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LinkedIn Networking Run Amuck!

by David Brock on August 30th, 2014

I wish I was making this stuff up, unfortunately, the incredibly bad practices of too many on LinkedIn are far more intriguing than anything I could make up.

This morning, I get two LinkedIn messages from the same individual.  The first was a InMail–it had something to do with effective use of LinkedIn InMails, and email marketing, but he wanted to talk to me about a product he is selling to do this stuff.  The second was an invitation to connect — and you guessed it, it was the standard LinkedIn invitation, “I’d like to connect…..”

You can already begin to see where this is going and all the stuff that is just fundamentally flawed and wrong with this guy’s approach.

In fact, I tried to find anything right, failing miserably!

First, an InMail from a stranger, talking about the effective use of InMails and trying to arrange a meeting to pitch his products that enabled us to exploit InMails and LinkedIn information for other email marketing programs.  Hmmm, I suppose this guy and his company think they are something of experts in doing this.  I suppose his approach is representative of what they would call best practice.  Funny, it’s as far from best practice as anything I can imagine.

In his InMail about leveraging the power of InMail and LinkedIn, naturally using his company’s product, he neglected to give one powerful capability in InMail—“Report As Spam.”  I shouldn’t have to know that capability, but it’s one I know very well, and use on at least 90% of my InMails.  Unfortunately, too many use InMail as just another path to spam people about things they have expressed no interest in.  Makes me wonder, perhaps LinkedIn should introduce an “Opt-In” capability/requirement for InMail.

Then, this expert in email marketing and LinkedIn, after first trying to build a relationship by selling me something, invites me to connect with him–again using the standard LinkedIn note.  Well, you can guess what I did, I ignored this request.  He has already started blindly pitching and selling me before we have a “relationship,” imagine what it would be like, once I accepted it.

But the point is less his horrible practice–it’s actually no different from many of the InMails and invitation pitches, I mean requests, I get everyday.

My astonishment is he and his company purport to be experts at List Building, Email Marketing, InMail/LinkedIn Marketing.

I would suppose an expert would demonstrate their expertise by practicing what they are preaching.  So maybe the believe these are acceptable and best practices.  Maybe this is what the promote–providing tools to facilitate others to do the same as they have done in these two communications.

Clearly, this is a sham.  Clearly, this person and his company are to be avoided at all costs–at least if you want to have prospects respect and pay attention to you.

If it was just this one “expert” demonstrating the worst practice in his area of expertise, it’s not terribly noteworthy.  The great sadness, is this has become common place.  My mailboxes get filled with trash–email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google +, from so called experts in Social Engagement.  Each selling me the latest greatest gimmick to spam total strangers, all in the name of building relationships, building business, and selling.

It’s so sad that we have come so far in the possibilities of engaging customers and prospects in truly impactful ways, only to see these channels clogged with garbage.  I suppose we will never learn.

(By the way, I won’t mention the name of his company here, not because they don’t deserve mentioning, so you can avoid doing business with them–but just to avoid the inevitable harassment that follows and the time it will waste.  But if you want to know a company to avoid doing business with, so you can also share with your friends, email me.  I’m glad to share it with you offline.)

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17 Comments
  1. Thanks for the article Dave. I agree – InMails have become a new manner of cold calling. I prefer to use them as a connection and relationship development tool myself.

    • Thanks Ted. Unfortunately, InMail’s have been so abused, I seldom even pay attention. Yours. sent separately, is the first non-pitch related InMail I’ve gotten for as long as I can remember.

  2. Dave this is just an extension of a few of your more recent comments that I felt strongly enough about to comment on. Social media selling proponents are deceiving themselves and others as to what professional selling really is. They are peddling short cuts and miracles and unfortunately people are believing them. It’s taking us back to the 80’s when the matra was make enough sales calls and your will find enough people to buy. The only difference is instead of driving from customer to customer we ‘invite’ them to be connected. It’s just cheap and unprofessional

    • Mark, first it’s great to hear from you/downunder 😉 You make a great point, through the history of sales and marketing, we’ve found great sales and marketing tools subverted by those who seek to manipulate and deceive, and abused by the clueless, lazy, or inept. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that LinkedIn is being abused and misused. In 5 years, we will still be writing about the same issue, only with a new tool.

  3. David, you and I are on the same page. I wrote about this several months ago. What is so frustrating is this type of LinkedIn abuse is being perpetuated by so called experts. Again, a message worth repeating and repeating.

    Thanks for sharing, Leanne Hoagland-Smith

    • Leanne, I’ve seen and support your posts on the same issues. As I mentioned in my response to Mark’s comment, in some ways we shouldn’t be surprised. Throughout the history of sales and marketing, we’ve seen great tools abused and misused by those who seek to manipulate, or by those who are simply clueless, lazy or inept. This is, unfortunately, no different.

  4. Couldn’t agree more. The difference between this kind of “marketing” and spam is infinitessimal. Both are driven by the zero-marginal-cost principle, and both drive relentlessly down the mechanized-impersonal-zero content path.
    We need to shun this kind of mindless drivel.

  5. Great read… Social selling starts with the basics: paying attention, doing your researching and personalizing communications. Most people are not. 99% of the invitations we get on LinkedIn are still generic….

    • Thanks Yuhannes, despite the 100’s of articles and posts about best practice, unfortunately the dominant practice ignores best practice.

  6. I’ve got to agree with you, Dave. With the exception of truly top-notch marketers, the bulk of members misuse LinkedIn in myriad ways. Even LinkedIn misuses their own platform…on the one hand, admonishing us to avoid connecting with people we don’t know, then all day long sticking ‘people you may know’ in our faces…and I never do:)

    As a professional LinkedIn educator (never teaching these swarmy practices and catching endless flak because of it), it is disturbing to see InMails, the Publishing Platform and other in-system tools used incorrectly. As a regular volunteer in The Help Center, it is easy to see how confused members are about the tech aspects of LinkedIn as well as the etiquette. OK, I’ll say it…some people just don’t get it. More, however, want the magic bullet, and really hate being told it doesn’t exist.

    LinkedIn is a relationship building tool. Try to make it your personal shortcut sales tool and you will fail.

    Hey Dave, I believe I know of whom you speak…initials MS perhaps?

    • Thanks for your great comment Victoria. I do question LinkedIn and it’s practices. My favorite topic on that–which goes counter to what they talk about in networking is LI’s recommended endorsements of individuals. The whole implementation is horrible.

      It shouldn’t be surprising the person I’m speaking of is not MS—too many people are making horrible mistakes and abusing LI. I suppose if we are dealing with initials we would find abuse from AA-ZZ 😉

  7. Heidi Carlson permalink

    David, you make some great points of what NOT to do when connecting with another LI member. However, I think you would get more traction from your blog if you talk about what one SHOULD do to get the attention of another LI member that is out of their network. Maybe you could provide an example of an INmail message that you received that WAS effective!

    • Heidi: Your question intrigued me. I went through 2 months of InMails and Messages in both my Archives and Trash. Here are some of the titles: “Business Proposal,” “David, Using InMail For Communicating” (That provoked this article), “Pre-Qualified Sales and Appointments” (I get lots of those), “Marketing Lead Data Base,” “Clients Sales and Appointments For Your Company,” “Multi-Channel Lead Generation,” “Your Company Might Need This,” “Hello,” “New Sales Opportunities,” “Tune Up Your LinkedIn Profile,” “Are You Looking For A Business Or Personal Loan,” and it goes on and on.

      In the past 2 months, I’ve gotten 100’s of InMails. Only 1 of them was OK (less than 1%), it was someone commenting on this article. The rest of them were all pitches for something.

      I get hundreds of comments, either in discussion groups, or private comments as a result of a discussion or update. Most of them are very good, but they are a reaction or question relevant to the discussion or update. A small number of thinly disguised promotions are there.

      I suspect, people who are participating in discussions and updates are genuinely interested in learning and engaging in conversations. I also suspect that people whose sole purpose of using LinkedIn as another channel for Spam, use the easiest vehicles to Spam–InMails, Connection Requests that aren’t connection requests, Connection Requests that are immediately followed by sales pitches (resulting in a disconnect).

      I looked at my own use of InMail. In the past nine months, I have used 2 InMails (That I could find). Both were private responses/comments to issues I saw in some discussion group or update.

      So I wish I could find something effective. Unfortunately, I can’t.

  8. Dave,
    I couldn’t agree more. As you mentioned, there are much more impactful AND meaningful ways for sales people to engage with their potential clients. I recognize the pressure sales is under these days- pressure to build lists, produce numbers, leverage social media for sales. However, what they fail to see is they are undermining their own efforts. Cold calls stopped working because people were tired of the interruptions and the lack of relationship. While InMail avoids the inevitable hanging up, it’s worse than a cold call because most people don’t even bother picking up.

    Quality prospecting and sales is fundamentally based on engagement and relationship. If someone is unwilling to invest the time and effort needed to make that happen, I am unwilling to invest my time and effort to even listen- and that is a missed opportunity for both of us!
    Ken Schmitt
    Founder/President
    TurningPoint Executive Search

    • Ken, great perspective and comments. I think too often, people think of it as a “free” way of guaranteeing people get the message, and in their desperation to generate business just do very foolish things. It’s really insane behavior.

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