LinkedIn Connections Etiquette

Food Bank Social Media Mixer 2011 Lisa Sullivan

(Image above is from the Food Bank of CENC Social Media Mixer 2011, a joint effort between the Food Bank and Tweet Divas. One of the best networking events we’ve done.)

I had the privilege of sitting on a panel of social media experts the other night at the Raleigh Entrepreneur’s Organization Meetup…and yes, I’m going to call us experts. While we don’t hold degrees in the field of social media per se, each one of us has extensive experience (beyond internships and/or only using one platform or whatever) in the medium. Two of us manage the social media for the companies we work for while the other two on the panel own their own successful businesses specializing in, you guessed it, social media marketing. So, yes, I’d say we know more than the average Joe and thus, can be considered as experts. Just throwing that out there in case anyone had any question. 🙂

One of the gentlemen on the panel is a true expert in LinkedIn. In fact, I’d almost declare him LinkedIn Royalty. Almost. Don’t want his head to get too big. William Blackmon, CEO of Apogee Social Media Group knows the platform like the back of his hand. He has taught me much about it and it was a pleasure to sit on the panel with him.  While William is the expert on this topic, I’m only going to dive in one thing that I think is necessary to educate you folks out there on and it’s how to effectively make a Connection on LinkedIn.

We all get them, those requests that mainly say “I’d like to add you to my professional network” and many of which come from people you don’t actually know. Now, there is no set rule to adding those folks or not adding them. Given that the platform is user-driven, it’s up to each user how they wish to proceed or not proceed with the connection. Personally, while I realize it’s a professional network, I don’t just add anyone. You have to have a few factors for me to encourage the Connection.

Factor #1 – Have a PROFESSIONAL Profile Picture

How many of you have seen this –

LinkedIn Silhouette Lisa Sullivan

Who connects to a silhouette? I mean, seriously. It is VERY rare when I’ll accept a Connection request with a silhouette (and it may only be that I’ve known the individual forever and I’m not going to not accept him). Most of the time, I either leave the person in limbo (hoping they’ll get a profile picture) or I’ll just delete them.

Without question, one of your BEST chances to obtain a Connection on LinkedIn, is if you replace your silhouette with an actual picture. People Connect to people; not silhouettes.

Factor #2 – You’ve Given Me More Than “I’d like to add you to my professional network.”

Every time I see that and only that, I cringe. Yet, I understand in one case that can’t be helped as it’s due to the method you used to Connect with me. Let me explain.

If you only use the “People You May Know Tool” (accessed by the box that pops up in the upper right of your LinkedIn Home Page), that page is great for seeing those people you may know and then sending an automatic request. However, once you click on “Connect” under a profile picture, there isn’t an option to indicate to the person how you know them.

LinkedIn People You May Know Tool Lisa Sullivan

Instead once you Connect, you see this –

LinkedIn Invitation Sent Lisa Sullivan 2

I don’t recommend this method. While it’s fast and easy, it doesn’t allow you to personally explain how you know the individual you are requesting to Connect with. Instead, go directly to the individual’s profile page and select “Connect” under their profile picture. Once you do, it brings you to this screen –

LinkedIn Invitation Connect Long Form

Now you can check the button in the menu as well as add a personal message beyond “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” Sometimes, I just say something like, “I cannot believe we haven’t connected here yet.” or “Good to meet you at the Meetup the other night. Let’s Connect here.” or “I see that you and I talk social media A LOT. I’d love to Connect with you here to keep the conversation going.”

Notice I NEVER say, “Hi, I see we’re connected on Twitter and I have this new product that I think you might be interested in. I’d love to discuss it with you.”

First, the message above says “discuss it with you”. If you want to talk to me about your product, message me (and even then give me more than “Hi my name is and I have….”). Don’t just ask me for a Connection Request.

Second, you are asking to Connect with me. Think of it like a Chamber of Commerce event. There’s nothing worse than going to a Chamber event and immediately upon meeting someone you receive their business card. It’s like…Say what?! I’m glad you sell widgets but tell me why I’d call you or recommend you. Don’t “sell” me on your business. How ’bout just engaging in an actual conversation with me first?

Factor #3 – I’d Prefer to Have Already “Met” You

I’d like to know that the folks I’m connecting with I actually know personally to some extent. I have met them online through various conversations we’ve had on other platforms (and I’m comfortable connecting with you, to be honest) or I have met them at an event or conference or perhaps I already personally know them. Either way, I like my Connections to be people I kinda know.

LinkedIn gives you guidelines as to why you should be vigilant with whom you select as your Connections. I just tend to be vigilant because I am. In fact, I pretty much am with every platform I use. While I’d like to believe most people are decent and kind and loving human beings, some are not so much, if we’re being honest. I like to Connect myself with people who lift me up, who provide value in what they do, who treat others as they wish to be treated, etc. etc. etc. Again, this is not the standard for everyone. It’s just the standard I use.

All this to say and really the bottom line is

the more personable you are with your LinkedIn Connection Request the greater the chance you’ll receive the Connection.

If you have a profile picture and can acknowledge how we know each other or explain in your request why you’re asking for the connection, chances are I will accept the request. But, if you just send me a silhouette and nothing else, I might keep you in limbo or delete you all together.

Remember, social media is meant to be social. While LinkedIn is the professional platform out there, that doesn’t mean you leave your manners on the keyboard. Use those keys and put them to good work. You’ll gain more Connections if you just take the time to be real and personable.

How ’bout you? What standards do you have for connecting with folks online, either on LinkedIn or other platforms? I’d love to hear about it. Please leave a comment below.

I’ll end with this – you know, it seems every platform developer believes that their users don’t mind sharing everything and want to connect with everyone when actually, most people don’t. Most want to have SOME control over how they connect with others online. With privacy settings and putting your own parameters in place, you do have that “some control”. As you can tell, I practice it. 🙂

See you around the interwebs…and maybe, let’s Connect!


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