn’s User Agreement.
Reading the well-researched article (link above) by a fellow LinkedIn expert, Greg Cooper, about these apps violating LinkedIn’s terms of service will help you understand how important it is to be aware of this data scraping and automation feature. I encourage you to read it and won’t delve into it here any further.
What I DO want to emphasize is why this strategy is not a good business approach. Heck, it’s simply not even a commonsense approach to building a strong, solid network of professionals, colleagues, and potential prospects on LinkedIn.
Remember, LinkedIn is a professional, online networking platform and is intended to be treated as such.
As marketing expert and author, Bob Burg, says, you must build relationships – whether online or off – based on the know, like, and trust factor: “People want to do business with – and refer business to – people they know, like, and trust.”
There is no better online platform in which to do that than on LinkedIn. Make sure your profile checks off each one of those aspects.
People want to know more about you as a person, as a human, and go beyond just what you do professionally. Before they make a decision to reach out to you via LinkedIn, an email, or phone call, they WILL conduct online research about you so they can learn more about you.
They want to like you; they want to be able to relate to you. And if you’re using your profile presence as a resource to provide compelling content about your industry niche or super-specific skillsets, then all the better. This is a place to showcase your expertise in an authentic, helpful way vs. being sales-y.
I don’t know about you, but I hate being sold to – especially the first time I meet someone.
The best practice I’ve found to invite people to connect with me on LinkedIn is to make it relevant to something we have in common.
You get the idea.
Every single connection request you send should be short, sweet, relevant, and personal.
But “that takes so much time you say?” Well, it’s part of doing business in today’s online world. It’s part of using your LinkedIn network effectively. Savvy users actually won’t even accept invites from people if they don’t bother to write a personal note up front.
Many users don’t realize that when LinkedIn serves up “People You May Know” to connect with from your profile, that if you hit the “Connect” button under a person’s photo (see sample screenshot, below), it automatically sends the (dreaded) default LinkedIn invitation message: “I’d like to join your network on LinkedIn.”
While the suggestion to connect with that person may be a good idea, before you click that "Connect" button, be sure to first click on either their profile picture or name, which will take you to that individual's actual profile page. It is from here you should then click on the blue “Connect” button (see screenshot, below), which will open a box where you have the option to send a personal note inviting that individual to connect. Take 30 seconds to do that…and make it a habit with all your connection invitations going forward.
Bottom line is that it’s also an opportunity to create a conversation and that’s what networking is all about, after all. I also make an effort to reply to an invitation personally to create that same opportunity for conversation. My typical reply to an invite is: “Thank you so much for inviting me to connect. If I can ever answer a question or two on how best to use LinkedIn, please let me know.”
The bottom line is to keep the “human” piece in all your LinkedIn engagement.
It may take a little extra time but that investment in time and consistency will pay off with a stronger network. Also, remember that less is – indeed – more. Unlike the rest of social media channels, it’s not all about the numbers, it’s always about the people.
I’d like to conclude with a simple but powerful quote from the book “Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins” by one of my favorite marketing minds, Mark Schaefer: “Earn the invitation.”
Let me know if I can answer any questions about LinkedIn invitations to help you build your network.
Navigating today’s world isn’t at all cut and dry, but there is still an audience that needs what you offer and there is still a meaningful way to share your message. If you’re ready to leverage LinkedIn, reach out. I’d be happy to discuss ways I can help.