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The LinkedIn Connections You Don’t Want — How Marketers Target You

Ryan Dube 01-08-2013

Before the days of the Internet, most marketers were stuck using the tried and true vehicles for obtaining business or sales leads. They turned to things like cold-calling over the phone, sending out mass mailings, and other efforts to reach as much people with as little effort as possible. With the advent of the Internet, and particularly social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, Marketers now have a whole toolbox full of tricks to convert you into a buying customer.


The reality for most people on social networks is that they want to spend time connecting with others, having meaningful and interesting dialogues, and maybe even landing a new job. LinkedIn in particular is a powerful tool that you can use to market yourself and your skills to the world. Just one look at our LinkedIn Guide will prove just how powerful this amazing social network is, especially when you include your resume Resume Builder: Create a Resume From Your LinkedIn Profile Read More and all of your relevant experience.

People build their LinkedIn profiles How To Make Your LinkedIn Profile Irresistible If social media has turned us into digital narcissists, then we should be building up our resume on LinkedIn all the more as it is a valuable platform for professional networking. Welcome to the digital... Read More with the hope of attracting an amazing job offer, or maybe even a business partner. Who knows what opportunities could pop-up if the right person spots you and finds your interests and skills useful? However, there’s a dark side to LinkedIn too, and that’s the sea of online marketers that are masquerading as regular users, and trolling the social network to find their next lead.

LinkedIn Marketers are Today’s Telemarketer

The truth is that the people who used to call you on the phone to sell you on their amazing multilevel marketing scheme like Amway (remember Amway?) are now looking for you on LinkedIn. Not only that, the MLM (multi-level marketing) schemes have multiplied. Now there are pyramid schemes for weight-loss products, nutritional supplements and anything else people buy. There are marketers looking for someone to sell affiliate products to. There are marketers looking to sell online courses. The list goes on and on, and you, my friend, are the mark.

Privacy Settings

So, how do you avoid becoming a target for a manipulative marketer? If you’re trying to spread the word about yourself and your skills on LinkedIn, then it’s not easy. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of having to deal with one of these marketers. The first is to review your visibility settings. You’ll find them at the bottom of your profile page, by clicking the “Customize visibility” link on the “Connections” tab.
On this page, you can control nearly everything about the privacy of your LinkdedIn profile. Click on “Select who can see your connections“, and set this setting to “Only you”.
Why does this matter? Well, look at it this way; Would you rather have someone approach you to get to know you because of your skills and your experience, or because you happen to know someone they want to connect with? Sure, your connections may become relevant later — and you can provide relevant contacts with those people if they have a need to know — but as an introduction, you should keep those connections to yourself. This will also make you a lesser target for telemarketers that are looking for people that happen to be connected to “big fish” they’re hoping to make a connection with.

The same may be true for your activity feed, which you can also control in this privacy area, but you may want to set this carefully. Your activity feed can also serve as a great way to attract potential employers or business partners to you, so you may only want to lower this to “Your network” — or even leave it at “Everyone”, depending why you use LinkedIn and what you’re hoping to get out of the network.


A more private setting will prevent marketers, but it may also block good opportunities as well, so try to keep things balanced.

Interacting in Groups

The most important thing you should take away from this article, above anything else, is this one fact — marketers troll LinkedIn groups regularly for people that are the most likely to be interested in their product or service.
These groups are usually awesome places where you can have some really interesting conversations or get some of your questions answered. It’s also an awesome place to establish yourself within an industry or a niche as a knowledgeable person and an industry leader.


Unfortunately, the more you post and draw attention to yourself in groups, the more likely you are to start receiving the ever-present “LinkedIn Spam”. That is, you’ll notice a surge in connection requests from complete strangers. Which brings me to our next item to watch for: connect requests.


Carefully Review All Connection Requests

Here’s a modern marketing technique: You troll LinkedIn groups and search out people that appear to be very motivated or active, and are most likely to be interested in your product, your service, or whatever you’re selling. Next, you might interact with them in a group discussion so that you come across as just another user looking to meet new and interesting people. You gain trust and you become a real person, and not an evil “marketer”.
Next comes the friendly connection request.

You may be tempted to accept a request from these strangers, especially if you’ve had a brief exchange with them in one of the groups. They may seem extremely friendly, personable and trustworthy. It’s best to slow down and do your due diligence. Click on their name and explore their profile.
Believe it or not, a lot of marketers make no secret of the fact that they are in fact marketers. For example, here’s a job recruiting head-hunter that is only trying to connect with me to add me to their database of people to keep emailing or calling every week to ask me if I’m happy in my current job. No thank you.

Polls and Questions

Finally, there is one last point that needs mentioning. That is the issue of polls inside of those LinkedIn Groups. It can be very tempting to respond to polls, or to answer some of those particularly compelling questions.
The thing to keep in mind here is that this is a long-running favorite technique of marketers on LinkedIn. Polls and questions usually attract responses, because people want to toss their hat in the ring and express their own opinion on a topic. The more compelling or controversial the topic, the more likely people are to respond.

The idea here is that marketers are going on a fishing expedition with a big net. Amateur marketers are not always skillful at choosing polls or posing questions that are focused on the group topic at hand — usually because they’re spamming the question across groups.


However, the experienced marketers are almost impossible to identify. They come across as just another LinkedIn user. Responding to polls will increase your odds of getting contacted by a marketer. This isn’t to say you should never respond to polls or questions — it’s just one more thing to keep in mind if you’re trying to avoid them entirely.

Your Turn!

These are just a few tips on how to reduce your odds of getting targeted by marketers on LinkedIn. Do you have any others? Are there other tricks you’ve seen them employ to try and collect more contacts into their nets? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!

Image credit: Marketing image via Shutterstock

Related topics: LinkedIn, Online Privacy, Spam.

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  1. Paul Levasseur
    August 6, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Good article and the timing is right on... Spent last few days watching Seminars on new software products and online services that dig data automatically from LinkedIn and provide MLM individuals with the data to start marketing to LinkedIn groups.
    The steps are very simple;
    1. Create a NEW LinkedIn user name and profile
    2. Join Groups (many to increase potential pool of potential buyers)
    3. Start to email to members of the Groups the offer pitch. (suggested no more than 150 emails a day per group) The beauty of this approach is the seller get to bypass normal Spam filters and G mail's new filter because they are utilizing LinkedIn's internal email service.

  2. George Klein
    August 2, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    The best and the only thing to protect your privacy on the net is to get out of all social network sites. That's what I did three years ago, and I have no problem. I communicate with my friends and relatives only using email messages or the telephone. I wholeheartedly recommend this to every person, you have only to gain a lot and loose practically nothing.

  3. Tex
    August 1, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    Not only that, but Amway is a scam: