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Why I hate automated “bots”​ and think you should never use them to make new connections on LinkedIn

It seems that almost everywhere we turn, we are told that robots and computers are taking over the world.

As many bank tellers have been replaced by ATMs, and cashiers are being replaced by self-checkouts, robots are replacing automated tasks. I’ll even admit that, in many cases, I prefer to use bots or online chats to avoid the hassle of waiting on hold for the next customer service representative who “apologize[s] for the wait, but value[s] my business”. 

But, when it comes to building relationships, author and keynote speaker Scott Stratten says automation is “like sending a mannequin to a networking event”.

Not only do automated programs violate LinkedIn’s User Agreement, which states:

[Don’t] “Use bots or other automated methods to access the Services, add or download contacts, send or redirect messages;”

(which means you can get banned from using LinkedIn altogether), but these tools can also really hurt your brand.

For example, I once received a connection request from someone who sent a connection request to introduce himself as a specialist who works with speakers to get their book published. It was obvious this person didn’t bother to take the time to review my profile, because my book “CREATE. CONNECT. CONVERT” is featured both in my Summary/About section, and visually prominent in my cover photo.

If this same person reached out to say “Hi Leslie, I noticed that you’ve already authored a book, and I’d love to help you publish your next one.” I would have been more open to a dialogue, but his generic connection request seemed like simply used the same opener and had automated his outreach. 

I immediately deleted his connection request, and will never be open to connecting with him because he didn’t take five minutes to do his research before he tried to make a connection.

Everyone is not a strategy

As a long-time marketer, I know that “EVERYONE” is not a strategy. Your goal shouldn’t be focused on reaching the maximum 30,000 1st degree connections limit (quite frankly that’s just a vanity metric that means absolutely nothing). 

Instead, your strategy should be focused upon connecting with the right people, at the righttime, sharing the right messages.

If you haven’t developed an ideal client avatar, now is the time to start. This exercise will help you to get crystal clear on who your audience is so that you can laser-focus your approach and prevent you from spinning your wheels while trying to connect with “everyone”. 

Get started with a personalized approach

You’d never go to a networking meeting and just “make it rain” by throwing business cards AT random people (ouch!). You’d take an individualized and tailored approach to talk WITH each person. More than likely, you’d engage in a two-way conversation to ask what they do, or engage in other small talk so that you can see if there is an opportunity to work together, right?

Treat your connection requests and online networking the same way you would engage in face-to-face networking: 

  • Focus on building a quality network, instead of a quantity network. Connect with people who you’d like to do business with, and/or people you think would be a great alliance.
  • Do your due diligence and research each person. Use icebreakers that you’ve gathered from their profile to personalize yourself: Do you have mutual connections in common? Are you alumni from the same school? 
  • After making the initial connection request, follow up with your connections to see if you can provide them with relevant information that adds value to their lives.

While bots and artificial intelligence (AI) are getting smarter to understand both the content and the context of human language, people want to connect with other people.

To me, automating your outreach using a bot can potentially hurt your brand more than it could help your brand. Take the time to build a quality network over time instead of hoping your can blast your way to an overnight success.

I’D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR PERSPECTIVE: Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below.

About Leslie Hughes

Leslie Hughes is a LinkedIn Optimization Specialist, Professor of Social Media, Corporate Trainer, Principal of PUNCH!media and author of “CREATE. CONNECT. CONVERT” Leslie was called a "Social Media Guru" by CBC Radio and was featured on CTV’s “The Social” discussing how to manage your digital identity. Leslie has been working in digital marketing since 1997 and founded PUNCH!media in 2009. PUNCH!media clients include Investment Planning Counsel, Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and TVO. PUNCH!media's goal is to empower through education and help executives gain confidence in their online presence so you convert higher-paying clients. www.punchmedia.ca

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