Occasionally, someone will ask me if they should use one of the automation services that help automatically find connections, send invitations, then engage in initial conversations on LinkedIn.
These are not real conversations, but machines and bots that represent you.
People are busy, so I understand why it might be tempting to automate activity on social media.
I have strong feelings about these automated services, so let’s talk about them.
Listen or Read: It’s Your Choice Below
If you would like to listen to this via audio, you can click on the green play button in the player below. If you don’t see that, just click here. If you are more of a reader, you will find the blog post directly below the podcast player.
This is an important discussion for us to have because, as lawyers and professionals, this has an impact on being consistent with your brand, not to mention the way you choose to do business.
What Is Your Brand?
Your brand is many things, and we could go into detail in LMAC VIP about what yours is specifically, but the foundation of your brand is that you follow the law. Your brand is that you help others follow the law, that you are proactive, and that you help clients to be proactive so they and their companies stay out of trouble. You help solve problems. You help others take the right steps. You protect them.
In my business, it is my responsibility to help lawyers and legal marketers take the right steps. Bots and automation are growing. I am getting way too many automated messages in my inbox on LinkedIn that are sloppy, incorrectly targeted, way too abrupt, and “salesy.”
Actually, getting even one automated message sent by a bot is one too many for me.
Violating LinkedIn’s Terms of Service
You should know that these bots search LinkedIn profiles to look for keywords that users identify. The bot then sends an invitation to connect, complete with a message that is often off base and insincere.
I don’t think you should ever use these services. If the empty approach of using a machine to automate networking and business development activity pretending to be you does not leave you cold, perhaps it will seal the deal if you know that using bots is against LinkedIn’s terms of service.
Here is the section of LinkedIn’s TOS for you to review, but let me save you a little time. Below you will see the screenshot of section 8.2m under LinkedIn “Dos and Don’ts,” which states:
- Use bots or other automated methods to access the Services, add or download contacts, send or redirect messages;
Using bots to send messages in the inbox is about as close to violating this term of service as I can find.
Your Account Could Be Suspended
If LinkedIn discovers you are using bots, they could, I am not saying they do in every case, but they could suspend your account. It is not easy to get accounts back. In recent days, I have learned of accounts being shut down more often than in the past. I take this seriously.
Sometimes they are closed for good and you cannot get them back. Sometimes people slide by under the radar and they are never caught. I don’t think that is consistent your brand. I also doubt that is how you want to operate, hoping to slide by and not get caught.
I also know that is inconsistent with the brand of a lawyer who cares about following terms of service and who cares about following the law.
This Is Lazy Marketing, and It Shows
Another reason I don’t want you to use these automated services is that they are sloppy. I can tell almost every time these invitations are not coming from someone who genuinely looked at my profile and wants to connect.
How do I know that? Well, there are telltale signs. Because I work with lawyers, you will find the word lawyer on my profile in several places. These bots scrape profiles across LinkedIn, looking for the word lawyer because, certainly, all who have the work lawyer in their profile must be lawyers, correct?
The other day I got a message in my inbox that said something similar to this:
“I just took a look at your profile and I see that you’re a lawyer, and I’d like to connect with more lawyers here.”
This Time, I Took the Bait and Responded
Oftentimes, I don’t engage in conversation when I know this is happening. I just delete the request to connect because they’ve lost my respect right off the bat when it’s that obvious I’m not a lawyer because I never say anywhere in my profile that I am.
Well, last week I decided to reply. Some bot users choose to have the bot continue to answer, frequently incorrectly, but some choose to take over the conversation when they receive a notification of a reply.
I was pretty civil and said,
“Mmm, thanks, but I’m not a lawyer. Are you using one of the automated bot services?”
He told me he was not, and that LinkedIn Navigator allowed him to automate invitations to connect by using keywords.
So I said,
“I have a strong concern about these services because I think they can cheapen one’s brand and they go against LinkedIn’s terms of service.”
After a little back and forth, he messaged,
“Well, it’s just that I’m trying to save time because I have a family and, you know, children at home to educate. So I’m just trying to streamline what I do here.”
My last words to him were,
“I get it. I understand. I would just be very cautious because I don’t think it’s a very good practice.”
I could have taken it further, but that’s not really my brand to be confrontational, and what would I have accomplished by pressing him on the subject?
Also, because, as I sometimes say to myself,
“You know what? It’s not always my job to save the whole world.”
Lawyers, This Will Make You Look Bad
When I hear lawyers talk about this, though, then I have to step in and strongly recommend that you do not use these services because, again, it will make you look bad because it is inevitable that something that bot is doing on your behalf is going to be inaccurate and it’s going to make you look bad.
Shortcuts to Establish Relationships
Using bots is also taking shortcuts to establishing relationships.
Pretending we are operating in a normal (what’s that?) world where we can freely network in person, do you send somebody to a business after hours or another function for you? Do you let them log-in to a client meeting on Zoom with your name and credentials? No, you don’t, because you’re the one out there establishing relationships, and only you can engage in meaningful conversation with someone. Only you will ultimately know if that person is someone with whom you really should be connecting. Also, that kind of behavior would be unethical.
Automated services are against LinkedIn’s terms of service. If you missed them, see my screenshot and link above.
The legal profession requires you, as well as those who represent you, to adhere to legal terms and terms of service, as well as established ethical requirements, so please stay away from these bots.
I know you want to do better than that. I know you can do better than that.