Understanding Spam and its Effects on Your Outreach Engagement

How does LinkedIn’s muting feature work, what designates something as “spam,” and how do we avoid getting muted in the first place?

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Mar 13, 2024

One thing that has remained consistent during these tumultuous years since 2019 is the increased need for skilled sourcers who can grab and keep candidates’ attention. With a difficult labor market came the increase of traffic on sites like LinkedIn. Unfortunately, LinkedIn has become oversaturated, and in some industries, candidates are receiving upwards of 10 messages per day. Even if you spend your time personalizing your message with the perfect outreach, it very well might get lost in your prospect’s inbox. For many on the platform, it becomes a number’s game of sending a ton of generic messages in the hopes that one of them lands. More often than not, this results in the sourcer being muted, meaning any future effort the sourcer puts into messaging this talent will be completely lost—what a nightmare! Even outside of LinkedIn, sourcers can be muted through the dreaded “spam folder.” So, what should sourcers do in this labor market? How does LinkedIn’s muting feature work, what designates something as “spam,” and how do we avoid getting muted in the first place? Though there is no perfect answer to these questions, I will share some information on LinkedIn, spam folders, and how we sourcers can work together to make the best of this difficult labor market for both us and the prospects we are reaching out to.

How do I know I’ve been muted on LinkedIn?

The short answer is that you won’t. Muting on LinkedIn is as simple as deleting an email, but the big difference is that once you are muted, the prospect will never receive another notification from you again. It is terrifying to think that you might be muted by that top talent you’ve been working on reaching for months and all your efforts are just going unnoticed. The good news is that they will still have your message(s) in their inbox, so if one day they decide to go through and read old messages, yours will be there, but by then your role might be filled.

The most obvious way to avoid being muted is to avoid sending spam. Picture yourself reading your message as a recruiter reaching out to you. Are you left feeling cold? Do you feel like this recruiter did their research on your background? Does it feel like this recruiter is genuinely interested in YOU or does it feel like they sent 50 of these in mass? If your message doesn’t hold up against these questions, you are possibly sending spam. Instead of sending that message and forgetting about that prospect until the next outreach, try connecting with them on LinkedIn first or right after you send your message. You can mention the InMail you sent in your connection request, but also try to connect from a “fellow industry professional” perspective for a warmer, more meaningful connection. Your connection will benefit you both, especially if you are both actively posting content on LinkedIn; you gain industry intel directly from a professional and they gain knowledge on your company as well as (hopefully) some recruiting and sourcing content like labor market intelligence.

I’d like to unsubscribe from these messages

If you use a service outside of LinkedIn to gather and send emails to sourced prospects, your messages will include a link to “unsubscribe” from all future communications. While this is a tough blow because you will no longer be able to send messages to those prospects who unsubscribe, at least you will know you have essentially been “muted” and can plan your future efforts accordingly. A “no” can be better than continued sourcing efforts that are falling into a muted inbox.

In this ChatGPT age, many platforms are implementing AI-assisted messaging features. While these are great tools to use, there are now many free-to-use and paid tools that offer “AI detection”, meaning if your entire message is AI-generated and your audience plugs it into this program, they are going to instantly know that these are not your words and may unsubscribe from further outreach. ChatGPT even has an AI Content Detector that is available to those who pay for “ChatGPT Plus”. Utilizing AI to help you develop your messaging is a great way to help enhance messaging or get past writer’s block but be sure to use your own words as well! If your message sounds like it was fully written by AI, your audience is more likely to unsubscribe from future outreach than if you had reached out with a more personal touch.

To avoid the unsubscribe button, the best advice is to, you guessed it, avoid sending spam! (Is there a pattern developing here?) If a message comes across as generic or cold, there is a higher chance that prospects are going to ignore the message, but if those generic messages continue, the likelihood of that prospect unsubscribing increases. Try including why you are reaching out in your first paragraph and include personalized features in your messaging to craft a warmer outreach. Do a quick search on this prospect beyond their LinkedIn profile. Have they published any articles or been a part of any research projects? Mention these pieces so the prospect knows you’ve done your research and are reaching out because you truly understand how their skills could be of use at your company.

What is the spam folder and how did I get there?

We all know the types of messages that end up in our spam folder: repetitive, misleading, cold, and often heavy on the sales pitch. Landing in this dreaded folder mutes your sourcing efforts, but sometimes it can have negative impacts that ripple beyond just your email address. First, if you think you’ve landed in your audience’s spam folder, consider how you ended up there. Spam folders typically use filters to find dangerous or unsolicited emails and keep them from hitting your inbox. These filters use various criteria including scoring mechanisms, “fingerprinting,” and machine learning. Scoring mechanisms mark an email as spam if it exceeds certain pre-determined scores. Fingerprinting is when a spam filter keeps a collection of known spam messages and compares the patterns to incoming messaging. Additionally, spam scoring varies between providers, so what might be determined to be spam for a Gmail account could not end up in spam in a Yahoo account.

Some key points to keep in mind as you develop your messaging – keep your messaging personable, do your research on the prospect and always include why you’re reaching out and a call-to-action. Doing these things won’t guarantee your messaging is seen, but it is less likely to cause a prospect to mute you on LinkedIn and better increases your chance of avoiding ending up in a spam folder. Additionally, make note of some known “spam words” or phrases. Mailchimp ran a test on their servers in 2019 and came up with key spam indicators such as writing in all capitals (especially in the subject line) and even the word “Dear” which will give your message “spam points”. Most spam words are the ones you’d expect and wouldn’t be likely to use in a sourcing email, but some that might surprise you include “work from home”, #1, “apply now”, “apply online”, “now”, “click this link”, and “last chance”. That isn’t to say that you can’t use these words at all, just use them sparingly, and be sure you keep your delivery rate higher and avoid using all caps or lots of exclamation points to avoid getting too many “spam points”. Since there is no surefire way to know if your email will end up in spam, it’s best to put your best foot forward to try at all costs to avoid getting dumped into the spam folder. Beyond your messaging being essentially muted, being sent to spam repeatedly and having a higher than average “bounce rate” could cause your IP address to develop a bad reputation. This reputation could cause you to end up in spam folders much more often or even on a blacklist if you were determined to be sending aggressive spam.

A blacklist’s technical name is a Domain Name System-based Blackhole List and its job is to list IP addresses or domain names which are suspected of sending spam or suspicious content. This list is regularly updated, but if you are put on this list, it’s possible you may not even know about it! Unless Google sends you a notification that you have been blacklisted, and while there are some ways to check if your IP or domain has been blacklisted, it is best to avoid being placed on a blacklist at all by avoiding sending spammy messages and regularly cleaning out email addresses that bounce. MailChimp offers a great step-by-step process to check your URL against various lists if you notice a drastic drop in open rates on your email campaigns and want to find out if it’s due to due to being blacklisted. Your domain could develop a poor reputation long term, meaning that you could be negatively impacting your company domain if you are continually landing in spam.

While sending spam hurts our own individual sourcing efforts, sending spam also contributes to the general burnout of the workforce and the distrust of recruiting professionals. We must work together as sourcing and recruiting professionals to share best practices in messaging and continually adapt our messaging efforts to the changing workforce.

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