Should you be adding people you don’t know, or sticking to people you have formally met?
This is a fairly common question most LinkedIn users have. Knowing the proper etiquette can be tough – this professional network has, in many ways, redefined professional networking in our society, allowing us to discover and reach out to people in our industry in ways we never thought possible.
But there is always that fear of stepping over a line. What’s the correct way to add people you don’t know? Here’s some advice to consider before you hit “connect.”
Why should you add them?
This question applies to adding anyone on LinkedIn – whether you know them or you don’t. How will this person be of value to you professionally?
Each social networking platform allows their users to create an online identity for themselves. For Facebook, you want to seem interesting to your social circles – so you post photos and videos and share posts that reflect your hobbies and personality. Most people use Facebook to show their fun, social side.
LinkedIn is a social network built for networking – it’s about building your connections in your industry, and creating your professional image. Unfortunately, you can’t achieve a top professional image with the same social circle you have on Facebook – chances are, not all of your friends have related professional interests to you.
LinkedIn networking is aspirational. It’s not about connecting with people who you associate yourself with now – it’s about connecting with people who you aspire to be like. Remember – don’t randomly add people that won’t have any professional value to you.
If you are going to be adding someone that you don’t know on LinkedIn, it is crucial for you to personalize the invitation you send to them when requesting to connect.
LinkedIn provides an automatic message when sending connection invitations. This is usually find for people you do know – but when adding professionals you’ve never met, it’s important to add an introduction and some context as to why you are requesting to connect.
This is also important because you want to eliminate as much work for your connection as possible. Chances are, they are busy, and won’t have time to search through your profile, trying to figure out why you’re trying to add them.
Be sure to cut to the chase when writing your message – there’s no need for a novel explaining yourself. A short message can be the difference between an accepted invitation and a decline.
Following up and making it count
Your connection has accepted your LinkedIn request – great! Now what do you do?
Following up is key to networking success on LinkedIn. Send a timely message to thank your connection for adding you – use the direct messages option. Now is your chance to ease into a conversation with them.
Remember the first question we covered? Why did you want to connect with this individual? Perhaps you are looking for mentorship, or you are interested in a project listed on their profile, and you’d like to learn more about it.
First impressions can make or break a relationship – even online! Sparking a conversation right off the bat with a connection will help form a valuable relationship right from the start. Show that you are genuinely interested in them as a professional, and they will be more likely to respond.
Don’t make it all about you – remember, most people naturally like to talk about themselves, and you can use this to your advantage. If you show them that you admire the work they’ve done, and you’d like to hear more about their experiences, they are more likely to open up to you. Starting off by asking what they can do for you is a huge turn-off, and will likely result in a short, fruitless relationship.