The past few months I’ve racked up quite a few “I’d like to join your LinkedIn network” invites and I can assure you that I am extremely hesitant when these invitations arrive. Many newly created LinkedIn affiliate interlopers have zero to two first degree connections (in contrast to my connections.) Though I am suspicious by nature when connecting to strangers on social media, I am also curious as to what the new (potential) contact hopes to achieve. Though I generally Google them, TinEye them and put their profiles through a virtual wringer—some profiles are simply too elusive (or new) to garner much information regarding the motives behind the invite.
My first interaction with a recent affiliate interloper involved a sticky proposal to sell SMO services.
I will use Naina as an example affiliate interloper. I can only assume that I inadvertently accepted her invite via mobile—perhaps ticking the checkmark instead of the undersized “x.” Though she was a short-lived connection—this does not mean that she failed to nosh my connections.
Translating a LinkedIn Affiliate Interloper Message
Naina: “Happy to connect you. Hope you are doing well.”
Me: She only gave me one line of warm fuzzies . . .
Naina: Social Media Optimization is the best methods to enhance your brand image, through SMO our professionals will share unique content relevant to your business on various popular online social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Google Plus, etc.
Me: My brand will bloom like wet toilet paper clinging to a tree.
Naina: Our customers can be assured of increased ROI.
Me: Does she even know what this means?
Naina: Our aim is to make our customer’s online business grow and be more visible.
Me: Detectable, discernible, observable, noticeable, perceivable, perceptible. Seeable?
Translation: Naina wants to sell me her (spammy) SMO services via LinkedIn and it is most likely a scam (cached copy).
I am willing to bet that Naina went to an affiliate forum such as Warrior+Plus and fell into some deal like this one. Of course, you can buy LinkedIn automation software that promises to build “Huge High-Quality Highly Targeted Lead Lists, On Autopilot… From A Surprising Social Media Site You’ve Never Thought Of Using.” Or perhaps Naina belongs to a bumper crop of automated jerry-built affiliate bots.
Affiliate Hosting Services
These affiliate forums also utilize “affiliate hosting services” such as iPage, Fatcow, Hostgator, Hostmonster and a slew of other hosting services that provide some of the best “affiliate commissions” on the web. How much money can you make?
- iPage Hosting: Shared Hosting & VPS Hosting $105.00, WP Essential Hosting $120.00, Dedicated Hosting $150.00.
- Fatcow: Limited Time Only | $9 “Cheap Sheep” Plan $25.00, Shared Hosting $100.00, VPS Hosting$100.00, Dedicated Hosting $150.00.
- Hostgator signups per month: 1-5 signups- $50, 6-10 – $75, 11-20 – $100, 21+ – $125 /signup /with 21 signups per month earnings would equal $2,625 per month.
- Hostmonster: $65.00 per referral.
This ongoing affiliate saga is a trap, devoid of substance—teetering upon umpteen template-cloned sites, all simmering like-thoughts.
LinkedIn Connection Interloper
Yes, badass Naina is a genuine LinkedIn connection interloper. If I have her profiled correctly—she belongs to a legion of LinkedIn despoilers that invade social media platforms for the primary purpose of marketing services to your connections and mine. Of course Naina could be anyone, including that 357 pound unemployed Gen-X dude camped out in his parents basement.
Whoever Naina is—I tend to be overprotective and mindful of my connections. When situations like this occur —I shoot first—ask questions later, and amplify so “everybody knows their name” — Let’s spread the love and share Naina!
Who is Naina?
As I recall, Naina initially had a few connections (much like Satish Yadav’s current profile has) and only a handful of endorsements. But, within a ten day time frame Naina managed to spawn over 500 connections along with 223 endorsements—you do the math . . .
According to LinkedIn, Naina is a professional senior online business manager and holds an MBA from Delhi Technological University. Whether Naina is automated or the Gen-X dude (trying to make a quick buck)—her LinkedIn profile lists her current employer as WebBased LTD and previous employment with Deenwebindia Technologies. Incidentally, Deenwebindia might not know the difference between a company page and a personal profile or did not meet the requirements to add a company page to a “legitimate” personal profile.
Reverse Image Search
I searched Google for matching images and discovered a photo of Vasudha Gaur Dixit over at the DailyMail. The photo was from May, 2014 listing Dixit as one of the top 10 Rank holders [across India] for CBSE 12th Exams 2014. She scored high marks in: Economics, Psychology, Sociology and Business Studies and held the highest score [98.8%] at Vasant Valley School Vasant Kunj, Delhi.
News18 reported Dixit is interested in studying Economics from SRCC or St. Stephen’s, and was also open to pursuing a law degree from the UK. Outside of academic fame, Dixit appears to be absent from social media platforms.
It would be interesting to find out why the Trivedi profile selected Dixit’s photo as her LinkedIn profile image. Certainly, it veers away from common stock images and would be difficult to connect the dots if reverse image search was unavailable.
Copy and Paste
Trivedi appears to have pieced her LinkedIn profile together like this:
“Business managers oversee the activities of workers; hire, train and evaluate new employees; and ensure that a company or department is on track to meet its financial goals” was ripped from a job description for a business manager at Diagnostic Imaging Systems. Inc.
She blended her second sentence in the summary with a job description from smallbusiness.chron.com: “Business managers might also develop and implement budgets, prepare reports for senior management and ensure the department complies with company policies.”
Paragraph two of the summary continues with “Delegating work between your Virtual Assistant, your web designer, your graphic designer, or your affiliate manager, and having to constantly check in with them” from this Ezine site.
Next, you can move down to her experience and I am pretty sure that you can easily Google each line in her profile. The Trivedi profile certainly surpasses run-of-the-mill stock photos, low connections, dwarfed endorsements and “generic” experience exhibited in many affiliate profiles. Far more thought was placed in making the affiliate profile appear more genuine and legitimate.
The Dixit photo most likely was also used in Shreya Pawar’s LinkedIn profile, though Pawar’s current profile includes an image that does not show up in reverse image search.
The affiliate interloper business model appears to be changing direction—switching from the unimaginative to a more unobtrusive style. The type of profile I described in this blog post may be one or more of your connections. If so—this ultimately positions your connections into the category aptly titled risk. I don’t honestly know how these affiliates plan to “utilize” our connections. Whether it is to sell services or products, gain intel on companies and employees (perhaps for nefarious purposes) or to practice social engineering techniques—the “what if’s” are currently abstruse.
We all need to protect our digital assets. We also need to shelter our connections from suspect characters.When we discover fake accounts, we need to share these discoveries within our networks—sound the bullhorn and make it known that these accounts are deceptive and designed to not act in our best interest. They are here to make a profit or gather intel—they lie, they misrepresent and they will insidiously attack our connections in order to achieve their desired goals.
It is imperative that we all take responsibility for safeguarding our connections here on LinkedIn (as well as other social media sites.) We can gain the upper edge. We can call them out.
I’ve been watching interloper affiliates (on all social media platforms) since early 2009. For many years they reminded me of used car dealers—all exuding the same sales-type pitches. But, since early 2016—their strategies and gradations have fallen under major modification. They have become leaner and far more stealth in the art of manipulation. They’ve learned to preen deliverables and shape their messaging to appear innocuous. When they send an invite to “connect” they often present an honorable and inviting facade. Just look at the sweet face of Naina as an example . . .