LinkedIn is a professional network that, when used correctly, just might be the most powerful business development tool available to us today. But just like every other amazing tool, there are lots of entrepreneurs trying to hack the system.

A common hack used by some members is installing automated applications that, among other things, view profiles, send connection requests out to a predetermined list, and even send welcome messages when they accept. If a member uses these type of apps, they not only violate LinkedIn’s user agreement, but they’re also very quickly alienating their buyers.

Often it is quite obvious that the message is not personal and immediately screams spam. I have connected with folks and within seconds have a pitch in my inbox—with my name auto-inserted in three places. Let me be absolutely clear: this is no way to create a first impression.

At times I have actually replied with a question about how this spamming is working for them. I usually receive this kind of response: “So glad you are interested, let’s set up a call ” Really? If there was any chance I was interested in learning more or becoming a client, that curiosity is now gone… forever.

Even worse is when fake LinkedIn profiles send connection requests, emails, and correspondence with buyers, which are then scored for the buyer’s interest and then connected them with someone else in the company. These fake profiles also use purchased images and auto-responses preprogrammed and designed to “engage.” How can a buyer ever trust a vendor that started off a relationship under this kind of false pretense?

The B2B sales profession is about building relationships, being authentic, and adding insights and value so that you build enough trust for them to hire you.

Automation isn’t All Bad

Is there a place for this kind of artificial intelligence (AI)? Absolutely, but only when a buyer is aware that they are engaging with a bot. I was recently on a Website when a chat box came up and said, “I am ABC Company’s AI Assistant. Ask me anything, and I will try to help”. Just like asking Siri or Alexa all kinds of kooky questions, I played with it first, then asked real questions later. But because it was authentic and transparent, I loved the AI experience.

The AI mistake lies in the lie.

We expect a personalized experience on LinkedIn. We are engaging not with a profile, but a person.

Social Sales Link’s Bob Woods says, “Imagine sending a bot into a business card exchange. They are wearing your suit and tie and hand out your business cards. They have automated responses to everyone they meet and then after a few back-and-forth conversations, they bring over the real you because the bot has now qualified them.”

Our Bill McCormick shared that a “LinkedIn automation by lead generation specialist” reached out to him via automation to offer their automated service. This offering reaches out to prospects with generic messages that then responds with false compliments about how well their “company” is doing and how they would get him tons of leads on LinkedIn. 

“Robots don’t do the due diligence needed to connect,” Bill said. “It was so generic and forced that how could I even BEGIN to trust them to find clients for me???”

The LinkedIn game should not be about throwing as much on the wall and see what sticks. For it to work well, you need to build credibility, show up as a subject matter expert and thought leader, and leverage your relationships to grow your business. Conduct yourself on LinkedIn authentically… please.

BONUS: Nefarious LinkedIn is an application that tells you which user agreement-violating applications LinkedIn is scanning for in your Chrome browser whenever you use it. As this article at Wizard Sourcer puts it, “it’s a good indicator to see if you’ll be put into ‘LinkedIn jail’ in the future.” You can download it here and add it to your Chrome browser (PC or Mac, desktop only) so you can be up to date on which apps LinkedIn is “looking for.” Remember: these apps violate LinkedIn’s user agreement, so use them at your own risk.

Follow #autoban on LinkedIn for insights on AI and LinkedIn from other thought leaders.