Recently, I was asked about the best way to manage someone else’s LinkedIn personal profile on their behalf.
So, how do social media managers and virtual assistants manage LinkedIn accounts for their clients?
- Logging in as another person
- Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
- Using another person’s account at their premises
- Scheduling via a third-party tool
- Account security issues
- Let’s wrap up
The LinkedIn User Agreement is pretty strict on the point of account management for personal profiles.
2.2 Your Account
- You will keep your password a secret.
- You will not share an account with anyone else and will follow our rules and the law.
This may seem unnecessarily restrictive from LinkedIn, but it’s unlikely that they’re ever going to change their mind. It’s the consequence of playing in someone else’s yard.
How eager LinkedIn are to enforce these rules is open to debate, though I believe they’re particularly sensitive to any misuses of LinkedIn Recruiter accounts, as these are very expensive.
One way to avoid account-sharing issues is for social media managers and virtual assistants to become admins of the client’s company page and manage their LinkedIn activity via there.
This is perfectly legitimate, and LinkedIn company pages are set up well for this activity. The downside is that company pages don’t get anything like the same visibility as personal profiles do.
I manage a lot of company pages on LinkedIn and often have senior leaders asking if I can also manage their personal profiles mostly because of time restraints.
Although I totally understand why they are asking, I personally feel that personal profiles need to be authentic.
I’m happy to support creating content alongside them but engaging and messaging should be coming from them if they want to build their profile and network.
Logging in as another person.
The simplest option is for a client to share their LinkedIn login details with their social media manager.
This is expressly against the User Agreement. Still, many people do it (no doubt including a lot of the mega influencers).
LinkedIn’s detection of this activity will be based in part on them seeing multiple logins from different IP addresses (think of these as digital addresses on the internet).
If only one person were logged into an account at a time, the chances of LinkedIn detecting any unusual activity would be low.
I don’t know how sophisticated LinkedIn’s checks are, but it’s reasonable to assume that doing something like the following might raise a red flag somewhere:
- Log in from USA
- Log in minutes later from India
- Log in minutes later from USA again
In the real world, a single account holder couldn’t do that, and that might be noticed at LinkedIn’s end.
We have to consider the severe consequences if LinkedIn did decide to take action: an account might be restricted or banned altogether.
How often this actually happens, I can’t say, and there’d be a negative financial incentive for LinkedIn to doing this to many of their paying customers.
Being heavy-handed with account restrictions would not be in LinkedIn’s best interests, especially if some of those accounts belong to paying Premium members.
Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A VPN allows a way of connecting to the internet such that your IP address and hence your apparent location seems different to where you’re actually logged in from.
In this case, using a VPN could make it look as though a person on the other side of the world were actually at the same location as their client. They could then log in to LinkedIn on that client’s behalf with very little chance of arousing suspicion.
The solution is good enough for tech-savvy clients but it still goes against the LinkedIn User Agreement.
If you’re working with a client longer term, I’d consider presenting as an employee (co-worker) and connecting with top targets on your own profile, too.
You can still sign up (in Experience sections) as working for any company that has a Page, as far as I know. Then you could have three-way DMs.
Using another person’s account at their premises.
A social media manager or virtual assistant at the same physical location as their client could manage that person’s account on their behalf without setting off any red flags at LinkedIn.
It’s the real-world alternative to using a VPN but it’s not at all convenient unless the client happens to be nearby and agreeable to such working practices.
Being really picky, allowing someone else to control your LinkedIn account like this amounts to impersonation.
Imagine sending a direct message to someone and having someone else pretending to be that person answer you. In practice, virtual assistants and social media managers will be doing this a lot for clients.
I hand-hold the process on personal profiles.
I post the content via a scheduler, and advise the client on engagement and outreach. I hold them accountable AND help them to be efficient with their time.
Scheduling via a third-party tool.
Scheduling tools such as Buffer and HootSuite can be used to schedule LinkedIn posts.
The upside is that a social media manager could schedule a client’s activity without having to keep logging in as that person.
Such tools are far from perfect, though. For example, they don’t offer the ability to manage comments, direct messages or any other LinkedIn features.
And even if a client cares only about posting content, this solution doesn’t perfectly solve the issue of not sharing one’s credentials with the social media manager, as the tools need authentication to connect to the right LinkedIn profile.
If you know what you’re doing, you could use password management software to allow authentication for the scheduler without the social media manager needing to know the password themselves.
I’ve had a number of folk who have used external agencies to run their profiles landing up with banned (not restricted) accounts – all with Sales Navigator.
Account security issues.
A downside of sharing credentials with others is that you’d really need to turn off LinkedIn’s two-step verification feature.
With two-step verification enabled, the other person would need access to your mobile phone or authenticator app in order for them to log in as you.
Turning off this feature compromises your account security, as it would allow anyone who has your password to log in as you.
Note that two-step verification is not enabled by default. If you’ve never heard of it and have no reason to share your LinkedIn login details with anyone, I strongly recommend you enable it right now.
Turn on two-step verification on LinkedIn (desktop link)
Let’s wrap up.
There’s no good solution for sharing a personal profile with someone else, as doing so is either a breach of the LinkedIn User Agreement or at least some kind of impersonation.
In practice, many people still do it and if you’re ever in the position of needing to do this for a client, you should set out to them that their account may be at risk if LinkedIn detects the activity.
As smart people in Espresso+ have shared with me, the best approach is to hand-hold clients so that they can do some personal interaction themselves and then to manage the remaining activity via scheduling tools.
That takes some of the load off the hands of the client while still allowing them to have at least some authentic engagement with their LinkedIn network.