To Connect…or Not (on LinkedIn)

should I connect with strangers on LinkedIn

I can guarantee in every LinkedIn training class that we do, we are asked “should I accept an invitation to connect from someone I don’t know.”

Our response is “Yes” and “No”.

LinkedIn is a networking platform so you should use it to meet new people. People you don’t know yet. After all, you wouldn’t go to an in-person networking event where there were only people you knew. You go to get introduced to and meet new people. That’s networking.

So, yes, connect with people that you don’t know.

But, no, don’t accept every invitation that you get.

There are three criteria we suggest you look at before you accept a LinkedIn invitation to connect from someone you don’t know.
  1. Look at their LinkedIn invitation they sent you. Did they take the time to personalize the invitation? Do they mention why they want to connect? If they haven’t taken the time to write a personal message, they may be just trying to increase their network with no desire to actually build a mutually beneficial relationship.
  2. Look at their LinkedIn profile. Can you pick out something you have in common? Is there perhaps a way you could work together, either in a client relationship or as a referral partner? Is there something in their profile that speaks to you and says “I want to get to know this person?”
  3. Look at your mutual LinkedIn connections. Who do you both know? Do you trust the people that you know in common? How many of the same people do  you know? If you are fairly connected in your community or industry, you should have more than 5 mutual connections. Fewer than that may be a red flag.

And the final litmus test…would you be willing to invest time in a phone call or coffee meeting to get to know the person better? If not, why connect with them?

Accepting a LinkedIn invitation to connect is like saying “Hello”. It’s the beginning of a conversation. Don’t let the conversation drop. Read our blog post You Had Me at Hello to keep the conversation going.

5 Responses to To Connect…or Not (on LinkedIn)

  1. Great post! I always send connection requests w/ the intent to personalize them. However, there are a few buttons in LinkedIn that do not give you the opportunity to personalize the request. Is there a cheat sheet/best practice on which buttons to avoid so you do not come off as not putting thought into the request? Thanks!

    • Great question, Jessica. Basically, avoid all connect buttons except the one that’s on their profile. Avoid the quick and easy button and open up their profile first. Then click connect from there.

  2. Hi Cathy. I love the Litmus Test. That one is really worth considering. Of late, I’ve noticed that many of my boiler template inviters meet 2 of the 3 criteria and even pass the Litmus Test. So I’ve started another test of my own.

    If they pass the 2 of 3 and the Litmus Test, I write to thank them for inviting me and actually invite them for a chat to get to know them better. I also tell them that if I don’t hear from them, I might remove them and even then, if they don’t respond within a week, I just do it.

    • Vatsala, I have also removed people that don’t respond to my messages. If they truly want to be part of my network, we need to have some sort of dialogue. Ignoring my attempts to get to know you and your business is not a good way to start a relationship.

  3. Cathy, your litmus is spot on! As I’m working to build meaningful connections on LinkedIn, I remind myself that hitting ‘Connect” is only the beginning of the relationship. Great post!

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