Have you ever walked up to someone you don’t know and thrown your business card at them then walked away?  What about seeing a stranger across the room and shouted your name and company name at them then just stood there?  No?

Of course you haven’t.  That would be rude and certainly would not make the recipient of your attention willing to start a business relationship with you.  So why on earth do some people think that you can go on LinkedIn and send a random invitation to connect to someone they don’t know and not include any greeting or information?

Sure, some people use the standard LinkedIn greeting that pre-populates when you start to craft the invitation, but that is pure laziness.  Let’s imagine saying those words out loud at a professional networking event as you see someone you don’t know:

You:  I’d like to add you to my network on LinkedIn.

Stranger:  Who ARE you?

You:  It doesn’t really matter.  Maybe I’m a former colleague or maybe we’ve never worked for the same company.  Either way, I’d like to add you to my network on LinkedIn.

Stranger:  Why?  What is the benefit of us connecting?

You:  Well, I don’t know.  I haven’t given it much thought.

Stranger:  Why don’t you go back to your table and give it some thought. Then, you can approach me for a conversation and tell me why this networking relationship will be mutually beneficial.

See what I mean?  If that was how your first encounter went with someone, it would not be likely that the stranger would want to connect.

The moral of the story…

The moral of this cautionary tale is to use LinkedIn with the same manners you would when attempting to connect in person with a business professional.  As more executives begin signing up for the service, it’s even more important to cultivate relationships and it starts with that first interaction.

What to do

  • First, make sure your own profile is 100% complete and use details.  This will give any potential future connection the foundation information they’ll need to determine if they are willing to connect with you.
  • If you met the person before, mention where and when in your greeting.
  • If you have never met the person but have mutual friends, mention them.
  • If you have never met the person and do not have mutual connections, mention how you think your backgrounds will benefit each other by making the connection.
  • Most importantly, don’t try to sell or beg for a job in the initial interaction.  Those questions should only come after you have established a relationship (even if just online) with the person you want to connect with.

What other advice would you give?  What is the worst way someone has tried to connect with you on LinkedIn?