Using a 3rd party application to automate mundane LinkedIn activities has been around nearly forever. Who doesn’t use something like Buffer or Hootsuite to line up a week or so worth of posts in advance?
But over the past few years, we’ve seen the appearance of a different kind of automation app. Lately it’s become an explosion.
These apps log into your LinkedIn account and send bots out to do stuff. They may visit other profiles in the hope that some portion of the owners of those profiles will see that “you” visited and in return will ask you to connect.
Some send connection invitations from you to members who meet the search criteria you provide. Some send messages and InMails on your behalf. Some even allow you to fake a conversation via a set of preprogrammed messages.
At first glance, this may not seem as awful as it actually is. And if you’re not trying to build real relationships or a strategic network, they could actually work – if it weren’t for a few inconvenient facts.
4 big problems with 3rd party apps
1. Damage to your personal brand can be huge – and fast.
Simply put, you can easily be labeled a spammer because, well, much of what you are sending is spam. This is due to inaccurate lists and generic messages.
3rd party apps rely on a standard search to produce a list of prospects to send invitations and messages to. These searches are far from perfect. In fact, right now, we are finding Linkedin Sales Navigator searches to be about 30% inaccurate. Right away, nearly one-third of your messages are going to the wrong people.
And it gets worse.
Because you’re reaching out to a large, loosely defined group of people, your messages are generic, and your prospects can see through it. They know that dropping in a name and company is easy to do through automation. Their email inboxes are crammed full of it.
Your prospects recognize this approach as insincere; and insincerity compromises trust.
2. You’ll be less efficient
Automation apps claim to be all about efficiency, but in reality they make you less efficient. Sure, apps take over some of the more mundane tasks but theirs is essentially a “spray and pray” approach. Send enough connection invites or InMails and someone will bite.
Aside from the brand implications mentioned above, lack of careful screening means a high percentage of those who agree to talk with you are not your dream prospects and/or have accepted the invitation for very different reasons. You’ll often find they want to sell you something, they’re looking for a job, or they agreed because they want you to go away.
You will waste a lot of time scheduling calls and talking to people who will never be good customers or clients.
3. Your LinkedIn account can be shut down
Using any of these 3rd party applications puts you in violation of the LinkedIn User agreement – whether you know you’re doing it or not. (Done-for-you services often use 3rd party apps without your knowledge.)
LinkedIn is actively fighting use of these apps and includes new app-blocking features inside its design updates. It now has the ability to monitor site visitors for these apps. If you’re a little bit technical and curious about what LinkedIn is monitoring for when you visit it, check out Nefarious LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is serious about protecting the privacy of its members and integrity of its network. It can and does shut down accounts for using 3rd party apps. Sometimes it gives you a warning. Sometimes it doesn’t. And reinstating your account is not easy.
4. You may be opening the door to cyber risk
Independent coach and trainer Greg Cooper, in a LinkedIn article earlier this year, pointed out that ownership of these apps is often hidden and difficult to determine. If you dig deeply enough on its website, you‘ll find that Linked Helper, one of the most frequently downloaded 3rd party apps, is headquartered in Moscow. As Greg writes, “in these times of increased international tension when Russia has shown itself a master of cyber-subterfuge, I can’t help wondering if an unofficial LinkedIn app could open the door to potential misuse by a malevolent third party”.
Greg also points out that many of these apps function as Google Chrome extensions and are screened by an automated process that has allowed a few malicious apps to pass through to the Chrome store. Even if the intent of the app is not hostile, “A poorly written or designed extension could introduce security vulnerabilities. If an extension is hacked then every single user of that extension is affected”.
Remember too, you are essentially giving control of your LinkedIn account to a bot controlled by someone you don’t know.
Do this instead
3rd party automation apps, and the accompanying “spray and pray” approach to sales and marketing, can easily have you chasing quantity over quality. When the focus is on sending hundreds – or even thousands – of connection invitations and messages, the result is an extremely low percentage of people willing to talk to you; and many of those are not relevant conversations.
The solution is to focus on quality. That means reaching out to a smaller list of truly ideal potential clients, carefully crafting invitations or messages that cut through the noise and letting your prospects know you respect their time as much as you respect your own. It means being human.
When you take this approach you’ll find that a higher percentage of your outbound messages get a positive response. The conversations you have will be with highly qualified people. Relationships will be established. More will move into your sales pipeline. Your reputation – and your LinkedIn account – will still be intact.
And you won’t need to resort to risky automation apps.