A few days ago I apparently caused someone great offence by not connecting with them on Linked In. So I thought I’d share the way I use Linked In.
I have a very simple rule with Linked In – I only connect with people I know. I’m not that precious about my definition of “know”. It could be someone I’ve worked with and know really well, or someone who applied for a role I’m recruiting for. But it’s never total strangers. Especially when I receive no explanation of why they want to connect with me.
On this occasion, as always, when I receive a request to connect from someone I don’t think I know, I politely replied asking if my memory was failing me and did we know each other. The reply was a simple “no we don’t, I’m just widening my network” answer. I replied and explained my “rule” and gave all my other contact details. This caused great offence apparently and obviously offended so much I got a really rude reply from them.
I don’t want to create a big list of random people on my Linked In account. I want to have a list of people I can professionally communicate with – sharing suitable opportunities, asking for professional advice and learning. Don’t get me wrong. I like hearing from new people. I happily talk on the phone, exchange emails, drink coffee and tweet with people. I just like to keep Linked In for my existing professional network.
Why not just connect with anyone? I use Linked to share opportunities, jobs and thought pieces with my network – and these are people I’ve chosen to align myself with. It’s also a database of people, and like any other database I use, I like to keep it tidy and easy to work with. Connecting with someone on Linked In almost seems like an endorsement to others.
It’s obviously important to respect other people’s ways of using networking sites, so I try to stay professional and friendly with my replies or rejections (there’s really no need to be rude to someone just because they don’t want to connect with you). As Linked in is a professional network, I try to keep my use of it at that level, but as with any social network there should still be a healthy awareness for how you are coming across online. If you wouldn’t say it to someone you’re meeting at a networking event in person, you probably shouldn’t be saying it online, or in an email reply to a request to connect.
Linked In already provides great tools to connect with strangers, such as InMails, groups, job boards, etc. I just don’t really get why some people want to build up this big list of names or people they don’t really “know”.
So my advice if you want to connect with someone on Linked In who won’t know you…
- Always write a short note explaining who you are and why you wish to connect.
- Make sure your profile is up to date (with a photo) so I can see if I know you and how we’re connected (if at all)
- Only invite someone to connect if you have a valid reason to connect with them now – if you think they may be a useful contact in 6-months, connect with them in 6-months.