Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

How often do you receive an invite to connect with someone on LinkedIn that you don’t know? Do you connect or ignore? That decision is more complicated when the invitation includes only the standard message “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” But when it has no other information, what do you do? LinkedIn_Invite

When we meet someone in person, say at a networking event, we get to know the person a little before we ask for his or her business card. On LinkedIn, we’re asking more than the equivalent of a business card before we know them – we’re asking to be a part of each other’s network.

Because LinkedIn makes it so easy to send an invite to connect with contacts, we lose the opportunity to appropriately introduce ourselves before we make “the ask”. If we haven’t met yet, I have a greater chance of a contact accepting my request to invite if I’ve specified why I’d like to connect. In the past, a LinkedIn invite would come up, and you’d indicate how you know the person (colleague, classmate, “done business together”, friend, other, I don’t know), and then there is a section to include a personal note. It’s pre-filled with the standard message stated above but it is easy to edit and personalize the message. These days, LinkedIn has increased the options of where you can go to invite a connection and you can click to send off a generic invite. It’s too easy, in fact.

Just because you can easily invite contacts to connect on LinkedIn, it doesn’t mean you should.

Even if you’ve just met someone at a networking event or business meeting, it’s good business practice to refer to the meeting or event as a reminder in your customized LinkedIn invitation. If you’ve never met, it’s critical if you want your invites to be accepted.

And, if you do receive a LinkedIn invite from someone you don’t know, I hit “Reply but don’t accept” in the drop down near the word “accept” and thank the person for the invite and state “since we don’t know each other, I thought I’d reach out to find out how I can help you.” Sometimes there is no response (hit “ignore”) and often I learn more that helps me determine how I should act. This effort saves me from ignoring potentially beneficial new contacts and accepting non-relevant contacts.

In summary, personalizing your LinkedIn invites provides the following benefits:

  • Increased invite acceptance
  • Demonstrated professionalism (part of your brand)
  • “Contact-Centric” approach (also part of your brand)
  • Higher productivity and “networking ROI”