Linked In or Linked Out? Etiquette of Growing Your Network

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?

5 thoughts on “Linked In or Linked Out? Etiquette of Growing Your Network”

  1. I too am quite an advocate of etiquette in social networking and otherwise. I always customize my invitations to connect on LinkedIn and it’s part of my presentation when I speak about it. However, to my surprise, the somewhat recent configuration of the “People You May Know” feature on the top right of the home page has a ‘connect’ button – and when you do that there it’s a done deal, there is no option to customize or even stop the process. It’s like a magic wand, it just goes. It happened to me ONCE and I felt so cheap………

  2. Excellent post Trish. It has been a pet peeve of mine that people just mark “friend” when you have no clue who they are. Like you said, it is the mark of laziness. I always tell people who are new to LinkedIn not to use the friend “excuse” unless you are truly a friend and find another connection if you are not.

    Keep up the good work my friend.

  3. Trish,
    You’ve outlined some important points of courtesy for individuals seeking to network with you. However, I would submit that some of the preferences you’ve stated should be considered either personal preferences or should be examined in the context of why an individual is using LinkedIn.

    Example: If someone is using LinkedIn to create candidate flow for a client or employer (Recruiter or Sourcer) they’re quite likely to have a less “stringent” criteria for people reaching out to connect with them, or applicable to their own requests to connect with other LinkedIn users.

    I must admit that I don’t hold an automatically populated invitation with any less regard than one that’s been individualized. I look at the profile of each and every person that sends me an invitation and make my own assessment of potential value within my network.

    I do agree with you that if someone communicated in this manner IRL, it could come off as inconsiderate. I just think the comparison of face-to-face communication and online network communication to be a bit of apples to oranges.

  4. Funny… but true.

    I’ve encountered people who are super conservative about their connections (“I only connect with people I’ve met in person, have done business with and are in my close circles”) to super liberal (“I’ll send you an invite if I come across your name”).

    As in any social network, one has to strike a balance. You don’t want to say yes to every invite that comes your way (spam, sales, social hustlers), but you can’t be too exclusive either, or you’ll miss out on opportunities to network our beyond your “close circle” of connections.

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