On second thoughts, don’t.
If you’ve been browsing LinkedIn over the last few months you’ll have noticed a recent phenomenon of people offering to send you content, such as ppt design or excel business plan templates, if you leave your email address in the comments.
Let’s stop and think about that for a moment.
And ask why?
Firstly, why would someone with content look to share it using this method? And secondly, why would someone be willing to post their personal contact information — on a public post that has huge, global reach — in order to access that content?
As an inbound marketer I find this pretty fascinating, so let’s take a deeper look to see what’s actually going on here.
1. Why would someone share their content using this method?
Before being able to answer this question, we need to understand why someone would share their content in the first place. It’s unclear to me whether people sharing this content are acting as individuals or on behalf of a company. But if they are acting on a personal level then it could simply be that they’ve created something of value which they would like to share with others. This in turn will grow their network and strengthen their personal brand, regardless as to whether that is a conscious goal or an unintended by-product. But if they are acting on a company level then this is most likely about building awareness and generating a pool of contacts or leads.
Either way, this method of distribution certainly has pros and cons.
- Viral Reach: Perhaps the biggest benefit of requesting people to leave their email address in the comments section is that it massively increases the reach of the post. When one person comments then it will appear in the feed of their network, and then when those people comment then it will appear in the feed of their network, and so on and so on… This is pretty much a viral effect that has all the ingredients for hockey-stick growth.
- Human Touch: Since you’re sharing the content personally it brings more of a human element. This role as a good samaritan is less threatening when compared to an official company account, which will help convince people to comment.
- Super Quick: Once you have the content ready you can share it in a matter of minutes - seconds, even. There are no landing pages to set up, no forms to create, and no workflows to build; all you need to do is simply post an update on LinkedIn.
- Super Cheap: Basically, it’s completely free.
- A Trusted Platform: When compared to other social channels, people have a lot more trust in LinkedIn since it’s the professional network. Would people be comfortable posting their email address publicly on Twitter or Facebook? I’d be willing to say no.
- Manual Work: Now you have +3000 email addresses buried deep within the comments, you need to gather them all up and send the content to everyone who has requested it.
- Marketing Permission: Does someone leaving their email address on a LinkedIn post give you marketing permission? Basically, no it doesn’t. This is pretty much a standalone offer and people haven’t opted in. This means that if you’re planning to contact them again in future, you can’t. And so if you’re using this as a means of lead generation, then don’t.
- Isolated Data: But if you are using this as a means of lead generation (note: please re-read the above point) then you have a totally isolated data point. I guess it would be possible to manually create a contact in your marketing/sales platform and then share the content via email, but since they haven’t opted in then this is one step towards becoming spam (second note: please don’t do this).
- Public Data: Everyone else can see exactly who has signed up, what their role is, and their email address.
- Scalability: This is not a very scalable tactic and you’re putting a short-term win over a long-term victory.
- Data Privacy: This raises serious questions about data privacy.
A screenshot from the comments section of the following post.
2. Why would someone publicly share their contact information on a post that has huge, global reach?
This is the more interesting of the two questions and we’ve been having a lot of discussion about it here at our office. In short, we’re not 100% sure, but we have some ideas about why you might do it, and also why you might not want to...
- Hassle Free: It’s convenient, quick, and simple; just leave your email address and that’s it.
- Me Too: “Thousands of other people have signed up, so it’s probably ok if I do.” In psychology this human behaviour is called social proof, and it’s essentially the ‘me too’ effect where an individual will conform to the behaviours of a wider group that they trust - and remember, this is LinkedIn.
- Value > Fear: The perceived value of the content is greater than any hesitation or fear one may have of posting their email address.
- Who: You’re not 100% sure who is sending this - is it an individual, a company - and is this trustworthy? Is it even a real person…?
- What: It’s unclear what you will actually get when it arrives in your inbox.
- When: You don’t know how long it will take to receive.
- Quality: And since you can’t be fully sure of the quality, it all becomes a bit of a gamble in terms of whether it was worth it.
- Direct Access: Will you receive the content directly, or will you be guided to another webpage where you’re asked to fill in a from to download the content?
- Public Contact Info: Your contact information is now publicly visible for the whole world to see. Some have used their personal email addresses, others their professional. Either way, it’s there.
- Future Communication: It’s unknown whether you will just receive the content or will you start getting additional email in future.
- Marketing Permission: If you do receive additional email without opting-in, will you ever be able to opt-out?
Some people think this is a great idea.
A screenshot from the comments section of the following post.
What are your thoughts?
Have you experienced this? If so it would be great to hear from you; How long did it take to receive the content? Who was it from? And what did you actually receive - was it good quality?