Did you know that it’s a violation of LinkedIn’s policies to send cold LinkedIn outreach messages? A lot (and we mean a lot) of businesses use LinkedIn as their personal cold lead generation playground, but that is not at all what LinkedIn is intended to be, and LinkedIn’s posted policies, and their very definition of spam, make that clear.
Yet thousands of people seem to think that the reason for LinkedIn’s very existence is for cold outreach to generate more business. Wrong. According to LinkedIn, “The mission of LinkedIn is simple: connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.” Not to do cold prospecting. Heck, not even to do warm prospecting. Not to put too fine a point on it, but LinkedIn was not created for prospecting.
Let’s cut right to the chase, and then we will back up with the LinkedIn policies language: LinkedIn explicitly says that their definition of spam, which is forbidden by their policies, includes “irrelevant, or repetitive comments or messages“. (Don’t believe us? Check it out on LinkedIn, in their help center, under Examples of spam.)
Moreover, on their policies page, they say “Do not spam members or the platform. We don’t allow untargeted, irrelevant, obviously unwanted, unauthorized, inappropriately commercial or promotional, or gratuitously repetitive messages or similar content.”
Not only do they violate LinkedIn’s policies, but they alienate the people who receive those cold outreach messages. In a recent poll, LinkedIn users were asked the following:
“When you accept a LinkedIn connection request, how do you feel when they immediately message you trying to sell you something?”
35% of the respondents said “It’s spam”, and 29% of the respondents said “I never do business with them.”
This means that a whopping sixty-four percent of respondents are alienated by cold outreach messages, with it annoying nearly half of that 64% so much that they will never do business with the party who messaged them.
(Of the rest, 24% said they expect it, but don’t love it, and only 11% say they are open to what the person has to say.)
Prospecting. You’re doing it wrong.
Yet these businesses which are LinkedIn message-spamming people, and alienating them (maybe even ticking them off) get really indignant when you point this out to them. In fact we might even say they feel entitled, as if the very fact that they have a LinkedIn account, and they found you on LinkedIn (aren’t they clever?) entitles them to use you as a lead. Consider this actual conversation that we recently had with one such business:
Their message to us on February 8, 2022:
“Hi, I am reaching out because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. My core competency for the past 18 years has been Employee Benefits BUT that is not why I am reaching out today. I am focusing on helping business owners take advantage of the Employee Retention Credit or ERC Program. (Potentially saving businesses $5,000-$33000 per full-time employee.) This program applies to a surprisingly high number of small and medium-sized businesses that were affected by the Pandemic, Mandates or Loss in Revenue.
Have you applied yet? Would you be open to connecting over a quick virtual coffee chat to see if it applies to yours?”
We responded making very clear that we considered this message to be spam, and to never spam us again. To which they replied:
Them: “Excuse me? Isn’t that your business? Mine is actually a hand written note trying to help your company.”
Us: “Isn’t what our business? Employee benefits? No, not even a little bit.”
Them: “No, email campaigns? I am trying to get the word out about the ERC l program. Did you apply?”
Us: “No we don’t do email campaigns, Nor do we have any interest in nor qualify for the ERC program.”
Exactly 6 months to the day, they messaged us again!
Them: “Hi, just following back up with you since things have progressed over the past 6 months. Ok, so when did you last evaluate the ERC Program for eligibility? The requirements significantly changed in March of 2021. On another note, can you explain what you do because maybe I could use you.”
(That last being a nice hook, eh? Of course they aren’t interested in using our services, in fact they wouldn’t even qualify for them.)
Us: “Do you not even give a cursory glance to whom you spam? Do you not realize that you are in violation of LinkedIn’s policies and that we’re going to report you??”
Them: “What are you talking about? We haven’t spoken in 6 months, I reached out to say hello and see how you might be able to help me and vice versa. I am a real person, sitting in my office at my desk typing this email. NO AI, NO BOT. Just ME”
Us: “It doesn’t matter that you are a real person, you are a real person who reached out to us to see if we had need of your services (in other words to sell us something). Do you honestly think that LinkedIn‘s terms of service only apply to bots? We can’t imagine that. LinkedIn’s own definition of ‘spam’, which is prohibited is, and we quote, “Excessive, irrelevant, or repetitive comments or messages”
Them: “Ok, thank you for your time, we are obviously not going to work together so I will just take you off my list of follow-ups. Many people do business with new people on LI all the time. I do not think that following up every 6 months with people is spam. Good Luck with your business.”
Hopefully you can see the issues here. Remember, spam is in the eye of the policies, not the sender.