LinkedIn Request Etiquette – avoiding boring & bland

LinkedIn_Offices_2I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn.

How many times have you seen that as a request? It’s the bland, boring, and standard request message sent by so many of us. In the past 5 months, I have received 18 requests exactly like that.

In the grand scheme of things, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a little meaningless when the recipient knows that no thought has gone in to it. You simply clicked Connect. Consider an active job seeker who  receives several requests a week from a recruiter. Don’t you want your message to stand out?

What might be a better approach?

In theory, you are requesting a connection on LinkedIn from someone for one of the following reasons:

  • You currently work with the individual, or have worked with them in the past
  • You just met them and would like to follow up and connect through LinkedIn
  • You would like to meet them and think LinkedIn would be a great introduction to do that
  • You have an opportunity or idea that could be interest to them

Sending the generic invite might be OK if it’s a current work colleague whom you have a working relationship with, but even in some companies you might not know every person employed there. Receiving a generic invite feels a little like someone just shoving a business card in my hand and walking off. Rude and impersonal.

  1. Be honest about how you know that person. Don’t say it’s a friend or work colleague if you have never even met. If you get too many people clicking ‘I don’t know’ or flagging your request as spam you could be placed in the restricted zone by LinkedIn.
  2. You have the option to include a personal note, so use it! Remind the person you are requesting the connection from exactly how you met, or reference a person you have in common. What is the purpose for the connection?
  3. Thank them in advance for their time. Provide a ‘next action’. Are you looking forward to meeting them at an upcoming event? Or perhaps you would like to schedule a call in the future? Use that in your request.

How can I avoid sending the generic request?

There are a few ways you could send a generic request without intending to. LinkedIn do seem to be making some changes though, so these grey areas could be removed in the future. Right now, visiting the person’s profile directly and clicking Connect is the best way to be sure you can customise your message. These other ways, not as certain:

  1. LinkedIn Phone App – although there is a way to customise your invite, you could easily miss it. Find the person you want to invite, but then using the menu function, select customize invite rather than clicking Connect directly. Unfortunately, I have tried it and had issues actually trying to send the custom message. Worth checking in to, but test it out if possible
  2. People You May Know – this is a very helpful section in LinkedIn. It suggests people you might know based on other connections or companies you are linked to. It’s very easy to just sit and click Connect, and I have been guilty of this in the past. This feature doesn’t give you an option to customise your invite, so be aware of this.
  3. Outlook Social Connector – if you are using an Add-In for Outlook that allows you to connect and view LinkedIn information for those sending you e-mails, this is another area to stay away from should you wish to send a custom invite. – UPDATE: – this is no longer supported as of March 2015. Link updated to reflect this. 

Should I accept generic requests?

By all means, accept them. It may not bother you when you receive these invites. If it’s someone you know, it makes sense to accept. Easier and nothing gained from ignoring them or marking them as spam. However, if it’s someone you have never met, or just can’t place, there is nothing wrong with sending a follow up message, prior to accepting their invite. I have done this in the past and had some great responses that led to valuable relationships. On the other hand, if it’s truly spam you won’t get any response and can then mark them accordingly in LinkedIn.

Are there any other tips or suggestions you can think of? Share them below!

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