linkedin-911794_1280Trying to build your network on LinkedIn but wary about reaching out to someone you don’t personally know? Think of it this way: when you go to a networking event, are you only going to talk to the people you came with, or should you branch out and introduce yourself to new faces? Thought so. Now that you’re convinced, tackle networking with these 5 tips for connecting with strangers on LinkedIn:

Personalize the pitch.

No matter what you do, never send the generic LinkedIn invitation to connect to someone you don’t personally know. Even if you briefly met this person at a networking event weeks ago, chances are, they probably forgot about you after taking your business card. Don’t put them in the awkward and uncomfortable situation of figuring out if they know you or not. Make it clear by personalizing your message, and including information on when you two met.

Get to the point.

After you introduce yourself in a personalized opening paragraph, don’t waste any more time getting down to the point. Are you on a job search and interested in a position in this contact’s company? Or maybe looking for a mentor to guide you through the industry? Whatever the purpose of your invitation to connect is, be straightforward and state your intentions upfront. If possible, try to include how the relationship could benefit the both of you, instead of making it seem like a one-sided connection. 

Point out commonalities.

People will be more likely to accept your invitation to connect if they can find some common ground with you. Don’t make your potential new contact go on a hunt for it, point it out in your message. Did you both work at the same company in the past? Do you share a few connections? Establish this early on so the new contact is more compelled to continue reading your message. Start with something like, “I noticed you have worked with XYZ, I’ve been a client of theirs for years!” Making this common bond early on allows your potential new contact to see you as more than just another name on LinkedIn.

End with a call to action.

Now that you’ve stated who you are and what the purpose of connecting is, what do you want your new contact to do after he or she accepts the invitation? What are the next steps of your relationship, if any? End your message with a call to action. Do you want to set up a time to discuss career or business opportunities? Suggest possible times at the end of your message. Would you just like to stay connected on LinkedIn and nothing else? Add a note about how you look forward to any opportunities that may arise in the future for you two to work together.

Update your profile.

Many people decide whether or not to accept your invitation to connect based on your profile, so keep it as updated as possible before sending messages to new contacts. A profile with no picture, few connections, or very little information in the work history section could seem like spam to others, so make sure everything is filled out and complete. Remember, your potential new contact is scanning your profile to see how the relationship could benefit him or her, so list out every bit of information that could catch his or her eye, from that internship you completed in college to the time you volunteered for Habitat for Humanities. 

Do you accept LinkedIn invitations from people you don’t know? How did it help build your network? Tell us in the comments below!