I'm rather excited that LinkedIn is growing up and acting like a real social network. With new Facebook-like capabilities, including a Recommend button (think Facebook "Like"), OAuth universal login and an open face for developers, LinkedIn is joining the world of the firehose and lightening-fast social connections.
Unfortunately, this means that some people will abuse it. Just as telemarketers learned to abuse the telephone and Twitter spammers the 140-character communication, LinkedIn's more social aspects are ushering in sleazy spammers to the formerly rather stodgy social network.
Delicious LinkedIn Spam
I encountered my very first LinkedIn troll this week. Because it is more reliably professional and staid than rapid-growth sites such as Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn is the network I utilize for people I know and have worked with; it is reserved for colleagues and friends with whom I have a level of familiarity, enough so that I would recommend for a job. However, it's becoming clear that not everyone treats LinkedIn so professionally. As LinkedIn adds more social functions, the trolls and spammers move in.
We worked together; really we did
Last week, I received a connection request from someone I don't know, never worked with and whose company I've never even heard of. What really stuck in my craw was that the connection checked the "Worked together at" box, presumably because she didn't have my email address to identify herself as a friend of mine. (My email address is widely published online, and if she had bothered to visit my site, which is listed in my LinkedIn profile, she would have easily found the appropriate email address.)
Guys, please don't do this. Don't say you worked with someone when you didn't. Here's a hint: she's going to know she's never heard of you. Did this spammer really believe that I would ignore the fact that she lied in order to sell to me? Especially to sell social media service to me?
Enumerating the number of things this contact did wrong:
- Pretended to know a person when she didn't--downright sleazy
- Didn't proofread her email for typographical errors ("Wallgreens," if it is a real client, is misspelled)
- Approached contact as a sales lead rather than as a person
- Tried to sell contact on a service that I the contact performs
- Proceeded to call contact incessantly, unsolicited
- Completely failed to understand the concepts of connection, engagement and influence
What LinkedIn does well
LinkedIn is actually a powerful tool for social networking, in particular for the B2B crowd. At Spoken, we've discovered that our participation in industry-relevant LinkedIn groups garners our organization far more influence, links, PR opportunities and leads than in another other social network. However, those rewards are reaped by an explicit strategy, which includes monitoring the groups on a daily basis, tracking conversations, starting and facilitating relevant conversations on industry-related topics and contributing to conversations with both opinions and facts based on our industry experience. In short, we generated leads, connections and influence through ongoing contribution, engagement and participation.
A better way: gaining influence through LinkedIn groups
If this spammer was really interested in a LinkedIn contact as a lead, here is what she should have done instead. In fact, this is what I recommend for any B2B clients looking to leverage LinkedIn and grow their spheres of influence. Monitoring and engaging in discussions via LinkedIn groups is an excellent way to gain and leverage influence, and is far more effective than spamming the LinkedIn database:
- Look at the list of groups the contact participates in and join them
- Monitor the social media related groups (since she claims to be a social media expert)
- Introduce herself to the social media groups (this would improve her own credibility as well)
- Contribute to the discussion in those groups
- Respond to a comment or thread the contact has left in those groups
- Send the connection request, introducing herself as a fellow member of those groups
- Ask for advice or a discussion rather than a sales call
If she had followed these steps, instead of coming across as a sleazy spammer and being asked not to call me at work again, she would have been welcomed as a social media colleague and industry friend. The difference, of course, is that engaging on this personal and relevant level requires a lot more work than blanketing everyone with a certain keyword in their bio with unsolicited, misspelled emails and connection requests.