I've been writing a series of posts lately trying to dispel B2B Marketing Buzzwords. This isn't exactly a buzzword, but it's becoming a problem and should be a source of embarassment for those who do it. Yes, this is a rant. You've been forewarned...
You know who I'm talking about? People who are abusing the InMail feature of LinkedIn to spam their contacts.
I don't know about you, but I'm receiving lots of InMail promotions every week from contacts who should know better - and as you'll see below, people who aren't contacts but have learned to "game" the system.
Just this week, in addition to valid personal exchanges, I've received:
- A blanket invitation to a webinar
- A couple of conference announcements
- A handful of straight-on, blasted-out sales pitches
- And six invitations that were direct sales pitches from people I'm not connected to
The first thing I'd like to say to these misguided individuals is that LinkedIn is not your ESP or your sales database.
What surprises me the most about this is that LinkedIn is supposed to be a professional networking system where you can develop relationships with people you know, or would like to get to know better - hopefully with mutual benefits as a result. In other words, it's a relationship opportunity.
Many companies still buy lists and spam people who have never opted in to their databases, but this is even worse. This has your name on it. You. Your personal brand is now labeled with the equivalent of "desperate spammer."
Have you thought about that?
I received an email from a new connection and fairly new user of LinkedIn this week who asked me if the primary purpose of LinkedIn was to gain as many connections as possible without ever having any meaningful interactions via InMail. He said that he only hears from people via InMail when they want something.
That set me back. I had to really think about it. I probably have a handful of dialogues with contacts each week via InMail - but soon we move to email as it's easier to correspond directly.
My response to my contact was to point him toward discussion groups. That's where I think most of the conversations happen on LinkedIn that are useful. Good group moderators are trying their best to manage the spammy promotional junk and maintain the integrity of the conversations taking place. And many of the groups are valuable exchanges of information.
The difference to me with spam in discussion groups and spam via InMail is that the discussion group spam can be easily ignored. The InMail spam is more of a personal violation, in my book. Even though both methods are those of the unimaginative and self-focused.
And BTW - for those of you who preface your InMail abuse with "if you don't want to be bothered with this information, just ignore it" that is NOT an acceptable mea culpa.
A couple of things to think about:
- LinkedIn (as in all other forms of digital communications) will be as valuable as the level of trust and credibility you create with your participation.
- What can you do to have a meaningful interaction with a prospect or contact via LinkedIn? One that isn't focused only on what you want?
- A meaningful dialogue must be relevant to both sides.
If you want to open the lines of communication, here are some steps you should take. Warning, they take a bit of work. But, for the love of puppies, get hold of some initiative!
- Take the time to do a bit of research for each communication you want to initiate.
- Make it relevant to the person you're sending it to. Heck, their profile is a click away. How hard can it be?
- Don't make it all about what you want. You can have your turn later - once someone decides they think it might be worth their time to talk to you.
- Think about what you're putting your name on. Is it worth it?
Spam doesn't work. It never has and it certainly won't on a professional networking platform. Although I'm irritated, it hurts you much more than it hurts me.
There are so many ways to communicate and engage people that this shouldn't even be a feasible option.
Okay - I feel better now. You?