Recently when I was speaking to a group of professional speakers, I was asked “What do you do when someone you don’t know asks you to connect with you on LinkedIn?” When I first started using LinkedIn, the answer was simple: I ignored their request and I marked it as spam. When I first started using LinkedIn, I was very concerned about people stealing and spamming my connections from me, so I didn’t connect to anyone I didn’t know well. That was my initial LinkedIn strategy for connections, and it served me well.
In fact, according to LinkedIn: “LinkedIn connects you to your trusted contacts and helps you exchange knowledge, ideas, and opportunities with a broader network of professionals.” That’s right, LinkedIn is for connections to your TRUSTED contacts. So what does that mean?
The answer is — it depends on who you are. Who do you trust, and with what do you trust them?
This is why you need a connections strategy for LinkedIn. You need to determine who you trust – and with what, and let that guide YOU on who to connect with on LinkedIn.
My personal connections strategy on LinkedIn:
First, the person I am connecting to needs to be living, breathing human. How do I determine who is human, and who is not? It starts with the message they sent me to connect. Is it a real message that explains how we know each other – or how we can benefit each others’ businesses or lives? Generic invitations mean I need to look closer. Next, I look at the picture. Do they have a picture? If they have no picture, I don’t automatically boot them from my network. I will just look much more closely at their profile to see if they’re human or not. Next, I look to see if they have more than 25 connections. Don’t ask me why 25, it just seems like a reasonable number to me. Then, I look to see if they have a real profile. Doesn’t have to be complete, but it has to be real. I accept most connections from human beings.
But let’s say you send me a generic message, you have no picture, and you’re brand new to LinkedIn. Do I automatically ignore or mark the request as spam? Not on your life.
Next, I look to see if the person is from Milwaukee. That’s where I live, and it’s where I do a good percentage of my business. If the person is from Milwaukee, I just might let them into my network — and often I do, as I speak to a lot of groups in Milwaukee where I share my contact information and invite people to connect with me.
Heck, I speak to a lot of groups not in Milwaukee too, and I invite them to connect as well.
But there is one final test to pass, whether you’re from Milwaukee or not: You have to prove you are a human.
How do you prove your humanity?
Instead of accepting the request, I simply reply to the invitation with a simple note.
“Hi . Thanks for your connection request. I apologize for not remembering where we met. Can you refresh my memory? If we haven’t met in person yet, can you let me know how we know each other, or how we can benefit each other’s networks? Thanks a bunch! Phil”
And then I wait.
If the person replies with anything other than “I’d like to sell you something,” or they don’t lie to me, I typically accept them into my network. And I seldom get spammers or people who don’t add value to my network in my network. Sure, I don’t know everyone perfectly well, but I know them
That’s my LinkedIn connections strategy. What’s YOUR strategy?