I have written about handling Linkedin connection requests in the past, but there continues to be a thorny, never-ending stream of invitations in my Linkedin inbox. I’m sure that you, like me, get connection requests that leave you scratching your head. For example, the name looks familiar, but you can’t seem to quite place it. Maybe you just came back from a conference where you met dozens of new people, but you can’t remember the ones you trusted and/or liked. Or possibly you don’t actually know the person, but they do have an interesting profile…
In any event, I receive at least a dozen invitations every week and for the vast majority, they are not people I know and come without any accompanying note. It’s often confusing and I hesitate just to reject the connections outright. For example, there are those I’m not sure if I know them, and then others whom I met many moons ago, but have not been in touch with since. In each of these cases, my position is generally not to accept the request. However, in my heart, I feel bad about just ignoring them. I kind of want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Linkedin connection requests gone wrong
The first and most common error many connection requests suffer from is that they don’t bother adding a note of introduction or context. A limited few (far too few) take the time to add a note of explanation. But the reasons often leave me more bemused than convinced. Here are few examples:
- “Dear Minter, It would be a great honour to add you as a connection. Kindest and much respect.”
- “I hope you accept this invitation to be part of my LinkedIn network. I am the Co Founder at a new startup called ABCD and I’m looking to expand my network of like-minded Founders and Co Founders in France. Our preregistration page is up on our website too, see you there.”
- “Sorry to bother you. But I am bold enough to ask you to connect in this beginning part of the year, full of optimism and strong resolutions. As a result, I would like to exchange with you on our respective activity [sic] and projects. Talk soon!”
It’s possible, even likely, that they all meant well. However, I smelled a sales pitch in #2 and probably in #3, too. How to handle these requests? I wanted to share with you my general approach and then some of the ingenuous answers I receive. The purpose is not to scorn or mock, but to help guide others who want to improve their network.
The casual letdown, but with an opening
My typical line of response (and I try to respond to each request before they are automatically deleted by Linkedin) goes something like this:
I have seen your request for a connection. I see we have a couple of connections in common, but unless I’m mistaken, I don’t believe we have met? As a rule I don’t connect with someone whom I have not met. If you have a specific question or project in mind, please don’t hesitate… Best regards, Minter
9/10 I never get a response back. So much for a potentially engaged member of my network! For those who do answer back, a good many just say thanks for responding and merry wishes. Over half say something like: “I fully understand / respect your approach.” The ones that I find hard to fathom are those that say: “Yeah, I have the same policy.” Really?
Best ways to approach someone
So, what’s the best way to approach someone?
First, I believe that a LinkedIn network is about people you know and trust. As far as I’m concerned, it is not and should never be a sales tool to canvass or cold call people you don’t know. That’s spam.
Secondly, even if we do know each other, it’s worth adding a little note. This might be to jog the memory or to add some context. If you’re not sure that will be enough, you might want to add a good reason why we should connect. The what’s in it for the invitee.
Thirdly, if you don’t have a fully loaded profile, how on earth is one supposed to remember who you are or trust you? Someone who has an egghead or fuzzy photograph, just a handful of connections, no recommendations or skills and is not active bears virtually no possible benefit for the invitee.
Lastly, if we only met briefly or perhaps a long time ago, then you need to amp up the reasons/explanation for connecting. For example, I often get people who worked at L’Oreal at the same time as me. Bearing in mind that I was there for 16 years and that I left 9 years ago, (a) that’s a lot of people and (b) that’s a long time ago. Just because we had coffee fifteen years ago is just not enough to accept an invitation without any small talk or interim conversation.
LinkedIn is a place for developing trustworthy relationships. I won’t accept a connection request from someone I don’t trust or appreciate. And if they’re in my network but never reply to my messages, at some point I will delete them from my network.* Otherwise, they’re just a vanity metric and not pretty at that.
Your thoughts and reactions are welcome.
*If only there were an easy way to manage your Linkedin network…Hint to an eager entrepreneur for a great new app!