As a LinkedIn member, you have no doubt come across people using LinkedIn automation tools, more often than not, very poorly.
Many companies and individuals leverage their LinkedIn network for lead generation, sales, recruitment and a variety of other purposes.
To get the most out of LinkedIn, its best to take a structured approach to grow 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.
The global reach and the extensive regional coverage for certain markets are just a couple of reasons it is so popular. I searched for Marketing Managers in California and LinkedIn had more than 1.5 million results. If I was 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 hundreds of thousands of people. Even if just half of one percent of this list represented people I was interested in, that would still be 7,500 contacts.
This is why LinkedIn automation tools were created. These automation platforms, which are typically available as browser extensions, enable you to automate many everyday tasks that you as a user, would be doing on LinkedIn.
In doing so, you can free up the time to spend on higher value activities, such as focusing on closing a sale.
Use Case 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 has delivered a sustainable competitive advantage by boosting efficiency and productivity, allowing RJS to reach hard-to-find candidates and spend more time 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 there in the background visiting profiles, sending out connection requests, basically automating the tasks that used to take hours. It enables RJS to focus on higher leveraging activities, such as final qualification of candidates, managing customer relationships and closing the deal.
Safe Usage of LinkedIn Automation Tools
When used ‘correctly,’ LinkedIn automation tools deliver the upside of smarter lead generation without the downside risk of bans and exclusions on LinkedIn.
But what is safe usage? My recommendation is to work out your LinkedIn Range (LR) and make sure you are not exceeding this. This is what you get if you take 3.5% to 5% of your total connections.
If you have 10,000 contacts that 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 is going to be much smaller.
LinkedIn Automation Can Create Compound Connection Growth
If you don’t have a considerable amount of connections to start with, there is a useful technique called Compound Connection Growth (CGG). This simple process really works.
Start by picking a figure to work towards that is in line with your LR. For someone with 2,000 connections, set your LinkedIn automation tool with the LR upper limit of 100 new connection requests each day.
You can then also set the LinkedIn tool to just visit 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, then this will generate inbound connection requests to you, and as a rule of thumb, this might be up to 10-15% of the profiles that you visit. And the bonus here is that it doesn’t count as activity against your LR.
Alongside this, you need to be active on LinkedIn. This will include writing original content, liking and sharing posts, taking part in discussions and staying top of mind with your network. These all contribute to your interactions and could lead to inbound connection requests.
A Word of Caution: Working with LinkedIn is a dynamic situation 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, however, I’d advise you to be more cautious and always stay under the limits.
Permanent Restrictions Are Unlikely but Are a Risk with Automation
The threat of a permanent LinkedIn account restriction or ban has caused many users of LinkedIn automation tools to scale back on what they are doing. 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. A lot of people.
But the reality is that LinkedIn is continually evolving. It needs to innovate and update their algorithms to make incremental improvements to address user feedback, which is one of the reasons behind its success.
However, on the other side of the fence, companies that provide automation solutions for LinkedIn, see themselves in a virtual arms race. Every time there’s a new LinkedIn update, they scramble to find a workaround.
And they usually do. It’s why the top three LinkedIn automation tools on the Chrome store have over 100,000 downloads between them.
LinkedIn Good Housekeeping
Just as most of us like a tidy desk at the start of the day, it pays to have good housekeeping practices that you regularly perform when it comes to automation. One of the most important is to delete outstanding sent connection requests.
Having too many of these can act as a red flag to LinkedIn that you are attempting to contact people that you do not know. Periodically deleting old connection requests that you have sent that have not been accepted, will help keep you 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 yourself appropriate limits.
To control how the smart automation works, look for features such as stop/pause/go, the ability to set maximum daily limits, and resource scheduling to ensure that the automation tool act as an extension of what you would typically be doing.
After all, if your automation tool is doing lots of activity at 2am, this will likely trip a LinkedIn flag for possible use of third-party tools.
A Workaround for LinkedIn Usage Limits
Some LinkedIn automation tools have nifty workarounds that enable you to continue using LinkedIn without worrying about connection limits. One of these taps into the search results from LinkedIn using Google.
The beauty of this approach is that it doesn’t count towards your monthly connection limits as set out by LinkedIn. 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 regularly see on growth hacking forums is what kind of connection message you should send. Some people swear by the short and generic intro. However, 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, then it has a higher chance of engagement. I know that the messages that 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, and the latter works well for regional campaigns. Personalizing is essential to effective prospecting on LinkedIn.
Use Case 2: Building a Profitable Regional Membership
The Enterprise Sales Forum is a community of sales professionals. It has used LinkedIn automation to help build a profitable local chapter in Austin, Texas by leveraging quality data from LinkedIn to target relevant prospective members and accelerate the chapter’s growth. The membership has rocketed to 1,200 members in half the time expected.
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 the 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 to focus on building quality relationships and delivering valuable content.
There are some different ways in which to scale up your LinkedIn activity, 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, then splitting your lists by different criteria breaks the task into more manageable chunks.
For example, you could use seniority in the organization so your first list would be C-level execs and senior leaders. A second list could be Directors, Senior Managers, etc. A third list could be 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 ranging from software programs, bots, browser plug-ins, or browser extensions. It is important to get the right tool to match your requirements.
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 LinkedIn automation tools to disappear overnight.
There is no direct link between how old a LinkedIn automation tool is and how likely they are to still 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 use case testimonials that show real ROI. There is no better proof than to see how companies in a similar industry are using LinkedIn automation tools to meet the same kind of requirements that you are looking for, be it for marketing, lead generation, growth hacking, etc.
On a recent poll of LinkedIn automation users, the number one most requested feature was integration with CRM systems. This will allow 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. There are many ways in which you can do this but try to look at each connection as a potential two-way relationship.
Providing something of value is a good starting point. It could be a link to one of your own relevant blogs, or a piece of content that you found that you think will be interesting.
Approach all new relationship with the mindset of providing value. By doing this, will you create dialogue and cultivate relationships. It’s said that people buy people, not products, and that is as true on LinkedIn as it is everywhere else. Almost every successful user of a LinkedIn automation tool has thought about what they can provide of value first, and avoids 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, who are you trying to reach, 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 are going to 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.
I will caution you that if you are planning to use automation on LinkedIn that you heed the advice presented in this article. There is much more at risk than having your account restricted. The improper use of LinkedIn automation tools can damage your credibility and your reputation.
To try out 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.