LinkedIn Automation Tools: The Risks and Rewards
As a LinkedIn member, you have, no doubt, come across some people using LinkedIn automation tools very poorly.
Many companies and individuals leverage their LinkedIn networks for lead generation, sales, recruitment and a variety of other purposes.
To get the most out of LinkedIn, it’s best to take a structured approach to growing your network and leveraging those contacts. It can be time-consuming, which is why LinkedIn automation tools have become popular in recent years.
But these LinkedIn automation tools need to be used with great care.
Automating the world’s largest business network
In 2017, LinkedIn revealed it had passed half a billion users worldwide. That is a phenomenal figure, and that number continues to grow every day.
Its global reach and the extensive regional coverage in certain markets are just a couple of reasons it is so popular. My search for Marketing Managers in California netted more than 1.5 million results. If I were a recruiter with a marketing role to fill, finding a way to tap into these contacts could be priceless.
But with such size comes a familiar problem. I can’t send connection requests to these many people. Even if just 0.5% of this list represented people I were interested in, that would still be 7,500 contacts.
This is why LinkedIn automation tools were created. These automation platforms, typically available as browser extensions, enable you to automate many everyday tasks you as a user would be doing on LinkedIn.
Automation frees you up so you can focus on higher value activities, such as closing a sale.
Case study #1: Recruitment agency saves $40k annually
RJS is a specialist recruitment agency covering Canada and the US. It uses a LinkedIn automation tool to replicate the work of one full-time employee, saving the company over $40,000 annually.
This automation approach:
- boosted the company’s efficiency and productivity
- gave it a sustainable competitive advantage
- allowed it to reach hard-to-find candidates
- freed up time for placing high quality staff.
It’s not just about sending connection requests – that’s a no brainer. RJS wanted a smarter, more efficient way of using LinkedIn, and that’s what LinkedIn automation tools can do when used correctly.
The automation tool sits in the background, visiting profiles and sending out connection requests, automating the tasks that used to take hours. It enabled RJS to focus on higher leveraging activities, such as final qualification of candidates, managing customer relationships and closing deals.
Safe Usage of LinkedIn Automation Tools
When used correctly, LinkedIn automation tools deliver the upside of smarter lead generation without the downside of risking bans and restrictions on LinkedIn.
But what is safe usage? My recommendation is to work out your LinkedIn Range (LR) and not exceed it. You get your LR by calculating 3.5-5% of your total connections.
For example, 10,000 contacts would give you a LinkedIn Range of approximately 350-500.
Note: For LinkedIn Sales Navigator users, the daily limit is 500 profile views per day.
This should be viewed as the maximum you can do. In practice, many people will have far fewer connections, and their LR will be much smaller.
LinkedIn automation can create compound connection growth
If you don’t have a considerable number of connections to start with, employ a technique called Compound Connection Growth (CCG). This simple process works really well.
Start by picking a figure in line with your LR to work toward. If you have 2,000 connections, set your LinkedIn automation tool with the LR upper limit of 100 new connection requests each day.
You can then set the LinkedIn tool to visit only 100 profiles each day – without sending connection requests. We know that some of these contacts will naturally view your profile in return. If your LinkedIn profile is suitably optimized, this will generate inbound connection requests to you. As a rule of thumb, this might be up to 10-15% of the profiles you visit. The bonus here is it doesn’t count as activity against your LR.
In addition, you need to be active on LinkedIn. This includes writing original content, liking and sharing posts and taking part in discussions to stay top of mind with your network. All these activities constitute interactions and could lead to inbound connection requests.
A word of caution: Working with LinkedIn is a dynamic process, and establishing your level of comfort with LinkedIn automation usage limits is likely to be a personal decision. If you have aggressive business and sales goals, you may be tempted to push the limits. But I advise you to be more cautious, always staying under the limits.
Permanent restrictions are unlikely but are a risk
The threat of a permanent LinkedIn account restriction or ban has caused many users of LinkedIn automation tools to scale back on their activities. There was a swathe of scare stories about a LinkedIn update targeting one particular automation tool at the end of last year.
It got people running scared. Many people.
But the reality is LinkedIn is continually evolving. It needs to innovate and update its algorithms to make incremental improvements to address user feedback, which is one of the reasons behind its success.
On the other side of the fence are companies providing automation solutions for LinkedIn, who find themselves in a virtual arms race. Every time there’s a LinkedIn update, they scramble to find a workaround.
And they usually do. It’s why the top three LinkedIn automation tools in the Chrome Web Store have over 100,000 downloads among them.
LinkedIn good housekeeping
Just as it pays to have good housekeeping practices in your office to keep it tidy, it pays to have good housekeeping practices online when it comes to automation.
One of the most important practices you need to perform on a regular basis is to delete outstanding sent connection requests.
Having too many of these can be a red flag to LinkedIn, indicating you are attempting to contact people you do not know. Periodically deleting old connection requests you have sent that have not been accepted will help you stay under the radar.
In general, the more targeted you are in your LinkedIn outreach strategy, the fewer outstanding requests you will have.
Effective LinkedIn automation tools must mimic user behavior
Look for an automation tool that can be configured to mimic your natural behavior on LinkedIn. The temptation when using these automation tools is to crank up the gas and go for it. But to stay safe on LinkedIn, think about your LR, and set appropriate limits for yourself.
To control smart automation, look for features such as stop/pause/go, the ability to set maximum daily limits, and resource scheduling to ensure the automation tool acts as an extension of your typical daily activities.
After all, if your automation tool is performing lots of activity at 2 a.m., this will likely flag you for possible use of third-party tools on LinkedIn.
A workaround for LinkedIn usage limits
Some LinkedIn automation tools have nifty workarounds enabling you to continue using LinkedIn without worrying about connection limits. One such tool taps into the search results from LinkedIn using Google.
The beauty of this approach is it doesn’t count toward your monthly LinkedIn connection limits. This can be useful for people who don’t want to invest in a LinkedIn Premium subscription.
Automate your personalized connection strategy
One of the topics I see regularly discussed on growth hacking forums is the type of connection message you should send.
Some people swear by the short and generic intro. I’m firmly in favor of personalizing the message, using the logic built into the LinkedIn automation tool.
Put yourself in the shoes of the person receiving your connection request. If your message looks like it has been personalized, it has a higher chance of engagement. I know the messages I receive that have been personalized catch my attention and usually lead to acceptance.
You can personalize using names, job roles and company names. It can also be incredibly useful when you personalize by industry or geography. The latter works well for regional campaigns.
Personalization is essential to effective prospecting on LinkedIn.
Case study #2: Building a profitable regional membership
The Enterprise Sales Forum (ESF) is a community of sales professionals. It has used LinkedIn automation to help build a profitable local chapter in Austin, Texas. It leveraged quality data from LinkedIn to target relevant prospective members, accelerating the chapter’s growth. The membership has rocketed to 1,200 members in half the expected time.
Using LinkedIn automation alongside LinkedIn Sales Navigator’s robust search functionality has enabled the company to accurately identify and target the right audience, finding contacts in any sales role and level. By automating the connection request process, it can quickly find people that align with its positioning and sales messaging.
To open a dialogue with prospective members, ESF sends customized messages. This personal touch enables it to begin a conversation with the target audience as part of a tailored connection strategy. The LinkedIn automation tool frees up time for the team to focus on building quality relationships and delivering valuable content.
You can scale up your LinkedIn activity in different ways, and your favorite automation tool should be able to implement these quickly.
If the initial search returns a large number of results, which is not uncommon when targeting a new audience, split your list into more manageable chunks by using different criteria.
For example, you could use seniority in the organization to create your first list filled with C-level execs and senior leaders. A second list could be populated with Directors, Senior Managers, etc. A third list could contain technical consultants, architects, programmers, etc.
When not to automate on LinkedIn
While we’ve talked a lot about the benefits of automation, what you can automate and how, it is also important to realize that there are situations where you should not automate your LinkedIn activity.
A lot depends on the target audience, e.g., a Fortune 500 CIO is unlikely to accept a cold connection request from someone that they don’t know. Bear in mind, they might be willing to accept a request from a fellow CIO.
While LinkedIn automation has many benefits, it is a myth that blasting out thousands of connection requests is the right way forward.
Not All LinkedIn Automation Tools Are Created Equal
There are many third-party tools, including software programs, bots and browser plug-ins and extensions. It is important to get the right tool for the job.
But not all tools are created equal. Look for a consistent track record from the team behind the tool.
- Are they accessible?
- Can you speak to the people behind the tool?
- How is support offered?
It’s not unheard of for a LinkedIn automation tool to disappear overnight.
There is no direct link between how old a LinkedIn automation tool is and how likely it is still to be around in 12-24 months, but you are likely to be safer with some of the older, more established automation tools.
Look for solid testimonials showing real ROI. There is no better proof than seeing how companies in a similar industry use LinkedIn automation tools to meet the same kind of needs you have, be it marketing, lead generation, growth hacking, etc.
In a recent poll of LinkedIn automation users, the most requested feature was integration with CRM systems. It allows you to integrate growth hacking with corporate systems such as CRM, email marketing or applicant tracking systems.
Linking these systems enables a seamless two-way flow of marketing actions from uploading data to triggering outbound emails directly from within the CRM system.
This will be vitally important as growth hacking techniques, such as LinkedIn automation, increasingly get picked up by mainstream marketers.
Give ‘em what they want
Growing an extensive network on LinkedIn is not enough. You need to take it to the next level if you want your network to result in business.
You can do this in a number of ways, but try to look at each connection as a potential two-way relationship.
Providing something of value to a new prospect is a good starting point. It could be a link to one of your own relevant blog posts or a piece of content you found that you think will be interesting to them.
Approach all new relationships with the mindset of providing value. By doing this, you will create dialogue and cultivate relationships.
It’s said people buy people, not products. That is as true on LinkedIn as everywhere else. Almost every successful user of a LinkedIn automation tool has thought about what they can provide of value first, avoiding the all too common sales pitching.
I’ll leave you with a list of ten best practices to think about when using LinkedIn automation tools.
7 LinkedIn automation best practices to follow
- Treat automation tools like any other tool in a workshop, such as a buzz saw, i.e., use it carefully!
- Think about your objectives: whom are you trying to reach and what will motivate them to respond to a connection request?
- Always obey the fair usage limits on LinkedIn unless you are willing to risk the penalties.
- Be as targeted as you can. It pays dividends.
- Personalize your interactions for higher response rates.
- Perform good housekeeping to keep on the right side of LinkedIn.
- Have a plan for the extra time you free up – where can you use that most productively in your business?
A note from Melonie:
I want to thank Will van der Sanden for providing this article on LinkedIn automation. Will is the founder of Dux-Soup, the only LinkedIn automation tool I recommend because I like the way it mimics natural user behavior.
If you plan to use automation on LinkedIn, I urge you to heed the advice presented in this article. You risk much more than having your account restricted. The improper use of LinkedIn automation tools can damage your credibility and your reputation.
To try Dux-Soup, click here, but remember to follow the best practices laid out in this article for automation on LinkedIn.
Will van der Sanden is the Founder of Dux-Soup. With a background in software development and enterprise mashups, Will is a genius at combining data from different sources to create something bigger and better. Will manages a brilliant team of software developers, business analysts and support staff to ensure Dux-Soup keeps its customers one step ahead of their competition.