Because I’m a digital marketing expert, and advise clients on social media strategy and/or serve as their social media voice, I felt I owed it to the many individuals who use LinkedIn — both the right way and the wrong way — to call out a major user “faux pas” and how to fix it.
Given the fact no job or business is ever 100% secure — times and interest in products and services by current customers change rapidly, management comes and goes, new technology makes certain products or services obsolete, etc. — if you are of employment age, then you should be maintaining an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn and actively using it to connect with both individuals you do know, and individuals you don’t. This will ensure you are adequately connected when you find yourself in need of identifying your next permanent or contract gig.
So, now to the “faux pas”. If you’re going to reach out to someone via LinkedIn whom you don’t know well or don’t know at all, and it’s not totally obvious why you want to connect with them (for example, they are not a close friend, or former co-worker or manager), you should never, ever send an invite to connect without 1) devising a note of some sort that goes beyond the standard one of “I’d like to connect on LinkedIn.”; and 2) including in your note some context around why you want to connect.
As a marketer who understands “best practices” and the proper use of various forms of social media, for some time now, I haven’t accepted requests to connect from individuals I don’t know who haven’t taken the time to explain why we should “connect.” However, I’m kind enough to reach out to these “inviters” and ask them why they want to connect before I completely write them off as a possible LinkedIn connection. I hope by doing so, I’m teaching them how to better make connections going forward, so they they and all LinkedIn users will benefit.
A good salesperson knows you have to explain the value-add associated with any product or service you sell. In the case of LinkedIn, you are selling yourself, and you need to explain to your “invitee” why and how they would benefit from connecting with you. As the inviter, you have the responsibility to identify the “link” for your “invitee”. Hey you wouldn’t invite someone to a party or event without explaining what it’s all about, right? The “link” could be having careers in the same field, volunteering at the same organization or ones with similar interests, having attended the same college or graduate school, having a lot of mutual connections, having the same passions/interests, etc. The explanation you provide with your invite doesn’t have to be long. In fact, ideally it shouldn’t be (you can and should wait until your target “invitee” accepts before providing too much detail; you can use the LinkedIn “message” function later on to provide that greater detail). Sample explanations include:
- “I’d love to connect with you because of our similar interests in healthcare technology”
- I’d love to connect because I see we have quite a few mutual connections from our careers in community banking”
- “I think we’d enjoy being connected because I see we are equally passionate about digital marketing”
- “I’d welcome connecting because I really enjoyed your article, blog post, presentation, etc. about x,y, and z, and I’d love to keep the conversation going.”
So, the next time you go to send a LinkedIn invite to connect, give some good thought as to why you want to connect with the individual in-question, and why they’d want to connect with you. If all LinkedIn users employ this protocol, we can improve on the great tool that LinkedIn already is and make it an even more effective environment for ensuring interesting conversations and beneficial connections happen between the right people.