Imagine the scene. You're at a networking meeting, chatting with some colleagues you have known for years. Suddenly, a complete stranger walks up to you and, without preamble, asks if they can be your friend!
You have never even set eyes on this person up until now; none of your other friends or colleagues seem to know them; and no-one has properly introduced you. You simply have no reference point as to how this person knows you, or why they would want to be your friend.
Like most people, are you thinking……'GET LOST!'
I have recently received several invitations to connect on LinkedIn with people I don't know. Not only that, nobody I know seems to know them either. They don't work in the same industry as I do (past or present), there is no obvious common ground, and I am at a loss to understand why they wish to connect with me. Nor has an explanation been given.
So why should an approach made on a social networking site be any different to one made in person? In my book, there is no difference – both types of approach are unsolicited, unexpected, impolite…….and downright weird!
So just what is the etiquette to connecting on LinkedIn? (And, perhaps, in person?!) Here are 4 tips:
1. Approach people you actually know
First and foremost, it is expected that you should at least know the people whom you invite to connect with you on LinkedIn. These can be friends, family, current or past work colleagues, aquaintances – but you should be on talking terms with this set of people, and they will know who you are when you send the invitation to connect.
2. Building your Network
It is perfectly acceptable to invite connections from people you meet anew – at network meetings; conferences; or any other professional social gathering. But you should at least have had some form of interaction with the person. Don't simply work your way through an attendee list, and invite everyone who happened to be in the same room as you!
3. Be Introduced
Find one of your existing LinkedIn connections who may know your target connection. Then, use the ‘Introduction' facility to send a message, explaining why you wish to be connected, via the person you already know. Being properly introduced is far more likely to result in your request to connect being accepted, so this is a useful approach.
4. Personalise your Message
If you are unknown to the person to whom you wish to connect, it may still be acceptable to invite them to join your network. But only if you explain your reason, and give good rationale as to why the connection could be of interest and benefit. Do not simply send the pre-formatted LinkedIn connection request – personalise your message, and explain yourself!
What do you think is acceptable etiquette for connecting on LinkedIn? And is it different to other social networks?