Sponsored InMail: LinkedIn is Destroying its Brand Equity

LinkedIn Sponsored InMail

Oh LinkedIn, how could you….On checking my LinkedIn app this afternoon, I noticed the familiar number next to the little envelope indicating I had received a new InMail. Increasingly, these messages come from social selling mavens who have found my profile based on very specific criteria determining that I fall into a specific segment that would be perfect for whatever service or product they might be touting.

Generally these non-solicited approaches are thoughtful, well-written, and nonintrusive. I may only get a couple a week, and generally I don’t mind receiving them (although I am yet to respond to one). It’s a bit like when I’m offered a carrot with ranch dip at a dinner party; I won’t be offended, but I won’t give it a second glance either.

Today was different. On clicking on the note, a personal InMail from a credit card company popped up. My first instinct was that it must be someone from my network that worked there. But it was an ad sent from the corporate team, not an individual.

A mistake surely? Why would this company be sending me personal InMails?

And then it hit me… MARKETERS RUIN EVERYTHING.

Last year, I had the pleasure of seeing two live keynotes from social media guru, entrepreneur (and comedian) Gary Vaynerchuck. One of Gary’s core tenets is that “the only thing as certain as the sun rising and setting every day, and that we are all going to die some day is that MARKETERS WILL RUIN EVERYTHING.”

Gary recounts how he built much of his early success on taking advantage of new media channels before mainstream marketers got their hands on them and essentially ruined them. This philosophy led him to achieve 90% open rates on email marketing in the late 1990s (remember when you read every chain mail?) and explains how he was able to pay a mere six cents for the word “wine” on Google AdWords in the 2000s for six months before anyone even bid him up.

The reason why email marketing engagement is in single digits today is for the simple reason that marketers ruined it. Too many marketers focus on maximizing reach and frequency (and for the platform owner’s monetization) at the behest of thinking if the audience cares about what we’re saying. We spam, we send content that isn’t useful, and pretty soon we’ve strangled the goose that was laying the golden eggs. And then we move on merrily to the next new thing.

Ironically, this afternoon I also received an email from LinkedIn inviting me to a Webinar on “Sponsored InMail + Best Practices”.

The invite provides an appealing promise: “If you’re looking for an email channel with 100 percent deliverability, you’ve found it. This live demo will shows you how to deliver targeted content in the most personal way possible on LinkedIn—right to members’ inboxes.”

Looking further, I find myself envisioning the conversation that took place in a LinkedIn boardroom where a proud executive boasts to a venture capitalist that LinkedIn will be monetizing this precious InMail channel that reaches and engages millions of highly targeted valuable professionals.The idea seems so compelling you’d almost expect it to continue “…upon welcoming and reading your content nugget in their highly personalized inbox, the member will most likely leap up in the air joyously in celebration of your organization’s prescience in being able to reach them at the precise moment they were looking for your product or service.”

Shame on you LinkedIn. I may have expected this from Facebook, but not you.

Unless LinkedIn quickly realizes that this will turn out to be a failed experiment, the legion of social selling expert innovators and early adopters who have been making hay with InMail should start looking for the next big thing.

Gabriel Cohen is Chief Marketing Officer at Monigle.

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