I have bought LinkedIn automation tools, I have used LinkedIn automation tools, and I used to recommend certain LinkedIn automation tools to my clients!
But I don't do that anymore.
Is LinkedIn automation illegal? No, it's not illegal. But using automation on LinkedIn puts you at risk of a banned account and damaged professional reputation. You should consider these risks when considering any type of automation on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn Red Flag Behaviors - What Not to Do
What is it that LinkedIn doesn’t like? What specific behavior gets you in trouble? Any behavior that automates LinkedIn profile views, that automates LinkedIn connection requests, or that automates messaging sequences to people. This stuff is certainly on LinkedIn's radar.
LinkedIn is actually quite clear about this in their Terms of Service. You can read this for yourself, obviously, but specifically here,
"Any bought or automated method to access the services, add or download contacts, send or redirect messages."
This is because what people would do is use applications or plugins that would grab tens of thousands of records from LinkedIn and blast out messages to them. To be clear, I bought, used, and recommended these tools for the same reasons you do. I was trying to automate, to get speed with a certain repetitive task, and if software would just do it for me, then I would just let the software do it. But I didn't realize the gray area I was stepping in, so I'm sharing that gray area with you today.
LinkedIn represents a great deal of opportunity. Of course, people are going to try to find a way to get fast access to that opportunity. Eventually there will be abuse, and it messes things up for everybody. So, that's where we are now.
LinkedIn had to push back on all these software applications that were trying to manipulate its data, and manipulate the way it was intended to be used. So, innocently you might get this in your account. "Hey, we think that you might be automating your usage on the platform. We don't permit the use of so many tools, etc.”
Then LinkedIn had to become even more aggressive. They actually began to sue people, like the software developers that were creating these tools. There are now a number of banned tools and prohibited plugins that can get you and your account in trouble. It's a gray area, it can cause more headache than it's worth.
Automating LinkedIn Creates a Problem for Them and For You
But why? Why is there so much tension in the conversation? What's the underlying logic here?
LinkedIn was designed to be a human to human conversation-based platform. And so, that's its core value proposition. That's why you use the platform. You have a profile. You log into LinkedIn because you assume the person on the other side is a human. But if the person on the other side is a robot, a machine, or an automated tool, it breaks your core value proposition, and you won't use LinkedIn. They lose your patronage, and your time has been wasted. Do you want constantly spammed messages? Do you want constantly automated messages?
I'm sure you have received a number of automated messages in your account already. For example, here's one for me.
"Hi Alzay. We work with hundreds of business coaches and consultants across the U.S. and provide financing options for their clients. I'd love to connect with you."
Simply put, this is not a request for connection. We don't have anything in common. He has a service he wants to offer me, and this connection is an invitation for him to sell me more on his services. There's no level of personalization or specificity that would make me feel comfortable in talking to this person. How do I know he's prepared to talk to me? Nothing keeps him from sending messages out by the thousands. He can copy and paste this into a software platform, press go, and then just blast them on out.
Sure, this send-it-and-forget-it automated system is great for him. But for me, I don't have any real reason to connect here, I don't feel compelled to take the next step. In fact, it's too easy for me to ignore this message. I have 177 more of these messages that have not been responded to. I'm not compelled to.
LinkedIn doesn't want us ignoring connection requests. LinkedIn wants us accepting connection requests. I'd argue that you don't want to ignore connection requests. You want to accept connection requests from people you actually want to be connected to, whether you end up being a partner of theirs, or a client of theirs, or a service vendor of theirs. You want to connect with people who are maximally relevant to you.
A Solution that Works for Everyone
Let me offer you another way of thinking, a better strategy that I think is more fair for both parties.
The classic point of automation is to get the largest number of leads possible, right? Give me a big old list of leads! And then I'm just going to blast out some messaging. And I will respond to whoever responds, right? But, you end up getting this random response. You get bad leads because it's so random. There are so many people who are in this big bucket, they could be poor fit or great fit, and you don't know until they respond.
What we fail to consider about this process are two things:
- Only a small number of leads are profitable. There are only a small substantive number of people in here who are actually going to be the best fit customers.
- Automation turns them off. When people get an automated message, they're actually turned off. It's harder to have the kind of relationship you want because you've already started off as a robot.
Here is what I recommend. Instead of going with a million names, just cut out the extra, and focus on the 100 names that are the most valuable. What I'm saying is pre-select, predefine, predetermine who you want to speak to. You know who the highest value prospects are, so just focus on talking to those people. Now the steps lay out this way:
- If we are only managing 100 people, we can afford to be more personalized. We can afford to focus on these people because we don't have 40,000 records to maintain. These 100 people represent high value. Talking to them is a 2X, 5X, 10X kind of deal. We know that, because we know that they really buy the things that we sell. They want to buy our premium option. We know that there's a high value of ROI for us.
- Handle prospects a few at a time. We're not trying to talk to all 100 people at one time. We couldn't handle that anyway. What if we just reached out to five people per day? Five people to whom we send a very specific message, that they would enjoy receiving, and may be interested in taking the appropriate next step.
- Send a specific message, from a real human to a real human. What are you sending in your specific message? Here's who I am. Here's what I do. And here's something that would help you right now. Here’s a piece of content, or introduction, or some insight that will be valuable to you immediately. Let that be how you begin your relationship.
Don't Risk Losing Your LinkedIn Privileges
So in summary, LinkedIn automation lives in a gray area. There will always be some new tool you can use, but that tool puts you and your account at risk. There's a real risk of being banned, and actually no longer having access to LinkedIn. And does that work in your favor? You may not even get an explanation. LinkedIn has the authority to just disable your account because it thinks you're doing something wrong. So you may not get a chance to go back and forth and get your account reactivated.
It is simpler and safer if you just focus on those 100 people that are the highest value opportunities anyway. This allows you to be more personable. It allows you to connect authentically. It shrinks the number of things for you to manage. You can automate your thinking around these 100 people. You can put a process to it. You can give it a level of rhythm. So you can still get the efficiency you want, without the risk of a send-it-and-forget-it blind automation tool.
Best of luck!