Listbuilding: Right or wrong? Adding your LinkedIn contacts to your email list

Listbuilding: Right or wrong? Adding your LinkedIn contacts to your email list 1

You know that growing your business means staying in contact with your leads. You’ve been to an event or seen a live stream (maybe it was a networking breakfast) where you were told to add your LinkedIn contacts to your email list.

Are you adding your LinkedIn contacts to your email lists or paying your VA to do it for you?

Is this method of list building working for you?  I appreciate that LinkedIn has members all over the world and that different rules apply to how you go about email marketing depending on your location.  But if you are UK based I have no idea why you are doing what you are doing.

LinkedIn list scraping – it is effective?

My business associates timelines on LinkedIn are full of complaints about accepting new contacts and promptly being added to an email newsletter list.   Before we get into the legalities, you have got to ask yourself is this an effective way to build your list?   Like so many other busy business owners, I get about 1000 (yes one thousand) emails a day – mostly from people I don’t know who send me stuff I am not interested in and didn’t ask for.

I sell my time as well as online contracts, so I need to see emails from my customers and potential customers and spend my time helping them.

I use email filters to manage my inbox more efficiently.  I happen to use Microsoft 365 and Sanebox so between them all the newsletters you send to me just disappear into folders.   Unless I mark up those individual newsletters as ones I want to read (there are less than 12 I have marked up that way) they are never read.  My email box works on rules, so a lot go there without me ever seeing them.  As a way of getting my attention, or selling me something – it sucks.

If the first time your newsletter comes to me it evades my filters – some do – what reaction do I have?  Well, it isn’t – I am glad Fred thinks I need spanners, car spares, a date, or whatever.  My reaction is I feel irritated.  How dare you put me on a list without my consent?.

Yes, I can unsubscribe and I often do.  But why should I spend hours of my time unsubscribing from lists I didn’t ask to be on?

I can’t remember the last time I bought something from an unsolicited newsletter or an organisation I am not already doing business with.

Is B2B email marketing exempt from rules about data and privacy?

I keep hearing that B2B is somehow immune to the regulations on email marketing and permissions and the forthcoming GDPR.   This is a misunderstanding.

If you are scraping info@  or sales@ addresses these are not personal email addresses and do not fall within all these rules.  But the minute you start using name-based emails they identify an individual.  I am the only Annabel Kaye in my organisation – there is no way you can fail to identify me with my email address!.   Many sole traders and partnerships use personal email accounts anyway.

It is not about whether you intend to sell to the business (B2B) as opposed to an individual consumer (B2C) – that doesn’t get you off the hook at all.  Much as some of my business friends would like it to.

PECR rules

The UK rules on e-mail marketing are known as The Privacy and Electronics Communications Regulations (PECR).  These rules allow ‘soft opt-in’ at the moment for existing customers but require consent from everyone else.  These sit alongside GDPR/Data Protection.  So even if you are GDPR compliant when this comes into force you are still required, now and later, to comply with the PECR rules.  Here is the Information Commissioner’s guidance on this if you won’t take my word for it.

LinkedIn rules

When you joined LinkedIn you agreed to the Linked in terms of service.   The user agreement is at the bottom of your profile.   You may not have read it all,  but here are some extracts that may put you on the right track.

  1. No password sharing – S2.2  You agreed not to share passwords with anyone.  If you are paying someone to do this for you then you are acting in breach of the terms.
  2. Lawful use- You agreed to lawful use and specifically agreed under S 8.2

You agreed that you will not:

a Act in an unlawful or unprofessional manner in connection with our Services, including being dishonest, abusive or discriminatory;   So using your account to send unlawful emails is also a breach of your agreement

h Use or attempt to use another’s account;  So if you have a Linked In account of your own and you are logging into someone else’s account (if you are a VA or marketeer) this is a breach.

j  Send or post any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letters,” “pyramid schemes,” or any form of solicitation unauthorized by LinkedIn;  So that covers unsolicited emails.

m Copy, use, disclose or distribute any information obtained from the Services, whether directly or through third parties (such as search engines), without the consent of LinkedIn;   So copying emails into your newsletter is a breach of the agreement but in case you are in any doubt

n Use, disclose or distribute any data obtained in violation of this policy; using emails obtained from Linked In is a breach

ae Use bots or other automated methods to access the Services, add or download contacts, send or redirect messages; and doing it automatically via software or apps is not on either.

List building: The Right Way and a Wrong way

There really is a right way and a wrong way to use LinkedIn.   If you are not in the UK you may feel you’re not bound by our email marketing laws.  If you are in the UK I have no idea why you ‘feel’ they don’t apply to you.  But wherever you are in the world, you agreed to the user agreement.

You can use this platform in a spammy way that is in breach of your agreement or you can use it properly – to create meaningful relationships and keep up with people you know.

If you want to build your list using LinkedIn, the right way, invite your contacts to subscribe to your email list. Give them the option to get updates from you.


Drop us a comment

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I hate when I get added to an email list from LinkedIn or swapping a business card – it’s a definite no-no!

    Good explaination of why it’s bad practice, Annabel.

  2. Sally

    Real insights. Thanks for your sharing your information in such a straightforward way.

  3. Thanks for the clarity Annabel. I’ve seen so many ‘marketing experts’ talk about ‘cheats’ to grow your list, and it’s never made any sense to me (someone who likes conversation & getting to know people!).

    This makes perfect sense as a business owner, but with the legal side too, it’s a must that we need to get across to our clients and business owner friends.

  4. Sherry

    I hate it when people add me to their mailing list on LinkedIn when all I have agreed to do is to connect with them. I think it demonstrates a lack of professionalism and integrity. I even had somebody recently who connected with me to find out my networking event. In the end she decided not to attend but then had the cheek to add me to her mailing list!

    1. It is interesting how there is such an ‘entitlement’ attitude to using your data. It hardly sets off a trading relationship in a good way. It makes me wonder, what else of mine will they feel entitled to?

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