the blog of dan pontefract | Did I Just Spam My Entire LinkedIn Network?
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Did I Just Spam My Entire LinkedIn Network?

On the afternoon of Sunday, March 24, 2013 I sent a generic email to my entire LinkedIn network.
Close to 1800 people received this email. Its overarching intent was to ‘ask’ for their support. (click here to read it)

As some of you might know, I recently published my first book. Excited doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about both the book and becoming a rookie published author. My Dad told me a story once when I was a wee lad about his aspirations to become either an author or a journalist. Back in the day, and the day being the 1950’s in England, my father wasn’t given the choice to choose his career. His own father — the town mayor no less — informed my Dad he was to become an electrical engineer and to forget about a career using Gutenberg’s device of wonder.

Of course when it was time for me to decide what to do with my life, my father acted as a sounding board not the actual speaker of selection. He was a true ‘guide on the side’ not a ‘parental drone with a megaphone’.

Which brings me back to my decision to release an email to 1800 LinkedIn contacts informing them of the availability of Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization.

I debated whether to do it. I truly did. I knew there would be people who simply deleted it and said to themselves, “whatever.” I took that risk. I knew there would be people who might even get annoyed with what they might brand as ‘spam’. I also hoped there would be those that saw the intent of the message which was to simply consider my ask to make others aware of the book.

I got a truckload of positive emails, texts, DM’s and even phone calls and face-to-face high fives to last a lifetime. Many from people I haven’t directly heard from in years.

Since the beginning of 2013, I have tried to do things ‘differently’ with the launch of the book. For example, I created a self-made video for each of the 13 chapters — and released one per week — as a way to provide additional insight into the book. I forbid the back cover to include any recommendations or quotations from others. I didn’t even want an official launch party.

There are reasons to my author idiosyncrasies.

And then on March 24th I sent a direct email to anyone in my LinkedIn network.

There were other actions planned — including press releases / interviews / articles / reviews — but I still believe the direct email to my LinkedIn network was an act of communication and not SPAM.

But there were going to be some who disagreed with me. I’m not naïve; it was inevitable.

This included an individual who is both in the acknowledgments and showcased in the book itself. I consider this individual a true interlocutor and an intellect.

The email I received from this individual started out, in my opinion, as an attack but it swiftly and gently moved into a “here is what I’ve learned from my experience” to a “I think you can do better” denouement.

The attack was as follows:

I feel that spamming me and others with a generic message sent via LinkedIn, in the hopes of getting help with spreading word about the book is the wrong tone considering you’re promoting a body of work you’ve created that dares to help organizations understand “social” for use inside the organization. As an act, this message feels so much like a violation of that.

At first, I said to myself, “Where is the unLinkedIn button” but then I read on.

The email concluded with the following:

I don’t think you really want people to spread awareness of your book. I think you want to build a motivated, self-directed army of fans who feel a kinship with what you have to say, Dan, find it empowering and useful… and ultimately see it as a vehicle to move whatever big rocks they have forward. Don’t give into the seduction of what’s easy. Get personal, where it’s messy, complicated and hard.

And it’s there where I really appreciated the advice, feedback and experience.

For those that believed I may have overstepped email boundaries with a direct yet generic email informing you of the release of Flat Army and asking you to inform your network, I don’t apologize.

That’s right, I don’t.

I asked my entire LinkedIn network for help. I see nothing wrong with that. Aren’t we connected in the first place to support one another?

LinkedIn, at least in my opinion, is the new business card networking machine in our professional world and I would have done the same in 1995 if LinkedIn were around then.

Where I erred, however, was the cadence in which I sent my email communication notices.

What you don’t know is that I had always intended to send a personal note of appreciation and thanks to everyone (and there are over 150 people I signal out in the acknowledgments) a few weeks into the launch of the book. My rationale was to give them some time to see I actually put them in the book versus spoiling the surprise.

So, in rookie author honesty, I think I messed up with those in my network whom actually make up my ‘direct professional ties’. For even sweeter irony, Chapter 7 — The Participative Leader Framework — is written with the point of direct network ties throughout. Ouch.

Those direct and personalized notes were always coming but I now agree with my friend who sent me the response which, in part, you read above. I should have sent those notes earlier and personalized the launch of Flat Army for this important audience.

I even sent the acknowledgments to Jane Bozarth in advance of the launch for her to read only to realize I forgot to include her. It turns out “to err is human” is one of my finer qualities or I’m simply an arse.

But for the rest of my LinkedIn network … my excitement was (and continues to be) over the moon hence my generic email to you inquiring about an ask. If there is a better way, I’m all ears.

My Dad never had the chance to be an author.

Now that I am and I have vanquished what I believe was a parental mistake on the part of my Granddad, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Equally important was my belief in the thesis of the book that I was comfortable enough asking 1800 people for their help. My ask remains my ask. My thanks to the many who did something about my ask. (Flat Army reached #3 in Canada and #8 in the USA last week in the Amazon Kindle charts for Leadership. There is no way that happens unless the network is spreading the news.)

But, as I often say, Ancora Imparo.

10Comments

  • Stephen Downes / 2 April 2013 7:54

    I realize you don’t consider it spam and won’t apologize. But I wonder how you would feel after receiving 1800 “please spread the word about my book” messages from your 1800 contacts.

  • Dan Pontefract / 2 April 2013 8:40

    Thanks Stephen. That’s probably my overarching point … if yer in my LinkedIn network (it’s a choice for person A and person B to be connected unlike Twitter, G+, etc.) I expect there to be some form of reciprocity. Maybe I’ve gullible or too naive.

    I’ve had a few people respond directly to me intimating (more or less), “happy to help … can you do ‘this’ for me too?”

    So, in each of those cases, I’ve said … “sure, happy to help”.

    Does it scale? Perhaps not immediately at 1800 … but it’s a bit of a social experiment as well. I sure would like to help, maybe not immediately, but in a ‘pay it forward’ way at some point in time.

    If anyone is really perturbed at me, the process to unfollow someone on LinkedIn is as follows:

    1) Click on the “Contacts” link on the toolbar across the top of your screen.
    2) Select “Connections” from the drop-down menu.
    3) Click on the “Remove Connections” link in the top right corner.
    4) Wait for the page to pull up.
    5) Search by last name.
    6) Click “Remove.”

    Thanks for visiting Stephen. You too are in the book as I reference ‘Connective Intelligence’.

  • Angela Alini / 2 April 2013 9:43

    I didn’t think your message was spam at all. I thought it was a clever way to leverage your network (army:).

  • Dan Pontefract / 2 April 2013 10:27

    Thanks @Ang.

  • Robin Yap / 4 April 2013 12:05

    Thought the idea of networks is to share, expand, connect, enhance? So I thought sending the email was a good approach. Also depending on how your LinkedIn is setup, these could be 1800 of your allies already and they should be more supportive – but then again that’s probably my own naivete …or hope that networks were supposed to do. Ultimately, negative or positive response is response nonetheless and indicates that the recipients were reading the email (or at least glanced it). One day something will connect for them and remember the email and the value it provides.

    BTW shoutout to @StephenDownes. Haven’t connected with you in awhile since Connectivism and Connective Knowledge with George. Hope all’s well.

  • Eric Moeller / 5 April 2013 2:10

    Hi Dan,

    For the record, I also did not think your email message was spam. I had no problems receiving the message from you, and was happy to spread the word to my contacts as well.

    You are the sort of person who helps others without expecting anything in return (knowing you personally I’ve seen more examples of this than I can count), so when you ask for help, I would assume that many (all?) of the people in your network would be happy to lend a hand.

    With so many books being published these days it’s challenging to create awareness for new books; I see nothing wrong with an author reaching out to their LinkedIn contacts to say ‘if you know someone who would be interested in this topic, please let them know’.

    BR,
    Eric

  • Dan Pontefract / 5 April 2013 3:45

    thanks @Robin – exactly what I was thinking

    and @Eric … what can I say. Your words are comforting if not humbling. Thanks for dropping by and keeping me sane.

  • christine mcleod / 27 May 2013 8:29

    Here is what I thought of when I saw that request.
    1. I am so proud to know you and to know you had the focus and vision to go from thought to finished project so quickly

    2. BECAUSE I know you and in the true authenticity of networks you have always been someone who has supported my vision to create more connected, authentic, innovative workplaces I know that you are not a “spammer” by any means. You are authentic, opinionated and rarely have an “ask”. So in my books, your ask was not in the slightest out in left field- I was HAPPY to repay the support you have shown me

    3. This is on a personal level.
    As someone who “gives” a lot to her network, the simplicity of a very specific ASK.. a REQUEST.. inspired me to that very same day make a simple but specific “request” to three people in my network- There was a very special award category in the Women of Worth series of annual awards that I looked at and saw that I met all the qualifications and would have loved to be nominated. Before I read your post, I would have looked at the award category, wished perhaps to be nominated and moved on. After I read your request, I emailed 3 specific people who knew me quite well and showed them the link and made a request- if they thought I might be a fit would they consider nominating me. Two out of the three did… and on May 11th I won the Women of Worth Leader of the Year award- from 36+ finalists.
    That award meant a ton.. and in a funny way I have you to thank for partly making it happen – because had I not read your direct, simple, heart-centered request, I would not have followed with my own… and those people who nominated me would never have known about the awards.. nor that I might be a fit.

    So no, not only did I have no problem with the request- I would be happy to help you anytime- as long as it’s something I can stand behind!

    • Dan Pontefract / 28 May 2013 5:52

      Thank you for #1 @Christine … the feeling is mutual. I appreciate #2 as well as I do believe I am authentic in my actions, and if I’m not I would expect people to slap me back in the right direction. As for #3 … I’m glad to be of some small inspiration but you only have to look in the mirror to see you yourself are the maker of your own actions. That Award was simply waiting for you to grab as are several more I reckon. A big congrats on not only the Award but your accomplishments to date. You’re a role model for many.

  • Anonymous / 10 February 2015 5:38

    Hi Dan,

    Interesting article, which I can relate to. Very recently I sent an email out to a selection of my LinkedIn contacts – I have a higher number of contacts than you, but decided my message wasn’t suitable for all of them, resulting in a message going out to about 1,000 of them. I’ve been a LinkedIn user for years, and have never done this before.

    I opened the message very politely, pointing out that I was reaching out to them as one of my connection on LinkedIn, that I hope they didn’t mind, and if they did, I apologise and please ignore the rest of the message. To be honest, the whole tone of my message I think was much softer than your example above.

    The rest of the message gave some information about a project I am working on (without pay), complete with a link giving more information, and asking them for their feedback, good or bad.

    That was it! I wasn’t even trying to get them to buy anything.

    I had a response rate of 2-3%, some good, some indifferent, but nothing nasty. Then my LinkedIn account got suspended. I spent the next 3 days negotiating with LinkedIn customer service to get my account switched back on.

    Either you were lucky this didn’t happen, or LinkedIn policies have changed. LinkedIn would not disclose what had caused this, but it seems likely to me that someone marked my communication as spam.

    I wouldn’t consider my message spam, but clearly someone did. I’m left wondering why that person (whoever it might be) is actually connected to me on LinkedIn if they don’t want to hear from me? Maybe they only want to use LinkedIn to sell stuff to me?

    Needless to say, I won’t be doing this again, and I’ll be promptly unlinking from anyone who sends stuff to me I’m not interested in (which has been happening everyday). What I won’t do is mark them as spam because I don’t think you should get banned from LinkedIn without warning for a single attempt at getting some help from one of your connections.

    Still quite annoyed at recent events to be honest.

Want to leave a comment? I'd love to hear from you. Cheers, dp.