I just read an article in Inc. magazine by Steve Cody titled, "Beware the Dark Side of LinkedIn." I urge you to read the full article, but it is about LinkedIn spammers and Cody's advice on how to deal with them. Don't get me wrong, a day rarely goes by that I don't get a LinkedIn connection request shortly followed by a boilerplate sales message.
The most frequent offenders are "lead generation" experts. If that's the way they generate leads, I don't want them doing it for me. I also receive spammy sales messages daily via the contact section of my website, spammy twitter messages and unwanted phone calls (Google, you are the absolute worst!) Probably the worst sales pitch I ever received was from someone who had the words "LinkedIn Expert" in their description - the person had 18 LinkedIn connections.
I share Cody's distaste for these tactics and never use them myself. That's about the last thing we agree on.
Public Shaming Makes You Appear Small
In the article, Cody published a screenshot of a LinkedIn sales message he received from an individual:
"To wit, I recently accepted an invitation from xxx xxxxx, who identified himself as president and CEO of xxxxxxxxxx. Since my firm boasts fairly robust credentials in representing such organizations, I was hoping he'd reached out to me based upon our expertise. Wrong. He spammed me."
So let me get this straight - you received a LinkedIn request from someone you hoped would be a sales prospect for you and got upset when you realized he was trying to sell you? The message was a sales pitch - but it was brief and summarized what he was selling. I've seen far worse.
What bothered me about this was Cody publicly shaming this individual in a national business publication by posting the message, including the man's name and picture. In my opinion, this shows Cody to be a petty and vindictive individual and one that I would never do business with. Sorry, Steve, that's just bad karma.
Here's some advice on how to handle situations like that: delete the message and delete the connection. The time spent to read the message and execute the deletions should be less than two minutes. Or don't accept the connection in the first place; if you do, you bear some responsibility for the interaction.
Only "name brands" are reputable??
The next piece of advice Cody gives that I disagree with is, "you should make it a practice to accept invites only from individuals who represent name brands or organizations with whom you’d like to partner or represent." What does the fact that someone represents a "name brand" have to with whether or not they are a spammer?
I now own my own business, but spent the majority of my career working with "name brands." Believe me, disreputable people are equally represented in small businesses and "name brands." Just ask the good folks at Enron.
The decision to accept or not accept an invitation should be based on the individual, not the brand, That's why you should always add context to your LinkedIn invitations. For example, you might say, "Hi, Matt, I really enjoyed your presentation at the Northern Virginia Tecnology Council Big Data event. As a small business owner, I found your insights very useful."
This shows the person why you want to connect with them and gives them a basis by which they can accept or decline your invitation. On the other hand, if you get a connection request from an employee of a "name brand" that includes the standard LinkedIn wording, you have no idea of what their agenda is.
I recently made a presenation to a large group of Colombian entrepreneurs on doing business in the US and shared this very advice with them. I was pleased to see how well they took my advice when sending me invitations.
It's no surprise that more and more people are using LinkedIn for cold sales approaches. LinkedIn sales training has become a cottage industry. My advice - rather than spend your time worrying about the spam you get, take the opportunity to distinguish yourself from the pack by being helpful, courteous and humble on LinkedIn. Just sayin'.......