LinkedIn—the web’s go-to professional social network—has made it quite easy for all of us to view profiles and connect with colleagues and complete strangers. The six degrees of separation real-life game ends up first, second and third degree connections on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn Pushes Familiarity
When adding a new connection via LinkedIn, do you ever hesitate? Do you wonder if this is the right play? You may have exchanged an email or two while working together on a project. Maybe the person is a prospective client? Or maybe they simply work for a company you admire. There are varying levels of familiarity with real-world relationships and same is true online.
With that said, LinkedIn encourages users to only reach out to professionals you know. This is a good rule of thumb to follow, but LinkedIn is also a place to initiate conversation and make an impression. LinkedIn is a space to build credibility and you hope to do so by adding valuable professionals to your network. Sometimes it’s crucial to initiate the relationship and reach out to a contact you would like to speak with.
Protocol … What Protocol?
Each connection should add value to your network. It’s a matter of adding quality over quantity. As aforementioned, there is a ton of variation in relationships. This is why setting a formula or following guidelines to connect with others doesn’t exist nor should it. It’s a social network and a tool to assist you. The only constraints are from the environment LinkedIn built. In the end, a case by case basis determines the best way to decide whether or not to approach a potential connection.
No Protocol Doesn’t Mean Ignore Etiquette
I may come off as a bit carefree in my approach to adding members to your LinkedIn network, however if you decide to reach out to strangers or only add people you know prior, don’t forget to do so in good taste. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
Customize Your Invite
Don’t send out a generic invite. Make sure you add a proper message to your potential connection. A general invite is weak and lacks a reason for connection. Remember to customize your invite whether it’s with someone you know and especially if it’s just a stranger.
Do Your Research
LinkedIn is not a place to mass-add individuals. Take a look at their projects, their career path and their interests. These steps seem like no-brainers, but they concentrate on building a foundation before requesting to connect.
Add to the Conversation
To make an impression, you need to stay active and add to the conversation. Too often, updating your status on LinkedIn is ignored. You need to appear interested and include yourself in groups. This is a social network after all. Potential leads want to see your work accomplishments, but on-going sharing could influence a potential connections feeling about you.
Let your best judgment steer you in the right direction when adding connections. It’s not unusual to add and introduce yourself to people who you’ve never encountered before, but it’s crucial to have a reason for doing so. Otherwise, your likelihood of making the connection takes a severe blow. Not to mention, adding people for the sole sake of adding them makes you look like a spammer.
Remember, LinkedIn is a participatory venture. Use it for your advantage. Use it however you wish. But keep in mind others’ expectations and act accordingly. If you follow those rules, adding valuable people to your network can pay dividends for you down the road.