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Should You Automate Your Prospecting On LinkedIn With Bots? Heck No!

On this week’s episode of The Social Selling Show, Daniel and Will talk about automating your prospecting on LinkedIn and why it’s never a good idea to use bots to try and grow your LinkedIn audience.

You'll learn:

Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Co-host - Daniel Disney
The king of social selling

Resources:

Transcript

Will Barron:

Welcome to the Social Selling Show with myself, Will Barron, founder of Salesman.org, and the king of social selling, Daniel Disney. Daniel, how’s it going, mate?

 

Daniel Disney:

I am very good, sir, very excited to be back. And again, I think we’re going to be assessing quite a controversial topic today, so excited to dig into today’s subject.

 

What do LinkedIn Scheduling Tools do? · [00:37]

 

Will Barron:

For sure. So we’re going to call the LinkedIn automation. So at a high level, I want to touch on publishing and scheduling tools, which I think will be the most valuable for our audience. Then we’ll touch on how you can potentially use some of these tools to maybe grow an audience and prospecting outreach and stuff like that as well. So we’ll come on to that towards the end of the show. But first at a high level, what do LinkedIn scheduling tools do because I think that’s the crux of the conversation here. What do they do, and how can we leverage them to improve our content flow and scheduling on LinkedIn itself?

 

“Automation tools, scheduling tools allow you to schedule content in advance that can then be automatically posted without you needing to post it yourself manually.” – Daniel Disney · [00:52] 

 

Daniel Disney:

So automation tools, scheduling tools allow you to schedule content in advance that can then be automatically posted without you needing to post it yourself manually, one of the best tools and resources out there. 

 

“The biggest challenge I see people face, even some of the influencers you might be following right now, is consistency. And I see so many personal brands get built, they get sort of semi influencer status, they’re getting tonnes of engagement, their audience is growing, and then something happens, and they go off the radar. And once you start pushing past two to three weeks of not consistently posting, your brand drops, your engagement drops, the longer you leave it, the worse it gets. And sometimes they come back and it’s an uphill climb again. Consistency is one of the biggest challenges. Scheduling content helps you maintain that consistency.” – Daniel Disney · [01:02] 

 

Daniel Disney:

Because the biggest challenge I see people face, even some of the influencers you might be following right now, is consistency. And I see so many personal brands get built, they get sort of semi influencer status, they’re getting tonnes of engagement, their audience is growing, and then something happens, and they go off the radar. And once you start pushing past two to three weeks of not consistently posting, your brand drops, your engagement drops, the longer you leave it, the worse it gets. And sometimes they come back and it’s an uphill climb again. Consistency is one of the biggest challenges. Scheduling content helps you maintain that consistency.

 

Daniel Disney:

I take holidays where I’m not on… I don’t live on LinkedIn like many people think. I take days off, I take holidays, breaks, Christmas, et cetera, but I have content scheduled so that there’s always content. And that’s what’s allowed me to maintain growth of my brand for sort of five, six years consistently. So they are great platforms for consistency.

 

Will Barron:

What you’re describing is me. I’ll work hard for a month, I’ll get a bit of traction, I can see the posts getting more, and more likes and comments, and then I’ll… Because my focus is clearly always on the podcast, the video side of things, LinkedIn is kind of second priority for me so as soon as the content side of things crops up and I’ve got to do more over there, LinkedIn gets dropped, and then I’m restarting again over.

 

Stay Consistent and See Results on LinkedIn · [02:22]

 

Will Barron:

Because that’s what we’re talking about, we’re talking about the marketing or the selling flywheel of it’s difficult to get it spinning, and you could probably take a few days off now and it would still be spinning because it’s so heavy to get moving in that first place. But if you’ve got a massive flywheel and you’ve just turned it a few notches and then you stop promoting yourself, promoting content, sharing content, educating, then it just stops to a dead halt, and you start from scratch.

 

Daniel Disney:

Yeah, no, it’s exactly that, Will. And like you say, you could probably take a couple of days and you’re going to be fine, but the longer you’re absent, then it’s like leaving a room full of people, they’re going to forget you, they’re going to start talking to everyone else, and listening to other people, and it becomes a lot harder to get their attention. So consistency is so crucial, but with scheduling at least you can plan. So if you know you’ve got a day of calls, a day of meetings, a day of training, you’re taking a week, two weeks holiday. If you know you’ve got these things coming, it takes a couple of hours, if that, to schedule… I mean, it might take an hour to schedule two weeks, three weeks in advance, at least, you know content’s going out.

 

Daniel Disney:

Not just that, not just the consistency, but it’s got content working for you. So you could be sat on a phone all day, you’re going to have a call day, a whole day of cold calls, warm calls, sales calls so you’ve got some posts scheduled in LinkedIn. You’re there busy making calls, your content is going out. You log in at the end of the day, you’ve got inbox inquiries coming through, engagement, reach, all of that stuff. So you’ve got LinkedIn working for you whilst you’re doing other things.

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. I want the audience to think about it like this because this is the moment when it clicked for me when it was explained to me in this way. So you see LinkedIn on a website and you go, “Okay, that’s what LinkedIn is.” Well, LinkedIn is run on a computer somewhere, obviously thousands of computer servers, but it’s essentially a CPU RAM, it’s what you’re probably consuming this content that you’re watching now, the Social Selling Show on, whether it be a mobile device, a laptop, a desktop computer, whatever it is.

 

Will Barron:

Now, each of these individual units, they’re pumping out this content on your behalf, they’re sharing it. They are essentially part of your sales team, they are representing you when you’re not physically able to be the in the office. And as soon as I heard that kind of, it’s literal, but also slightly metaphorical as well. I was like, “Oh, so why am I doing live…” I know you do a lot of this Daniel, but I changed my business slightly a few years ago because it hated travelling, that was a big part of this. But, “Why am I doing all these live interviews when I could do five Skype interviews a day as opposed to one live interview a day?” I’ve never done cold calling, but, “Why am I doing cold outreach via email or whatever it is, when I could just create a killer piece of content, and at the end of it share that we’ve got sponsorship opportunities for the Salesman.org podcast, Salesman.org in general or I could talk about our training product?”

 

Will Barron:

As soon as it clicked that I create one piece of content, and of course it doesn’t happen overnight, and there’s skill in creating content. But as soon as I realised that, “Oh, I can do this and I can schedule ahead, I can create 60 podcast episodes in a month and that will do me the three or four months worth of content all scheduled ahead, my business, my sales, how I framed up sales in my head changed overnight. So hopefully that’s useful for the audience and sets things up with automating [inaudible [00:05:31] LinkedIn content.

 

Does LinkedIn Allow These Other Scheduling Tools to Integrate with Their Platform? · [05:30] 

 

Will Barron:

Now let me ask you this before we get… Because this will become relevant later on in the conversation when we talk about perhaps some more nefarious ways of using LinkedIn automation. Does LinkedIn allow these other platforms to integrate with them to share content, for example, is there an open API or are these platforms kind of almost hacking into LinkedIn to provide this functionality?

 

Daniel Disney:

As far as I’m aware, they’re not hacking in, they do have authorization to do so because there are no negative impacts when they post for you. So if I schedule a post and it goes out onto LinkedIn, I’m not going to get any less or drop of engagement as if I were to post it myself. So as far as I’m aware, it’s all legit, depending on what platform you use. The only two I’ve used it, I know there are several others out there as well, but Hootsuite and Buffer I think are two of the biggest ones out there that allow you to schedule. And as far as I’m aware, these are big companies, they have good relationships with LinkedIn, and I’ve been using them for five, six years plus now. So they’re well embedded in the system. So yeah, as far as I’m aware, Will, totally legit.

 

Will Barron:

So I use Hootsuite myself. And Buffer, I can’t remember the CEO’s name now, something Gascoigne. I’m sure he’s a Scottish fellow. I spoke to him when Buffer was in what they call the minimum viable product stage when it was literally a tiny little website that didn’t do much, and he’s grown it and exploded over the years. So I can highly recommend Buffer just from the fact that he was a good guy as well.

 

Will Barron:

Now I’ll just add to this, I have just from more of a case of experimentation as opposed to trying to use and abuse these tools clearly because my audience isn’t big enough for any of it to have worked, I found that if you’re using more nefarious tools, they will ask you to log in with your LinkedIn email and password because they don’t have access behind the scenes to LinkedIn’s kind of APIs and integrations. They’re logging in as you as an individual and then do things on your behalf to add people, send messages, do all this kind of stuff.

 

Tips for Using Hootsuite for Posting and Scheduling Content on LinkedIn · [07:50] 

 

Will Barron:

And so if you’re having to log in with your own email and password, well, that’s a red flag because some random programmer in, I don’t know, Czechoslovakia has all your details and they could log in and just change it and remove you and get you kicked off LinkedIn regardless. But two, that is probably not the automation tools that you should be looking towards, they are not approved by LinkedIn. Okay. So publishing and scheduling, I use Hootsuite, what can we do with Hootsuite? I’m assuming it’s text, audio. Is there anything else that we can do with it other than just posting into the feed?

 

Daniel Disney:

You can post videos, but they tend to host it on a midpoint platform so I haven’t had good experiences of posting videos, sort of direct videos on LinkedIn through a third party. But yeah, you can do text posts, image posts, you can link to an article, and that could be an article published on LinkedIn, or it could be an article published on a website, obviously memes, quotes, all that type of stuff. But yeah, you can’t sort of schedule in advance a LinkedIn poll, for example, or a PDF sort of SlideShare. Some of those things you’re going to have to do direct to the platform, but as we’ve discussed in the content episode, your text-based posts, your photo posts, those are your bigger engagement drivers anyway so you should be able to schedule the majority of good performing content well in advance. 

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. The video is the killer for me because we’ve got so much content to share video wise, we could post more… It’s probably not the best for the algorithm, but we could post multiple times a day. But by the time you upload the video, then you got to sit and wait for it to do whatever processing, then it randomly sends you a notification five minutes later that may be your video has gone live. Publishing videos for me in the timeline, in the LinkedIn feed is not an ideal process. So it would be awesome, and I’m sure it will come at some point for it to be schedulable, if that’s a word, by the likes of Hootsuite, but unfortunately, as I said, it’s not there right now.

 

What’s the Reasonable and Fair Amount of Time to Schedule Ahead? · [09:28]

 

Will Barron:

Okay. How far should we be scheduling ahead? And I guess what we’re getting into now is a little bit of a conversation on scheduling and planning our content in general. Should we be… Well, what’s a fair amount of days to post ahead, Daniel? Should we be aiming for a week ahead? A month ahead? What you do personally, how far ahead with your scheduling are you?

 

Daniel Disney:

I was going to say a big part of this will come through your confidence and competence with creating content. So the more confident you get creating content, the more advanced and ahead you can schedule. If you’re new to content, then putting five days worth of content might be quite an experience. I schedule usually between one or two weeks anyway, and I always have a layer of flexibility. And today’s a perfect example where, totally ironically as we’re recording this, but I had a post scheduled in for my feed and something came up that inspired me to create a different type of post so I just changed the date of that, that’s going to come out in a week or two weeks time. And I put a organic post out today because something came up, I thought, “Yeah, I want to post this one today.” And I rescheduled it.

 

Daniel Disney:

So there’s always going to be flexibility, it’s not like it’s binding and you can’t change it or edit it. But yeah, I will schedule a week or two in advance unless I’m on holiday or I’ve got a few weeks of back-to-back bookings, training, speaking, whatever it may be, then I might book a bit further to then take that pressure off so I can commit fully to the customers I’m serving at that time. It really depends on your circumstances, your confidence, and obviously how much content ideas you have, or content assets you’ve got built up.

 

How to Maximise the Free Accounts on Scheduling Platforms Such as Hootsuite · [11:13] 

 

Will Barron:

Sure, that makes sense. I like to be a month ahead of myself until we get to about Christmas time, and then I will go full in on customised content because it’s difficult to post a video where I’m on the beach in the middle of Christmas, clearly it’s not congruent with what’s going on in the real world. So I’m [inaudible [00:11:12] that. Okay. So is there anything else we need to cover on the LinkedIn publishing side of things and the scheduling content? That seems pretty simple and straightforward.

 

Daniel Disney:

It’s really simple to do, Will. What I will suggest for anyone who’s watching and listening to this, I mean, Hootsuite and Buffer and probably a lot of the other ones, usually have free accounts. Now there’ll be limited, you can only connect so many social networks to them, you can only schedule so far in advance, but it gives you the opportunity to try it, give it a try. And even then the subscriptions aren’t expensive. I think I pay 15, 20 pounds a month for Buffer, and that gives me a tonne of networks to connect to and tonne of content that I can schedule in advance, but try it. If it’s free to try, why wouldn’t you? So yeah, give it a go. But it is really simple to use, you literally plug it in, choose your date, choose your time, and then it’s in, and as long as it’s connected to your account, it will post on that feed.

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. I think we’re still actually on the free version of Hootsuite, I think it allows you to have one LinkedIn profile, a personal one, and then one company one as well, which is all we need. Maybe it only allows you to schedule so many posts ahead of yourself, but I said, we’ve not hit those limits. And so we’re on the free account there as well.

 

Will Barron:

Okay. So let’s move on to a slightly grayer area here so no kind of prerecording conversation we had. I know you’ve perhaps not experienced some of this so we’re going to ask your opinions as opposed to asking you how you did things. I have experimented with a few of these different services and they’ve all been terrible and a waste of time and money. Clearly your audience’s is 100 times bigger than mine, literally 100 times bigger than mine so that shows the difference between doing things the appropriate LinkedIn way versus experimenting with hacks, tricks, and not trying to put in the effort and trying to game the system.

 

Why It’s Never a Good Idea to Use Sites that Claim to Grow Your LinkedIn Audience Within Days · [13:03]

 

Will Barron:

So there are tools that will acclaim to grow your audience. And a lot of this is you just put in some ideas of a persona, and then they will log in as you, and essentially just a bot. And it will just click add, add, add, add, up to the LinkedIn limits each day. Should we be using tools like this, or should we be actually curating the individuals that we want to connect with?

 

“When it comes to either adding people or even messaging, if you’re automating or getting a bot to do that, people see through it, they see through it straight away, and you’re going to decrease the amount of accepted connections you get certainly decrease the replies you get.” – Daniel Disney · [13:39] 

 

Daniel Disney:

Will, I am against it in so many ways, and everything I’ve always done is 100% organic, I’m very passionate about that. And hopefully some level of evidence of the success that can come from doing it all organically, two reasons, number one, you have no control over it, and when it comes to either adding or even messaging, if you’re automating or getting a bot to do that, people see through it, they see through it straight away, and you’re going to decrease the amount of accepted connections you get certainly decrease the replies you get, but they come with a huge, the biggest risk you can ever get on LinkedIn. 

 

Daniel Disney:

And I had three people last year come to me who got lifetime bans from LinkedIn for using those tools, and LinkedIn’s a great platform, they’re not easy to communicate with. One of them managed to get it overturned, but it took six months of very heavy communications to do that. The other two weren’t able to do so. So that risk of a lifetime ban is very much there because LinkedIn knows doing things that way, you’re just going to be spamming their audience, that’s not in their users’ best interests. So tread carefully, I don’t know anyone who’s achieved positive, successful results by using them, but I’ve certainly seen a lot of people who’ve had very negative consequences and I also know what can be achieved without using them.

 

Will Barron:

Sure, and clearly we don’t want to out these individuals, but for context, these individuals, did they use these tools to grow an audience to 1,000 connections and followers, or were they kind of big influencers who had cheated and gamed the system to get to that point?

 

Daniel Disney:

No, these were sort of lower end audiences trying to sort of build and add hundreds a day to sort of get to the thousands. But again, instantly a red flag for LinkedIn.

 

Will Barron:

Yeah, of course, because it’s obvious, right? If you’ve got that amount of time to… And of course the tools are not thick, they understand they’re trying to gain this algorithm, or the automated algorithms that LinkedIn have are flagging some of this stuff, they know that the bots will click randomly and sporadically, and throughout the day. But if you’re adding that many people, it’s a red flag for someone to review it at some point, and the bigger the audience is, clearly more and more a risk that all of this becomes. You don’t want all your hard work to just be flushed down the toilet because LinkedIn can do what they want. They can ban you for a lifetime ban, and what are you going to do? No one’s suing LinkedIn for a personal account like this.

 

Sales Prospecting Tools are Also Not a Really Good Idea · [15:48] 

 

Will Barron:

Okay. So the other elements of this, the other dark side of LinkedIn automation seems to be prospecting tools. Now, I’m not talking about tools like LeadIQ where you can go on LinkedIn and pull emails from LinkedIn profiles and things like that. Maybe that’s somewhat of a grey area, not necessarily LeadIQ but other brands will pull data from LinkedIn that probably they shouldn’t have access to. I’m talking about tools that will claim to automate your prospecting in that they will send messages and bulk messages on your behalf. Am I right in making the assumption that that’s probably not a good idea either?

 

“I can tell an automated message because they’re very obvious. If you put an emoji before your name on your LinkedIn profile, when a bot messages you, they put, hi, emoji, they don’t put your name, and you can tell it’s just been sort of picked through the system. But the wording in the message itself is pretty clear that it’s a bot messaging you.” – Daniel Disney · [16:33] 

 

Daniel Disney:

Yes, Will. And I wrote the book about LinkedIn messaging and I’m very passionate about it needs to be sent to the right people and it needs to be from you. And I didn’t experiment, Will, I can remember if we discussed this in the profile episode, but you can tell… I mean, I can tell an automated message without this, they’re very obvious, but if you put an emoji before your name on your LinkedIn profile, when a bot messages you, they put, hi, emoji, they don’t put your name, and you can tell it’s just been sort of picked through the system. But the wording in the message itself is pretty clear that it’s a bot messaging you.

 

“People aren’t going to respond to a bot, there’s no relevance, they’re never personalised. They think by pulling your job title or your name, that’s going to make you feel like it’s relevant to you, and it’s not, you need to make real direct references.” – Daniel Disney · [16:57] 

 

Daniel Disney:

And they don’t get responses. People aren’t going to respond to a bot, there’s no relevance, they’re never personalised. They think by pulling your job title or your name, that’s going to make you feel like it’s relevant to you, and it’s not, you need to make real direct references so that… I don’t see them generating good responses, again, I’ve never used them so some companies may claim some success from them, all I know is the potential that exists just by sending better personalised messages. Yes, you might send less, but from experience, you’ll get a far better conversion. 

 

“Our targets are set, hopefully so that they are a stretchable but they’re achievable. So if you can’t achieve them by not using weird tools, and hacks, and tricks, if you can’t achieve your sales target by doing things in an appropriate way that builds your reputation over the years and decades, then your sales target is a mess, that’s the problem, not LinkedIn.” – Will Barron · [18:04] 

 

Will Barron:

For sure. And for me, I’ll be honest, some of these rules get bent. If I’m a startup and I’ve had funding, I haven’t had funding, I need to drive leads, clicks immediately. Maybe then, look, I’m going to experiment with some of this stuff because the business survival rate is dependent on it, perhaps. But as an individual, there’s no need, we don’t have targets of, depending on what you sell, it’s unlikely you’ve got target of a hundred million over the next four years otherwise your investors are going to pull out and you’re going to be on the hook for whatever it is that you’ve promised them. Our targets are set, hopefully so that they are a stretch goal, but they’re achievable. So if you can’t achieve them by not using weird tools, and hacks, and tricks, if you can’t achieve your sales target by doing things in an appropriate way that build your reputation over the years and decades, then your sales target is a mess, that’s the problem, not LinkedIn, and the way we reached out to people.

 

“People buy from people and those relationships and conversations are going to become more and more valuable as more and more automation and technology sort of takes over.” – Daniel Disney · [18:44] 

 

Daniel Disney:

Yeah, no, I fully agree. And it’s a shortcut, it’s a hack, it’s a way for sales teams or companies to try and mass push stuff out there, again, it’s that whole throw as much at the wall and see what sticks. And I think, as the years go on, and the whole AI coming into sales, things like that, people buy from people and those relationships and conversations are going to become more and more valuable as more and more automation and technology sort of takes over so the value will very much heavily lean on that. So yeah, I’m all for that, I think that’s only going to grow as years go on, and just tread carefully with these things. 

 

Will Barron:

And just to double down on this fact here, on this point, cold email works because it’s… Well, it is open source. Google, a lot of people use Google Gmail, and so Google have incredible spam filters and algorithms to deal with cold email and spam getting through into your inbox in the first place. And that’s changing now as we see Gmail is now… Every time I log into Gmail, I keep telling it, “No, no Gmail, bad Gmail.” It tries to split my inbox into relevant messages, promotions, something or other, I don’t want multiple tabs, I just want one feed. But Google and Gmail keeps pushing me to move towards this. So as soon as that happens, cold email is just going to get absolutely wrecked, especially with large corporate accounts when your spammy emails go to a promotional top that probably gets checked once a week, once a month, as opposed to every day, which is the main feed, and Google are doing this to make email more effective.

 

Will Barron:

LinkedIn doesn’t have to play by any of these rules, they can make a change in a heartbeat. They don’t want automated emails going out, they just change one line of code in the way that they login, or for example, a lot of bots will literally click on a page, it’s a virtual mouse movements to add these things. All they have to do is change things a few pixels over, and all the bots are wrecked for a week, and then they change it back. So all of these tools, maybe in the wild, wild west days of LinkedIn, 10 years ago, maybe there was some value to them then, but you’re playing with fire as soon as you go for any of this stuff on a closed platform like LinkedIn today. So I think we put that across bluntly enough there. Is there anything we need to add to this LinkedIn automation conversation before we wrap up, Daniel? 

 

Parting Thoughts · [20:47]

 

Daniel Disney:

No, like I said, the main tool that I see working from an automation perspective is the scheduling of content. There are other tools so you’re starting to get more analytical tools that connect to your LinkedIn and give you more insights. But yeah, when it comes to automating messages or network growth, A, I would say there’s no need for it, you can grow a big network without using them, I am a testament to that, and you can send good reply driving, opportunity building messages personally without the need for these platforms to do so. Don’t look for shortcuts, sometimes doing it… It’s the same in sales, what works the best is often the basics. And it’s the same with LinkedIn and social selling, stick to the basics. Do it yourself. Do it organically. Do it personally. And you will probably see far better results than trying to take shortcuts, use automation that’s going to cost you money and potentially cost you your account.

 

Will Barron:

I love it. What a way to summarise the conversation here. That was Daniel Disney, the king of social selling. My name is Will Barron, founder of Salesman.org, and that was the Social Selling Show. We’ll speak to you next week on next week’s Social Selling Show.

 

Daniel Disney:

See you next time.

 

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