About 6 months ago I posted a thread on LinkedIn ranting about peoples (mis)use of the ‘Connections’ feature of LinkedIn. It has proven to be one of the most virulent, commented on and opinionated threads in the land related groups on LinkedIn. To date it has 78 comments and 32 ‘likes’. Today I’m going to re-write that post, because I’ve gotten more perspective over the last few months and I’d like to clarify my thoughts. However, don’t expect to see me radically changing my views….
You can choose to connect with people on LinkedIn from a variety of places on the website. The way I always choose to hit the ‘connect’ button is through the persons actual profile. The reason I do this is because then it allows me to send that person a personal message like so:
If you try to connect with someone from other screens in LinkedIn it will occasionally send the request without offering you the screen shown above. Which brings me to my first rule:
- If I don’t know the person extremely well then I include a “personal note” in the window at the bottom.
I do this because I think it indicates a lack of respect to contact someone I don’t know very well and not offer an introduction. Now, I won’t fault anyone for accepting connection requests from people who don’t take the time to leave a personal note — but if I don’t know you it’s likely I may ignore the request. This is especially likely if I can’t figure out how this persons work is related to my work.
I know that many people don’t feel this issue is important, and don’t care about it. I also know from the previous discussion that about 30% of people do feel strongly.
Would you like to take a 30% chance that your connection request will be ignored because you can’t/won’t take the time to write two sentences introducing yourself?
For more anecdotal evidence, I invite you to go to your LinkedIn ’email’ box, select the “Invitations” tab on the top of the window, and then select “Sent” on the left side. This will show you all of the invitations you have sent, and it will indicate if the request was ‘Accepted’. I’ve sent 60 connection requests since May 25 of last year. 7 of those connection requests were ignored or unanswered. Below is an image I made (other people personal details were redacted to protect the innocent…) just to show you how to get to this information:
I don’t know if my results are any different than the results of those of you who don’t send personal message with your requests. It may be very well be that it makes no difference in the actual results — however it is important for me to do so. I encourage others to adopt the strategy because it costs you nothing but the time it takes to write two sentences.
You might notice that I don’t really send out that many connection requests. This is because I typically only request to connect with someone if I have something to talk to them about. Which makes it pretty easy to follow my next ‘rule’:
- I always follow-up a successful ‘connection request’ that I’ve sent with a personal email.
This is partly because I connected with them for a reason, but it is also because I don’t want to become just one of the ‘random’ 500+ connections that person might have. It gives us at least one genuine email exchange. Conversely, if they never respond to my email, then it lets me know that they probably aren’t all that interested in developing a business relationship with me.
Lastly, my final rule…
- I diligently try to ‘touch’ each of my connections at least once every 3 months.
Now, a touch can be many things. I might comment on a post they make, “like” a status update, share an article with them that they might find interesting or invite them to lunch. Those connections that never responded to my initial email don’t typically get touched quite as often. Although I do make sure to try to bring them around by making some attempt at least once a year. Of course, I don’t ‘track’ this, but I do regularly do a quick review of my list of connections. This takes me about 5 minutes, and I open up the profiles of people I need to ‘touch’. This exercise takes about 30 minutes out of my day, one day a month. I hope that it is helping me to develop lasting business relationships with people who are like-minded. I guess only time will tell.
Of course, I open up the below section for comments, questions and concerns. Is my ‘system’ going overboard? Do I put too much trust in LinkedIn as a way to develop my business contacts? Am I missing a crucial part of my plan? Let’s all talk about it in the comments below!