The question I am asked most often by new clients and students is something along the lines of: “I have a ton of invitations to connect in my in-box. Most of the requests come from people I don’t even know. Should I accept these invitations?”
The answer is: “It depends.” Sorry – were you looking for an easy answer?
I recommend first thinking about why you will be using LinkedIn and working out your personal philosophy of connecting.
NOTE: This blog is targeted at the invitations you receive (and although of course it also relates to the invitations you send out, I’ll be covering that separately in a future blog.)
“I was told I should only connect with people I know really well.” I don’t know about you but that would probably make my network about 30 or so people and I could keep their information all in my head and not even bother with LinkedIn.” Just close your account unless I can convince you to take another approach.
“I was told that the bigger my network is the better and that I should accept all connections.” There is a term for these kinds of people – they’re called LIONS (LinkedIn Open Networkers) and if you’re in sales or recruiting there may be a good reason for you to take this approach.
The Rest of Us
Most of us fall somewhere along the scale between the cautious and the connector.
You want to develop a network of meaningful connections. Perhaps you’re looking for opportunities to promote your business or to increase your opportunities in your job search.
So long as you use the message center of LinkedIn or a separate CRM, you can add as many connections as fits your personal philosophy.
My recommended approach
People you know at least slightly (would recognize if you saw out/have had at least a brief conversation with.) ✔ Accept
People you’ve met but don’t actually know and (e.g. met at the Chamber of Commerce meeting/soccer game/networking event) ✔ Accept (*make a note about how you met them)
People who are members of an association/club to which you belong. ✔ Accept (*and make a note.)
People that you’d like to meet ✔ Accept (*and make a note.)
People who are connected to a company or others that you’d like to know ✔ Accept (*and make a note.)
People who write a meaningful request to connect (and you’ll have to decide what’s meaningful to you.) ✔ Accept
*Note: LinkedIn used to allow you to make notes on a connection’s profile and/or “tag” them. Since it no longer has that feature you can include a message to them when you accept their request to connect, e.g. “I see we’re both members of the Rotary. or “See you at the next soccer game!” that message will stay on LinkedIn and you’ll always be able to search and see how you know them. Of course, if you have your own CRM or use LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can make notes there.
Other categories that you’ll have to decide for yourself based on your goals for using LinkedIn
Business development/job seekers/consultants and small business owners are probably going to want to open their net much wider than someone who simply wants to have a good professional presence on LinkedIn for building and maintaining their professional identity.
- People who are members of a LinkedIn group to which you belong
- Friends of friends
- Someone whose profile you’ve looked at (I look at a lot of profiles for examples for my clients in particular categories and have noticed I often receive invitations to connect from them afterward. Sorry – I may not be interested in connecting. But I might, especially if you include a note about why you’d like to connect.
LinkedIn makes it too easy to accidentally reach out and connect to a bunch of people LinkedIn thinks you may know (based on their unique algorithm) and not everyone is savvy enough to know not to click on that “agree” button and may send you an invitation to connect by accident. Don’t hold it against them – just decline or accept according to your interest.
There are some instances in which you may decide to always decline an invitation (no photo, few connections, someone with a terrible profile, your ex!)
If you accept by accident or change your mind or a connection starts sending you sales pitches, you can simply remove them. If they write to you in any kind of offensive way, you can also block them and report them to LinkedIn.
I would love to talk with you about the benefits to you of having a great profile on LinkedIn, how to use it without it taking up more time than you can afford, what’s appropriate for you to share on LinkedIn, and how I could help you with your professional goals. Please schedule a free 20-minute strategy consultation to see how I might be able to assist you.