LinkedIn Tip: Invitation Etiquette

Over the last few weeks, my schedule has included teaching a TON of LinkedIn classes and webinars around town to continue “spreading the gospel” about LinkedIn, and its amazing benefits, to those folks who still haven’t quite gotten the hang of it.

And inevitably in these sessions — as I demonstrate the system — I’m finding that some brave soul raises their hand and asks “Matt, are you like the world’s worst correspondent, or what?  Why does your Inbox on LinkedIn show 693 unread messages?”

What they’re referring to is the orange box at the top right of the screenshot below:

The reason for this seemingly anti-social metric?   Quite frankly, the lion’s share of these unread messages consist of either a. Invitations from total strangers to connect (which I don’t accept) or b. Invitations from people I might POSSIBLY know, but who didn’t bother to attach a personalized note to the invite, reminding me about who they are or indicating why they’d be interested in connecting on the system.

For this reason, I thought it might be wise to blog again about what I consider one of the most important LinkedIn etiquette tips of all, which is this: don’t ever use the default messages built into LinkedIn if your goal is to build a quality relationship with someone!

Perhaps I’m just being crotchety.  Perhaps this is a pet peeve I just can’t let go of, even if it doesn’t bother anybody else.  But as I always stress to people, the etiquette for digital networking is no different than the etiquette for traditional networking.  Never forget that there’s a REAL PERSON behind every social media profile, who, like every human being, is analyzing your every little  interaction with them (consciously or unconsciously) in order to decide if you’re somebody they like, trust, and want to associate themselves with, going forward.

So when you send a LinkedIn Invitation to an individual, and don’t take an extra moment to change the cheesy “Because you’re a person I trust…” script that comes up on the screen — which makes you sound like a sleazy con man — you’re missing a golden opportunity, I believe, to show this other individual that you care about them and are truly interested in building a solid relationship.

Even a simple one-sentence note, rephrasing the invitation into your own words, will do the trick:

“Hi John!  Haven’t talked with you in ages, but hope you’ve been well and I’d love to connect with you here on the system if you’re up for it…”

Don’t know somebody that terribly well?  Or it’s been a while since you last saw them?  Then adjust your message accordingly, perhaps to something along the lines of:

“Martha: As you may (or may not) recall, we met at the IAPS tradeshow back in September — and having recently stumbled across your profile here on LinkedIn, I thought I’d drop you a quick line to see if you might be interested in connecting here on the system.  While I don’t know what your policy is with regard to these types of sites, I’d certainly be up for linking up our networks, if you’re open to the idea, and seeing what win/win possibilities might result!”

Obviously, you can put your own spin on things, but the gist of it all is that you want to remind people exactly who you are when you extend an invitation to connect on sites like LinkedIn — and, when dealing with more distant contacts, you want to give people a graceful “out” in case they prefer limiting their network to more intimate acquaintances.  Master these simple etiquette rules when asking people to connect on LinkedIn, and you’ll likely find that the “acceptance” rate of your invitations shoots up substantially!


5 Responses to “LinkedIn Tip: Invitation Etiquette”

  1. Oy, you touched a nerve here. I just tweeted and posted on my Facebook page this very etiquette rule. I can’t tell you how many invitations I get from people with no personalize message. Worse yet are those with no picture and no personalized message. I, like you, meet many people and if you don’t tell me how we met I won’t connect with you. Period.

    I preach this to all of my clients, on social media and anytime I talk to someone about LinkedIn. It amazes me how many people still use the default message.

    Let’s keep at it Matt. Someday we’ll have an impact.

  2. Dennis: Ha ha — that’s a great story about the Rotary-related invitation — and yes, not sure how, but I get a few bizarre invitations from people in foreign lands, myself. Not too hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, however, since it’s usually pretty obvious (e.g. a personalized note) when people really value their relationship with you and want to connect — or not. Glad some of my tips were helpful and thanks for your positive remarks regarding my blog!

  3. Dear Matt,

    First, my rule is that I must know the person, even if we only met for a cup of coffee. Lately it seems that about 50% of the people wanting to “link” with me are people I do not know. No one in this 50% reminds me where I met him/her. Why? Because I have NOT met them.

    And what is up with the multiple requests from people in India?? Not only have I not been to India, but I have never heard of any of these people.

    I do respond to them asking them to remind me where we have met. Some come back with a lame “I looked at your profile and thought I should connect with you”. The funniest one was a guy who replied that someone with my name had e-mailed him after a speech he gave at a Rotary meeting two years ago. I have not been to a Rotary club meeting in more than two decades and, as you know, I do not have a common name.

    I really enjoy your blog.


  4. Matt,

    I have to chuckle about this topic because it’s one of *the* most common ones that arises in the various Linkedin groups to which I belong and usually generates quite a fair amount of responses.

    Like you, I’m one of “those people” who will NOT respond to a Linkedin invite if the sender hasn’t bothered to personalize the request – UNLESS it is coming from someone I’ve recently corresponded with elsewhere (on the phone or via email) and I’m already expecting the invite. Otherwise, though, I do expect the sender to put a bit of thought and time into the request – esp. if it’s coming from someone I haven’t been in contact with for a while or who is more of an acquaintance, not a close colleague. Doesn’t need to be a paragraph but definitely something different than the canned response (which I feel should be eliminated).

    In my opinion, if you want access to my network (after all, isn’t that the reason for connecting in the first place? LOL!), put a little effort into the request please! 😀

  5. Matt–I agree wholeheartedly. When I receive invitations from people I know quite well who use the cookie cutter cover note, that is even harder to swallow. It only takes seconds to create a short, customized note. And, intent and tone is more important than perfectly articulate or “well written”.

    Every now and then when a stranger writes to me, I write back asking them to remind me how we know each other and telling them I only build my network with people I have had contact with in one way or another. 99.99% of the time, I never hear back from those people. Thanks for the important blog, Matt.

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