“Now that virtual networking is taking off, I’m noticing a few more invites coming in on LinkedIn, often from people I don’t know. What’s the protocol on these kinds of connections? I’m not sure which ones to ignore or accept — but I always feel a little guilty not saying yes.”
Principal, PUNCH!media & LinkedIn Optimization Specialist
Leslie Hughes is a LinkedIn Optimization Specialist, Professor of Social Media, Corporate Trainer, Principal of PUNCH!media, and author of CREATE. CONNECT. CONVERT. She was called a “Social Media Guru” by CBC Radio and was featured on CTV’s The Social discussing how to manage your digital identity. Leslie has been working in digital marketing since 1997 and founded PUNCH!media in 2009.
I believe that we should be building a network of quality connections instead of just randomly accepting every request.
I say this for three reasons:
EVERYONE is not a strategy.
In marketing, your goal is to connect with the right people. So, if you only serve clients in one specific geographic location (i.e. North America), you don’t need to connect with people on the other side of the world — unless you believe there is reciprocal value for connecting with them.
Keep your newsfeed clutter to a minimum.
When you connect with someone, you will see their status updates. I would rather read updates from people I’m interested in, as opposed to having a newsfeed full of irrelevant content from people I don’t know.
When you qualify the people in your virtual network, you’re much less likely to receive SPAM. Thankfully, I haven’t had too many people pitch their services without initiating a conversation with me first. If they did this, I would immediately remove them from my network.
Another way to qualify whether or not you should accept that connection request is to ask yourself: “Would I exchange business cards with this person?”
To obtain new opportunities, it’s important that you continuously build upon your existing network of connections. You definitely want to add new people that you want to get to know into your audience or sales funnel.
Here are three ways to manage or respond to inbound connection requests from strangers:
Respond without accepting their connection request.
You may not have noticed, but there’s an option to message individuals who have sent you a request before you accept their invite. (Not sure how to do it? Check out my video explainer.) You can put the onus back on the person who has sent you the connection request with one of the following replies:
“Thank you for the invitation to connect. Can you refresh my memory as to how we know each other?”
“Thank you for the invitation to connect. I only accept connection requests from people I know. Let’s get to know each other! Please tell me a little bit about what you do, and who you help.”
“Thank you for the invitation to connect. Do you have any questions about (services you provide), or are you just looking to build your network?”
If they don’t answer, don’t add them to your network. Each person should bring some sort of value to this professional relationship.
Accept their connection request, and begin a conversation
If someone looks like they could be an interesting connection, accept their request and begin a dialogue with them. Use icebreakers about information you’ve gathered from their profile, or acknowledge a mutual connection you have in common.
You could message them the following: “Thank you so much for connecting with me here on LinkedIn. I see on your profile that you know Susan Smith. I used to work with Susan at ABC Company. I’d love to know more about your business and how we could work together. Can we set up a meeting to talk?”
Remember, you must put the “social” into Social Media. Each micro-moment you have with someone will help to build trust over time.
Simply click “Ignore”
If someone is clearly not going to be a valuable connection in your network, then you can click “Ignore” — rest assured, LinkedIn will not send them a notification that you have rejected them.
And my final tip: While we are connecting with people virtually from device-to-device, use the same kind of strategy and etiquette you would use if you were to encounter that person face-to-face. At the end of that device, we are connecting human-to-human.