The one question that comes up most often on LinkedIn lead generation forums has to be: ‘What is the best LinkedIn automation tool?’.
Kind of obvious I guess but not at all surprising because there is so much choice now. People want answers to questions like ‘Is a browser extension or a cloud-based platform better?’ or, ‘Do I need to pay a few dollars a day or hundreds of dollars a month? Plus, the features and usability vary considerably between LinkedIn automation tools and these need explaining.
Forums are constantly publishing lists to address these questions. But, one other thing is pretty constant. In almost every case of this overarching question being posted on a forum, at least one person will immediately reply that LinkedIn automation tools are bad. That using a tool means you’re going to get banned and permanently excluded from LinkedIn.
And that the answer instead is to use a manual Virtual Assistant or VA, which the poster will say is far safer (because it is done by an actual human) and delivers better results.
I’m not against ‘done for you’ LinkedIn services – loads of Dux-Soup users are digital agencies or recruitment services that execute a LinkedIn lead generation strategy on behalf of clients. But the idea that using a manual VA is a safer and better approach to LinkedIn lead generation is wide of the mark for several reasons.
Giving third party access
To outsource your LinkedIn outreach to a VA, you need to give a 3rd party access to your own LinkedIn account. This is against the Terms and Conditions of LinkedIn which say that you must not misrepresent your identity or use or attempt to use another’s account’. It is the first thing listed and breaking this rule leaves you open to punitive action from LinkedIn – so much for being safer than using a LinkedIn automation tool.
Giving out your password
You also need to hand over your personal login details to a VA and given that many people use the same or similar passwords for multiple accounts, you could be compromising more than just your LinkedIn account from a cyber security point of view.
VA’s will typically use a VPN to spoof LinkedIn into thinking that you are logging in from a particular location. However, this is not a fool proof method of staying undetected. LinkedIn is aware of the VA industry (hence the conditions quoted above) and has evolving detection capabilities.
Giving someone the keys your house
If you grant a VA access to your LinkedIn profile, they have access to everything. And I mean everything. Whilst I am sure that most VAs are reputable and honest, what happens if your account is farmed out to a VA that decides to copy all of your contacts, or reads your personal InMail messages from a recruiter. Are you happy for your privacy to be compromised in this way?
What motivates the VA fan?
The supporters of VA’s that post that they are the way forward, typically offer, wait for it, yes - VA services! I’ve seen one person challenged on this very point and they admitted that it was in their own self-interest to promote their VA service and downplay any positive advantages of using a LinkedIn automation solution.
VA’s still use automation solutions
Here’s the kicker about why VA’s aren’t a universal solution - many of them also use automation tools or other techniques to scrape LinkedIn. So, if you think you are safer in moving away from using an automation tool under your control, to a VA, bear in mind that you could simply be shifting the risk, not minimising it.
What is the best automation platform then?
The real answer to which is the best automation platform is always, ‘it depends on what you want to achieve’. For some, it might be a slow and steady increase in the size of your LinkedIn network using a progressive view back strategy so you can start raising awareness in your chosen target audience.
For others, it might be to quickly create a funnel that generates actionable leads which convert to sales. Or you might want to be like Unomaly, whose laser focus zooms in on a couple of hundred contacts and uses a multi-stage automated workflow to generate leads to build pipeline.
Risk vs reward
There are going to be risks associated with using a LinkedIn automation tool. You can’t have missed the recent buzz when two high profile LinkedIn tools shut down overnight and wrote to all their users asking them to stop using the current platform.
However, for every user who was faced with suddenly finding an alternative solution, there are lots more, that are successfully and sensibly using LinkedIn automation tools. The key word in that statement is ‘sensibly’.
I know you’ve heard it before but:
• Operate within the safe boundaries that tools like Dux-Soup recommend and set for numbers of connections sent and cadence of messages
• Target your LinkedIn audience as much as you can to avoid spamming accusations and use the personalised templates
• Regularly housekeep your total outstanding connection requests
Following these and other good practices means that you will be minimising the risks from using a LinkedIn automation platform. There is a good blog on Topdogsocialmedia.com all about this.
Going beyond basic automation
The latest automation solutions enable you to automate much, much more than just viewing profiles and sending connection requests. Automated follow up messaging (according to your audience reactions such as when a prospect views your profile or accepts a connection request) is proving to be an incredibly popular way of automating more of the sales funnel - leaving sales and business development staff free to focus more on sales conversion activity.
Once you have set up an automation tool correctly, it will sit there acting as a lead generation machine, helping you to boost pipeline and sales, with minimal effort.
Finally, by using a LinkedIn automation tool under your control, you have more control. Over the message, the outreach and the secure access to your own valuable data.
So, the next time you see a post on a forum asking what is the best LinkedIn automation tool, remember, take any answers about using a VA with a pinch of salt and ask the question instead, what do you want to achieve, and what risk are you prepared to take?
About the author
Adam Osman is Head of Marketing at Dux-Soup He is passionate about using the latest marketing techniques to help companies and brands grow. With two decades of experience in marketing technology products for international companies and startups alike, Adam leads the effort to spread the word about how Dux-Soup can benefit companies looking to turbo charge their lead generation.