Confession time: I’m a LinkedIn spammer. OK, not exactly. What I mean is, one of the ways in which I market my services is by sending messages to people with whom I share various LinkedIn.com Groups — people I don’t actually know. LinkedIn facilitates this, and the truth is that it’s an effective way to reach prospective clients, if it’s done considerately and with the requisite flair, and if the message you share has some actual relevance to the recipient. Actually, it’s worked out rather well.
But it is SO EASY TO SCREW THIS UP. I offer this message as a case in point.
It arrived in my LinkedIn inbox. Needless to say, Andrea is a complete stranger. We’re both members of a group — probably one related to Digital Marketing. LinkedIn allows people who share a group to message one another if they opt into this. In its early days, LinkedIn was very squeamish about this kind of unsolicited contact, but the Groups feature has designed into it the recognition that people want to interact with peers with whom they have things in common. This was part of LinkedIn’s coming of age.
I’m happy to know Andrea wishes me well — she and the other attractive, mid-20ish female who sent me this exact same message earlier this week. I’m very curious whether women who are members of this group have been receiving this same message from handsome 25ish male Inside Sales Specialists at Consultant / Independent in the last week or so. Ladies?
Here are a few other things that made me cynical about this message (i.e., reasons I trashed it):
- “I wanted to take a few minutes from you today.” Did you now? Aren’t you thoughtful.
- “…’hosted’ video conferencing is changing real-time collaboration.” Mmm. Is it? Not mine, so far. Where have I been?
- “(A) white paper that will tell you why this technology is spreading like wildfire.” Just what I need — a document that satisfies my burning desire to know the reason behind an irrelevant phenomenon I hadn’t noticed.
- Free Download Link. Oh good. A link to click, from a complete stranger, with no affiliation, offering something I never asked for. Lemme at it!
- “I hope you would find this interesting.” Setting aside the bizarre verb tense…thanks for sharing your hopes and dreams, pretty, young, inappropriately-familiar Andrea. Life can be so cruel.
I believe this last bit is supposed to be a “Call to Action” — the payoff you are supposed to use to cap off every selling letter or blog post. Here’s mine: By all means, look into social media groups or networks as ways to cultivate leads, if yours is the sort of product or service for which there is a realistic expectation of actual demand among your peers in those groups. But:
- Approach people respectfully, and be 100% aboveboard about who you are and who you work for;
- Understand that pandering to the recipient’s vanity is not going to get your message read;
- Have something of practical value to offer, and understand that not everyone in the group has a reason to want it — this tactic only works with carefully targeted members (i.e., a group is not the same thing as a mass mailing list);
- Do remember that the web is a snake pit, and clicking a link in an unsolicited message from a stranger is an act of faith. If you haven’t earned the recipient’s trust, even asking them to click is insulting his or her intelligence; and
- Wind up your message with a compelling and reasonable request — for a live call, or a meeting, for instance — one that promises actual value to the reader.