Have you ever gotten one of those generic "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn." connection requests from someone you don't know? I'm sure, like me, you've had at least one or two! I often wonder why, on a professional network like LinkedIn, they think that reaching out without telling me who they are and why I should connect with them is good business practice.
For me, the generic connection request plays out like this;
You are at a professional networking event, and someone you have never met walks up to you. Instead of introducing themselves, they take your smartphone out of your hand, and then proceed to ask you for the password, so that they can access your contacts. Excuse me!?!?! What planet are you from?
This kind of thing would never fly in real life, so why do people think it is okay online? When I connect to someone, I am opening up my network of connections to that person. If I don't know you, why would I risk my professional network?
I understand that sometimes you hit the Connection request button by mistake, or you send it inadvertently from a mobile app that doesn't allow you to customize the note. But for the most part, if you want to connect with someone, let them know who you are and why you want to connect. It doesn't take more than a moment or two to say hello, and give a little bit of context.
When I get those generic connection requests, I have a standard reply - mostly because there is a chance that I have forgotten someone's name! My reply goes like this;
Thanks for reaching out. I don't recall that we have met before, would you mind refreshing my memory?
For the most part, I don't get a response. Occasionally I do, from someone who either really wants to connect for a legitimate reason, or hit the Connection request button by mistake. For the most part though, I don't get any response, and no response within 24 hours means that I delete or ignore the request.
There is a real (social) danger to being ignored. When someone ignores your request to connect, they have the option (although they don't have to utilize it) to say WHY they don't want to connect with you. The options are "I don't know x", and "This is spam" among others. You run the risk of a "black mark" against you, which means that you will have to work that much harder to legitimately connect with people. Likely, the next time you ask to connect, you will have to supply the contact's email address connected to their LinkedIn profile. This creates a problem, and can be time consuming to have to try to find their email, and be sure that it is the one connected to their profile. Your professional online social reputation is worth the time it takes to create an introductory note!
So how do you customize that note? And how do you know when is the best time to "connect"? Here are a few tips;
- I would recommend asking to "connect" with someone on LinkedIn only after you have had some sort of conversation with them - be it via phone, email, InMail, some other social platform like Twitter, or in person.
- When building your customized connection request, be sure to state why you want to connect and any connections you have in common.
- A generic connection request is okay if you are standing in front of the person on the conference showroom floor, or if you know them very well. Any other time, take the time to show that you have a reason for reaching out, that you are trustworthy, and can provide value to the relationship.
- Connection requests after a meeting can be a great way to remind your target about the conversation, and keep yourself top of mind.
Growing your network is a good thing, even a great thing! Be judicious with your connection requests, and build a quality network that works for you.