The underbelly of LinkedIn: how to protect your personal brand

Social media and marketing activities aim to attract new clients, increase market share, and build influence and personal brand visibility and credibility.

And LinkedIn is a vital channel to achieve these objectives with over 10M Australian and 645 million global members. With circa 50 per cent engaging weekly, the platform is a must-have for networking, sales, marketing and branding.

But, with the scramble to take a chunk of the pie of opportunity, a darker side has grown causing brand and platform damage. I call it the underbelly as the processes and methods used to build connections and influence are fraudulent and nefarious at worst, foolish and a waste of time at best. At either end, personal brands and integrity are risked.

Social media is awash with fake influencers, fraud and narcissism. Humans are humans and LinkedIn also draws a mix of ethical, unethical, naive and educated. I encourage full awareness of the good, bad, ugly and brilliant of the platform.

But when it comes to putting dollars in the bank and a personal brand up for scrutiny, there are no short cuts to building sales and trust sustainably. But many try and swoop up those who are either ignorant or arrogant or turn a blind eye as they too seek to put $$ in the bank to create an illusion of importance and influence.

The key to protecting your brand and mitigate risk is to apply critical thinking and ditch laziness (for yourself and in assessing others). Be mindful that not all who appears successful and genuine is and that metrics don’t always equate to value.

There are four practices you should avoid at all costs.


Do not use plugin automation tools to build your network. They are banned and you risk being suspended and people loathe receiving standard automated invitations. Do not believe the BS that having huge networks always equate to success. It’s Quality vs Quantity.

Engagement pods

Engagement pods are the worst kept secret. A Pod in its true form is set up to game the algorithm. Pods put dissimilar businesses together (circa 10 to 500 nationally or globally) to enforce engagement on each other’s post to boost visibility. Pods can ask for payment to join and monthly fees or can be free. Paid pods and MLM schemes are far more common than thought. Whether paid or unpaid, penalties for non-compliance or leaving can be severe.

Everyone views the same list of people commenting vacuously on each other posts and know it’s enforced. LinkedIn is penalising the patterns and new eyeballs are decreasing. Pods can increase visibility initially but rarely to the right target market. Your brand suffers, you lose time and/or potential sales and people will Unfollow you.

Outsourcing profile management

Your personal profile is yours. Do not outsource outside of your company. A lack of attention, poor grammar, inability to engage with industry gravitas compromises business. Also, many outsourced services combine automation, click farms and engagement pod activities as a ‘done for you’ service. Very dangerous stuff as your brand and profile can be compromised.

Paid followers, likes, comments, endorsements

The paid click farm industry has grown due to demand by the lazy and unethical. Sellers are global and in Australia. Never be tempted to buy anything. And review profiles and content that has unusual high engagement and connections to check if they may have been bought. A big percentage of USA/Africa dodgy profiles generally indicate paid click farms. Everything is for sale so ensure you are connecting with ethical people to build strong brand association.

Sue Parker, Founder, DARE Group Australia

DARE Group Australia is a valued content partner of Inside Small Business