Struggling to find the time to grow your LinkedIn network?
Well you are not alone.
Driven by the rapid evolution of LinkedIn as a social media platform suited to generating leads and opportunities., there are a growing number of companies offering LinkedIn management software and automation tools.
These tools look to automate the processes around building connections and interacting with your audience but almost all are against LinkedIn Terms and Conditions so carry a risk.
The question is do the potential engagement and leads, make LinkedIn automation software worth the risk?
Does LinkedIn Automation Software Work?
Marketing tools can only be as successful as the strategy and tactics being employed to make them work. The same is true of LinkedIn automation tools.
With the right strategy LinkedIn automation can build connections and open conversations in a personalised and natural way, that can be converted into opportunity by a human.
The challenge is making sure that automation only opens the doors to interaction and is not the principal activity.
People buy from people and automation will only take you so far, there needs to be an understanding of how LinkedIn automation contributes to sales.
Linkedin Automation Software Options
There are a whole host of LinkedIn automation software options popping up. We have chosen to evaluate a couple of different options on differing ends of complexity and user experience scale.
The first LInkedIn automation platform we came across was LinkedIn Helper. A Chrome plugin that sits on top of your LinkedIn account and mimics the behaviour of a human to send connection requests, messages and view profiles.
You use the search functionality to “collect” user profiles to run through different product functionality.
When you click the “run” command the plugin whirrs into action slowly navigating through LinkedIn page by page at timed intervals to complete the desired action in as human a way as possible.
- Automating connection requests
- Auto-responder message to new connections
- Sending messages to existing connections
- Connecting or messaging likers and commenters
LinkedIn Helper is not an intuitive tool and it does need some tactical thinking about how to manage and monitor contacts through campaigns. It does not have any behaviour logic in the style of an email marketing campaign which can limit the ability to execute complex campaigns.
It also requires you to have LinkedIn open on chrome on a stand alone tab whilst the software runs. This can be a pain if you only have one screen to work from and normally operate using multiple tabs.
Cost – At just $99 per year or $15 per month it is very affordable. The automation of connection requests alone is likely to save the average user more than enough time to justify the expenditure.
WeConnect.io is a well constructed dashboard driven software that provides a user experience similar to email marketing for your LinkedIn account. Users are given a comprehensive suite of campaign options to build and interact with their LInkedIn network.
- Add connections
- Send messages
- Endorse contacts
- Auto follow
- Visit profiles
The ability to overlay behaviour based actions such as sending messages to non-responders after a set period of time gives an exciting range of campaign options.
This gives users a real head start when trying to build engagement and lead generation using LinkedIn.
To access the features you need to give the platform access to your username and password. This is because the software logs into LinkedIn on your behalf to run campaigns dripped out over a period of time so not to attract the attention of LinkedIn.
LinkedIn security is vitally important and the requirement to give the software your username and password (despite assurances of encryption) is a dealbreaker. It interferes with two-step verification and is a further violation of LinkedIn terms and conditions.
This is such as shame as the software itself is beautifully engineered, would allow businesses to partially automate whilst delivering an excellent user experience.
Cost – $29 p/m for the functionality this is an incredible price
The Risks Of LinkedIn Automation
On the surface LinkedIn automation sounds great, you can conduct searches and send out invites and messaging campaigns on auto-pilot instead of having to spend hours connecting and reaching out to your network.
The risk with LinkedIn automation software tools is that they ALL almost certainly violate LinkedIn terms of service putting your account at risk of temporary or permanent suspension.
This has not deterred companies from offering automation software and products but it is important. As it is against the terms and conditions of LinkedIn there is no formal API access which means that they sit on top of Linkedin trying to replicate human behaviour so not to raise the suspicions of LinkedIn.
Why is Automation Against Terms of Service
LInkedIn has been relatively tolerant of LinkedIn automation software with violators getting plenty of warnings and restrictions being temporary rather than permanent. However this could change in an instant without warning affecting a large number of users.
Ironically the more successful your automation efforts the more you have to lose from automation as an account with thousands of targeted connections can be a valuable reputational and business development resource.
In an ideal world sensible automation would be tolerated and controlled by Linkedin, however this does not seem a realistic expectation.
This policy is in line with other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the latter having made the news for taking drastic action this year by deactivating the API of automation companies such as Manageflitter.
The logic behind this condition is sound. Social media platforms work best when the interactions are human driven and actions and engagement are real.
LinkedIn Automation Software Provider Perspective
We reached out to WeConnect.IO for comment and they should be commended for taking the time to answer a few questions relating to their product.
We spoke with Lead Generation Specialist Rebecca Hughes from we.connect.Io
What are your thoughts on the software being against LI terms of conditions?
I have heard the rationale that LinkedIn is a social media platform that encourages human interaction. And that’s why LinkedIn does not allow the use of any automation software.
I think that’s not the complete truth. In my opinion, LinkedIn does not allow automation tools because (1) they lose revenue and (2) they are in a position to do so like any other big companies that control their members/ users lives these days.
If the goal of social networking is to promote human interaction then “We-Connect.io” does exactly that. And it can do it at a scale. The automated invites or messages also promote human interaction. For example, the author of this blog was sent an automated invite by We-connect. The author accepted the invite and started a conversation that led to this blog opportunity.
Is LinkedIn automation using your platform safe?
It depends on how you use it. If you apply the logic of doing that same amount of work as any human can do, I think it is safe. Can you send 50-100 invites or messages manually spread over 8 hours? If yes, then you are simply using the machine to do that same work for you.
The problem starts when people start pushing it. It is the same as sending a large number of emails (over your quota) and getting blocked by your email service provider. Ideally, if you are in the safe usage limits, LinkedIn should not restrict or block you.
I have come across situations where LinkedIn has restricted their users’ accounts when the users were not using any automation tools. Please read this article by Neal Schaffer
Is LinkedIn automation worth the risk?
The risk is always compared with reward. So you are the judge. LinkedIn is the largest B2B network and offers tremendous potential for prospecting and recruiting. Tapping into this network can be very time consuming and needs a disciplined approach. Automation tools, if used carefully can be very rewarding and unleash the potential that LinkedIn offers for your business. Here are some tips:
Build your network gradually. Work out your daily invite and connection range and stick to it. Like, if you have 100 1st degree connections send no more than 20-30 invites/day. In case you have 10K plus connections, try connecting with the existing network and before reaching out to new contacts.
Don’t spam people. Refine your search, use premium LinkedIn features to target your audience and send relevant, short and helpful messages. I also advise people to be active on LinkedIn by posting valuable content, sharing, liking and commenting on other people’s posts. Delete your outstanding invites. People that have not accepted your invite in 2 months plus probably don’t want to network with you. And above all, if possible invest in LinkedIn premium.
I have not come across permanent restriction of any member but they are still a risk. If you follow good housekeeping tips, put a networking strategy in place before jumping on any automation tool you can minimize the risks and maximize the rewards.
Our Opinion Is LinkedIn Automation Software Worth The Risk?
LinkedIn automation can build your LinkedIn network quickly and provide a repeatable way of generating engagement and opportunities.
However, it does not require hours and hours of work per week to grow a successful account without automation and the real value of the platform is in the human to human interaction.
So the risk of falling foul of LinkedIn and losing your account should not be taken lightly.
We recommend to our readers and clients that they resist the urge to automate and concentrate on slower more targeted and engaging activity on LinkedIn which may require some effort but can deliver larger rewards.
LinkedIn is an amazing resource, do not put your professional reputation at risk to save a few seconds.