The Most Important Rule of Connecting

In his blog post last week, my friend Rob Ewanow explained one of the core principles I wholeheartedly endorse when asking someone to connect on LinkedIn.  Effective networking must embrace a “give-to-get” mindset.  If you’re not willing to help someone you’re hoping to connect with, why would they want to connect with you?

How does that other person know you’re willing to help?  Tell them!  It really is that simple.  And, it takes just seconds to do.  Is the person you’re trying to connect with not worth a few seconds of your time?

In my various presentations and training classes that cover LinkedIn, customizing your LinkedIn invitations is always one of my primary tips.  LinkedIn only wants you to connect with people you know.  Granted, many people ignore this “rule” but if enough complaints are made against you for inviting people you don’t know, your account can be suspended.

LinkedIn will allow you to customize your invitations with a personal note when you attempt to connect by clicking:

  • Add (member’s name) to your network on their profile.
  • The Connect link from the People You May Know module.
  • The Add to Network link from search results.

When you’re creating your invitation, make sure you designate how you know the person (colleague, classmate, we’ve done business together, friend, groups, other).  Then, as Rob suggests, explain how connecting would be mutually beneficial.  Or better yet, limit your personal note to how you can help the person you’re trying to connect with.

Even when people customize their invitations to connect with me, if I haven’t met them in person or have had extensive interaction with them otherwise, I will request we meet in person.  That’s my own little rule of thumb which I’ve chosen to implement.  Interestingly, less than 20% of all LinkedIn connection requests I receive will respond to my invitation to meet in person!  Of those who do, less than half will actually schedule and keep our meeting.  I value those in my network and this is my “quality check” before I open that network to someone new.  It’s not 100% fool-proof, but it’s more than most people do.

If you’re receiving too many LinkedIn requests and/or from people you don’t know, you can change your settings to require those attempting to connect with you to know your email address.  To learn more about how to change your settings, visit the LinkedIn help page.

Do you customize your connection requests on LinkedIn?  How do you process requests from others when they’re not personalized?

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21 thoughts on “The Most Important Rule of Connecting

  1. This post had me call and make 2 meetings with people I wanted to meet but I let time and other commitments let that slip away. Thanks for a good reminder. That stack of bills to pay and laundry and email will all be there tomorrow. But that personal connection might not be.

      • I once read a very successful business person, and I forget who but I think it is Warren Buffet calls 10 people a week just to say hello and catch up. Might be another blog idea to build your network and talk to them. So much better than an email!

      • EXACTLY Julie! As a B&B the industry is practically forcing us to be more like hotels. That is having the customer do EVERYTHING online. I prefer speaking to a real person and hearing the voice. That way I get a better feel for who they are and what their needs are. I’m hearing more and more that this whole social networking online is taking too much time. Sometimes, after I have read a post, whether it be on FB, Twitter, G+, email, I stop myself from responding. I stop and think, Do I have a meaningful response to this post? Do I have time to respond to this post? So, more often than not I don’t respond, but just take in the message.

      • Thank you for taking the time to read the post and respond Belinda! I completely agree that real interaction, either in-person or on the phone, provides a much better networking experience than strictly online/textual. Social media has opened doors for that in-person networking on more occasions than I can count, so it’s not without merit. Ideally, it shouldn’t be an “either/or” scenario but maximizing the pros they both offer.

  2. I had never considered this philosophy, and/or these simple rules surrounding this site. Thank you, there is power in adopting and using your ideas!

    Best Regards,
    Lisa Marie Kernan

  3. I like to provide a memory jogger for the other person when asking to connect even if I think they “should” know me. Seems polite.
    I do not respond to non-personalized invites anymore. I used to look ppl up to see if I could figure out how I knew them, but now I don’t take the time anymore. If I get a generic invite and don’t recognize the name or photo (let’s hope there is one!), it sits. Period. As my network has grown, I get more of these spammy invites and I also am more careful abouth the quality of my network.

  4. Hi Art – I hope all is going well for you.

    I’ve noticed a trend on LinkedIn Invitations that I do not like — people who I worked with at a former employer send me invitations stating that I’m a ‘friend’. Seems odd that after we worked together for 4 or 5 years that they don’t choose Colleague.

    When sending invitations to former co-workers, I also list the relationship as Colleague at XYZ Co.

    I’d be interested to know if others have been seeing this trend.

    Paul Dangler.

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