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This article is part of our Don’t do that. Do this instead series.*

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Six degrees of separation

LinkedIn is a fabulous business tool in so many ways, not least of which its ability to create powerful connections. That’s why it drives me nuts when people initiate those connections in the most anonymous way possible.

Sending the ‘standard’ LinkedIn request: DON’T DO THAT
We’ve all received it, it reads:

Hi Hilary, I’d like to join your LinkedIn network.

And that’s it. No background, no context.

When I receive requests like this, unless I know exactly who that person is, I ignore them, and I know from conversations with others that I’m not alone in this.

Now, I will admit that it is partly to do with the way LinkedIn operates. There are times when you click the ‘Connect’ button and the next thing you know LinkedIn is telling you that the request has been sent. If you are me, you then find yourself yelling ‘Argh!’ at the computer.

So, if you want to really grow your network on LinkedIn in a meaningful way:

DO THIS INSTEAD: Personalize every request
If you want to make sure that people will pay attention to your request, then include a note, every time.

The devil is (always) in the detail
By taking the time to write a short note you not only help the other person remember who you are, or put your invitation in context, but you also show them that the connection matters enough for you to take time and trouble over the request.

This note is always important, however, it becomes crucial if the connection is someone you’ve never met but would like to get to know.

‘I have no idea what to say’
The simple thing to do is provide context for the other person. This makes it much more likely that they will accept your request.  Here is what I mean:

  • We met at last night’s networking event and I think it would be useful to be connected here.
  • We are in the same networking group on [Facebook/LinkedIn/other] and I think it would be useful for both of us to be connected here.
  • I attended your [talk, speech, event] and found it fascinating. I’m interested in the work you do and would like to be connected here. I hope you don’t mind the request.
  • Jane Doe [mutual friend/acquaintance] suggested that you and I might have some mutual business interests, so I thought it would be valuable to be connected here.
  • We haven’t met but I’m very interested in the work you do and would like to be connected here. I hope you don’t mind the request.

As you can see from the examples, you don’t have to have met or know someone to write a note and, in fact, the note becomes far more important if you don’t know the other person.

I also like to change the less business-like greeting ‘Hi’, which I consider too informal in this context, to something that has a bit more weight. You don’t have to go to extremes (Dear Ms. Robinson) but ‘Dear Hilary’, or Good morning/afternoon Hilary‘, show a little more thought.

But you said…
Yes, if you were paying attention at the beginning you will have noticed that sometimes LinkedIn gets in your way by automatically sending the request without giving you the opportunity to personalize it.

When that happens, because it will, the best thing to do is to send a separate note using LinkedIn email.  This is not foolproof but it is certainly better than just letting the standard request hang there – remember many, many people simply won’t respond if they don’t know who you are or have some context regarding why you want to connect.

If you don’t follow-up with a note you may well waste an otherwise useful opportunity.

Start as you mean to go on.
Taking the time to personalize your requests shows the other person that you are genuinely interested in them and their work.  When you do that you increase the chances of creating not just connections but longer-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.

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Your Stories
We’ve all fallen foul of rude or thoughtless behaviour…sometimes it’s even us who have been guilty of it.

If you have a story you’d like to share, please feel free to send me a note and I’ll include it here.

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*What is this series about?
Have you ever had your relationship with a colleague, client or boss change suddenly – and not for the better? Yet you’ve not been able to put your finger on why.

Small actions. Big Impact.
I’ve always maintained that some of the smallest things we do often have the biggest impact on how our professionalism is viewed.  In this series, “Don’t do that. Do this instead.”, I help you avoid the tiny (and not so tiny) things that can trip you up and place barriers between you and your success.

Small bites for easy digestion.
Each entry is intended to cover one small piece of a larger topic. However, even though seemingly small, each and every action has a big impact.

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