Why I Will (or Won’t) Accept Your LinkedIn Connection RequestDecember 09, 2014 | By Wayne O'Neill
I’ve run into a lot of articles and group discussions about LinkedIn etiquette. Our clients often ask us about it as well. People want to know if they should accept invitations from people they don’t know, if their number of connections really matters and what the protocol is for using LinkedIn in the right way.
I’m as guarded as anybody else as to whom I accept as a connection because I do think that some people are just out to increase their numbers – to build that 10,000-contacts pyramid – and I don’t think that’s right. It’s not helpful to anyone.
But sometimes people surprise me.
Thinking Outside of the Connections Box
Sometimes someone who doesn’t look like they are in your pool of influence can actually be incredibly helpful to you.
So how can you tell if a connection will be helpful to you? You have to look not at what they know, but what they have access to. Who are their contacts and what do they mean?
I can’t tell you how many times I have accepted an invitation from someone who is demographically different from me and they have ended up changing the way I view client intelligence. They gave me a different perspective. This has happened to me enough times that I’m more generous now in accepting connection requests.
I understand guardedness in some respects – but it can’t be a general rule or you will eliminate the possibility of not only growing your network, but growing your knowledge and changing your perspective.
What Makes Me Say Yes
The first thing that makes me respond positively to a connection request is a personalized note that states how we are connected. Someone might tell me that we share connections, or that we might intersect in larger ways.
The second thing that makes me respond is anything in their profile that suggests possible joint spheres of influence. For example, if someone mentions client intelligence in their LinkedIn profile summary – that gets me every time and makes me want to connect with that person.
LinkedIn Is a Skill Set
This is a skill set that we coach our clients on. Initially almost every client says, “Oh, LinkedIn is just a way to shop for jobs,” or, “It’s just another version of Facebook.” We have to educate them on the power of LinkedIn to help them make connections and build relationships.
This isn’t just limited to the Baby Boomer generation. This is something we find ourselves educating everyone on: LinkedIn is a parallel connection technology that adds speed to the way you grow your firm and how you impact your clients.
I taught at the University of Houston, and many of my students wanted to connect with me on LinkedIn. I always accepted them, and I am so glad I did. About 15 of those 60 kids who connected with me have actually helped me navigate to clients who we are currently working with. These kids wanted to help me because I taught them – and I never would have expected that.
The Bottom Line
There is no LinkedIn charm school. Connecting on this social media platform is not about etiquette or rules. Eliminate your client intelligence prejudice – look for commonalities and don’t be afraid to ask someone a question in a different way to see them in a different frame.