It was bothering me. Every week, usually five to ten times a week, a person I didn’t know would ask to connect with me on LinkedIn, and they would send me the generic, computer-generated request.
I didn’t want to accept these blindly, but rejecting them seemed rude somehow and like closing off a potential opportunity. So I did nothing, and as a result I have hundreds of requests that I’ve never responded to at all.
Then I read a smart, useful post from Helen Blunden of Activate Learning Solutions in Australia. Helen took a common annoyance - invitations to connect with no context or personalization - and she converted that into a practice that made her feel better, helped others improve their requests, and yielded interesting connections.
Taking the time to personalize your LinkedIn request to provide context and motivation is what makes it a contribution. LinkedIn doesn't always make that easy but they do provide clear instructions for how to do it. And if you’re on the receiving end, try Helen’s practice. It's a different kind of contribution, one that will make you feel better and be open to more possibilities. Mindlessly sending generic requests or hitting the Reject button doesn't help anyone.
What do you think? What do you do?
I’ve excerpted Helen's post below. The full post, including 3 email templates she uses, is here. I've starting using this variation of her template:
Thank you for the invitation to connect. I don’t believe we’ve met or connected elsewhere online. (Sorry if I'm wrong about that!). Would you tell me why you wanted to make a connection on LinkedIn?
Was it related to "Working Out Loud" (the book I wrote) or something else?
Thank you,Johnp.s. had hoped a profile photo would have jarred my memory. Maybe add one soon to your profile?
Coming up in November this year will be my 10th year of being on LinkedIn.
Every week, on average, I receive 8 to 10 invitations to connect. Many of them are the generic one line template LinkedIn invitations without any context or personalisation. People don't realise that by not personalising their LinkedIn invitations, they are more likely to be declined. They might also miss out on an opportunity for a good business connection.
Approximately 20% of my LinkedIn invitations requests are from people who have no profile photos or have profiles that are worded poorly or simply don’t make sense.
These requests are immediately declined.
Another 10% of these requests are from vendors who are looking to connect for partnership opportunities or selling me their products or services.
Again, in all of these vendor requests, if I have not been the one to instigate the connection or seek out more information about their product or service, usually I accept the invitation to connect but I do not proceed further to meet especially if they have not built trust or a connection with me previously. If they persist with the emails trying to sell their product or service, I advise them to stop or they will be blocked.
Some years ago, receiving generic requests irritated me. I felt it impolite that strangers simply expected me to automatically accept their invitation without personalising their message, building the trust before hand through sharing of information or replying to my posts. However, over time, I noticed that when I clicked ‘Connect’ under the People You May Know section of LinkedIn, it AUTOMATICALLY sent them an invitation request WITHOUT first asking me to personalise the message!
My heart skipped a beat because now, I was one of these people who sent generic automatic requests!
So now, I keep away from that function and instead send people personal invitations to connect. (Don't know how to do that? Read Personalising Invitations To Connect).
Ever since I started blogging, I now receive more and more requests to connect. Rather than automatically delete these requests, I prefer to send each one an email to ask for more information about them (in the hope that they realise not to send generic requests in future to others).
I hope that by role modeling the polite social networking behaviour that it's a case of paying it forward.
Surprisingly, I’ve had some wonderful conversations with people who explained how they found me, what they think of my blog or that they had seen me speak at a conference simply by this approach. It just goes to show that even though some people send generic requests, when asked, they do respond – and in all of the cases, they apologised for sending the generic request!
Once a week, I set aside some time to respond to LinkedIn requests. I have created a Word document where I have a generic response template. From this, I then edit the response so that it is customised to suit an alignment to both our profiles. I also make sure that I direct them to my blog and my monthly newsletter subscription.
I figure that it’s only polite and fair to respond to people and in so doing, build good will. You also never know who you may meet or learn from! I also know that many people simply aren't aware of the 'netiquette' when it comes to social networking and by demonstrating the behaviour, then this may rub off on them for future connections.