What do you use the Social Networking platform LinkedIn for? Perhaps you use it to build relationships, or perhaps you use it to find potential customers? Some people use it to seek out new employment. Some people accept a LinkedIn invite from a stranger. More on that shortly.
Personally, I find LinkedIn is a great way to build deeper relationships with people I value. To maintain contact with people who I know and to keep track of what they are up to professionally over the long-term.
However you use LinkedIn, it can be a powerful platform. But who are you actually connecting with on LinkedIn?
If you were to randomly select one of your LinkedIn connections and to telephone them, would they actually know who you are?
Who are you actually connected to on LinkedIn?
All of us, myself included, have people we are connected to on LinkedIn who we simply don’t have a bloody clue as to who they are, and they, in turn, don’t know us from Adam.
This can happen for a variety of reasons. It may be somebody we met at a networking event years ago and connected with, and then promptly forgot about. It may be an old colleague we’ve lost touch with. These are reasons I can understand.
But it may also be because you accepted a LinkedIn invite from a stranger. That, I don’t understand and you’re probably wondering why you did it too, right?
Sending a LinkedIn invite to a stranger is the virtual equivalent of wandering up to somebody at an in-person networking event, not saying a word to them, quietly slipping your business card into their hand, and then wandering away.
That’s not building your network.
That’s just creepy.
So why is it acceptable to do online?
I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn
Every month I receive dozens of requests on LinkedIn to connect with people I don’t know and have never heard of. Far from helping me understand why they’ve sent me a LinkedIn connection request, they don’t tell me who they are. They don’t give me a reason why we should connect — what’s in it for me? They just tell me that “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”.
That boilerplate LinkedIn request reeks of laziness and is a sure-fire way to have me reaching for the “Delete request” button.
If you want to
stalk me follow me professionally then I’m on Twitter. You don’t have to ask my permission to follow me on Twitter. You can even Tweet me and I’ll reply.
If you’re already following me professionally and want to get in touch with me to discuss something privately, then you can email me. My email address is a matter of public record. So is my mobile phone number and home address. Hell, for most days of the week, it’s easy to find out where I’m going to be dining tonight too.
In short, I’m really easy to connect with and despite the fact that after reading this article you’re probably convinced I’m a grumpy old bastard, I’m really very open to meeting new people and forging relationships.
So with all that said, do you see why I think it’s incredibly lazy that you’ve not bothered to tell me who you are, why you want to connect with me and instead have just sent me a random LinkedIn connection request?
Further, if I feel that way about you, how many other people may feel the same way about the random invites you’ve sent to them? Far from building relationships, is it possible you’re making a bad first impression?
How to connect with people on LinkedIn effectively
I ask people if they’d like to connect with me on LinkedIn all the time. When I do send a request, I avoid the LinkedIn boilerplate request and take 30 seconds to pen an introduction that tells the person
- Who I am
- Where we met (either in-person or virtually) and what we talked about
- What’s in it for them to connect with me
Why do I do this? Well, I’m not assuming that the other person remembers who I am. Gently reminding them of where we met and what we discussed is a polite way of saving their blushes if they’ve forgotten you.
Giving them a reason to connect with me is also sensible. “I think my clients may be interested in what you do”, “I have friends who ask for the type of work you do all the time” or even “I really enjoyed our conversation and would like to stay in touch” are all legitimate reasons which show the other person you value them and are not just collecting names in a book.
Though, the real reason I do this? Nobody else is doing it. It’s memorable. It’s remarkable.
In a world where everybody is now rushing to connect with as many people as possible, it’s really simple to stand out from the crowd.
But I want to expand my network!
Despite my own views on connecting with strangers on LinkedIn, I do understand the value of using LinkedIn to try to reach brand new connections. People you’ve not met in real-life, but people you’d like to connect with anyway.
I totally get this and again, my advice would be to politely tailor the introduction you’re sending them to tell that stranger who you are and what’s in it for them to connect with you.
What are you really using LinkedIn for? Is it because you want to build relationships with people, or do you simply want to grow the number of strangers who are listed in your address book?
There are zero downsides to taking 30 seconds to tailor your LinkedIn invites, to introduce yourself properly and to give people a compelling reason to connect with you. What’s more, so few people actually do this that you’ll stand out from the crowd. It’s remarkable. You’ll start the new relationship off on the best footing.
But sending the LinkedIn boilerplate request? It’s not remarkable. It’s not unusual. It’s just lazy and predictable — and if I’ve not convinced you yet, then the next time you go to do it, picture yourself as that creepy guy or gal at a networking event. <shudder>