How Not to Connect on LinkedIn

This is a general topic, actually, not one specific to LinkedIn, and I’ll call it “how to network electronically” for lack of a better phrase.
When I receive LinkedIn “Invitation to Connect” email, they have a specific message written by the requester. Sometimes they’re smart, intriguing messages that make me want to connect since I can immediately see the mutual value of our connection, but too often I get the following instead:
I found you while I was searching my network at LinkedIn. Let’s connect directly, so we can help each other with referrals. If we connect, both of our networks will grow. To add me as your connection, just follow the link below.
I can personally guarantee that if you request a connection from me with this generic message, or request a connection on another networking site with its default message, that I’ll never connect with you.

The reason is simple: I’m happy to connect with fellow professionals in the areas within which I work (marketing, blogging, communications, business strategy, publishing, etc.) but only if you can demonstrate at least the smallest effort on your part to identify how we might find a connection mutually beneficial.
Imagine we’re at a busy cocktail party and I notice you going up to each person around me, saying “Hi, I’m John and I think we should swap business cards.” When you get to me, do you think I’m going to be favorably inclined to swap contact information with you?
If you instead came up and said “Dave Taylor? You spoke at the Blog Business Summit last month, right? Yeah, your talk was excellent. Really glad to make your acquaintance!” do you think I’d be more likely to be interested in actually networking with you? Of course I would!
Since I imagine we all have a similar perspective on effective networking, why on Earth does anyone just use the generic message when trying to link to a busy professional on a site like LinkedIn?
Next time, please, take the time to research just a little bit about the person you seek to connect with – after all, their profile is probably on the previous screen – and reference something, anything you have in common. Your results will be dramatically better!

4 comments on “How Not to Connect on LinkedIn

  1. Dave,
    One problem I see with these “social networking” sites is that they are too oriented toward professional connections to be of use to the general populace. Please understand, I have nothing against the idea of a social networking site solely for making professional connections, but I have actually received invitations to LinkedIn from people who know me and yet I can’t sign up because I cannot for the life of me figure out how I’m supposed to categorize myself.
    Without getting too personal, the problem is that I’ve been partially disabled for much of my adult life. By “partially” I mean that there’s no way I could ever work 8 hours a day, five days a week, on a schedule. I have good days and bad days, and on a good day I can do more than on a bad day, but employers like to know that if they assign you to work from noon to 8 P.M. on Tuesday you will be there and that is something I cannot guarantee. Those who’ve never had that sort of condition tend to be very unsympathetic but then I’m not seeking sympathy here, just pointing out that some social networking sites inadvertently exclude people by only allowing people to join after they have defined themselves as being part of a certain profession or as holding a certain occupation. Sure, I could lie about it, but I don’t want to do that because it sort of defeats the whole purpose of the site, plus it starts any possible relationships off on the wrong foot.
    There are probably a lot of people in my situation – basically, people who have never held any job long enough to call it a profession. This of course could include the disabled, but it could also include many people who for various reasons choose (or were chosen) to be unpaid family caretakers. For example, by virture of being an only child, I find myself in the position of having to babysit an elderly parent who absolutely, positively does not want to move to a nursing home (wouldn’t even consider it for a short temporary stay after a recent bone fracture) but who is incapable of living alone.
    So I am stuck at home, unable to function as most normal people do, and would like to be able to network with others on an informal basis. But what I would like is for the networking to be based on interests, not profession. For example, I live in the Bible belt, but my beliefs are in no way aligned with traditional religious beliefs (yet I do not consider myself an atheist, either). It would be nice to be able to connect with open-minded people, and particularly people somewhat close to my area, who want to have virtual conversations about areas of mutual interest, be it beliefs, hobbies, or whatever.
    There have been attempts to do things like this (MeetUp comes to mind) but they never seem to gain much traction, in part because they always seem to try to add something that not everyone may want (for example, MeetUp emphasizes meetings in the “real world”, which are often inconvenient and besides, many people may prefer to do the bulk of their “meeting” online).
    What is needed is a “social networking” system that first of all lets people define WHY they want to network – networking for business purposes is a much different motive than networking to share similar interests, engage in similar hobbies, or persue a similar spiritual path, and all of those are different from the desise to find a life partner, though obviously some or all of those interests may overlap. We’ve got the professional interests pretty well covered; now how about a social networking site for the rest of us?

  2. Makes sense, Dave. I try to customize my messages, with one exception: when I have warned the recipient off-list that I am about to hook them up via LinkedIn. I also get a bit wary of those with thousands of connections: the connection-to-endorser ratio is meaningful to me, and often ignored, it seems.

  3. “Imagine we’re at a busy cocktail party and I notice you going up to each person around me, saying “Hi, I’m John and I think we should swap business cards.” When you get to me, do you think I’m going to be favorably inclined to swap contact information with you?”
    -Dave Taylor
    That’s the funniest thing I’ve read all day.

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