Last month, I delivered a presentation on social media ROI to a group of folks in New Jersey. We covered LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and a variety of topics relating to social media in general. A member of the audience asked a question about LinkedIn invitations that I hear quite frequently: should I accept an invitation to connect on LinkedIn if I don’t know or don’t have a personal relationship with the sender?
In my previous life when I worked for an association, I had a very strict rule of thumb regarding LinkedIn invitations: if I didn’t know you, hadn’t met you, hadn’t had some type of interaction with you, be it an email or phone conversation, I would not accept your invitation to connect. Since I started my own business, however, I look at things a bit differently.
Every invitation is an opportunity to learn more about a person, a topic or to possibly forge a new relationship. I would hate to lose a prospective client because of a silly rule that I thought was more important than a relationship. The worst-case scenario is that I will delete the connection if he/she turns out to be a spammer or a negative connection. So I generally accept most invitations to connect unless I have a gut check that instructs me not to.
Here are some things that might make your invitation to connect on LinkedIn less than inviting:
- Please don’t send me the generic, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn” invitation. Most folks seem to do that and it’s so uninspired. Show some creativity and demonstrate why we should connect.
- Recently I received an invitation from a salesperson to connect. The invitation began with, “I see you’re a CertifiedMeeting Professional. Great!” The issuer of the invitation then launched into a blatant sales pitch outlining why I should speak with him. When could we schedule an appointment to speak? Never. LinkedIn can and should be used to chase down sales leads, but not by such a direct approach. If he hadn’t hit me over the head with the sales inquiry in the invitation, I would have accepted his request to connect.
- In this same invitation, I was also offered a substantial cash incentive for a referral – when I have no relationship with or knowledge of this individual. This, I found to be particularly offensive. Others may feel differently.
Keep your invitations personal, but not invasive, light and devoid of sales pitches.