Monday, October 19, 2009

2 Lazy LinkedIn Invitations That Can Burn Bridges

I don't like getting generic LinkedIn invitations from people I don't know. Unless an invitation speaks specifically to me, I usually delete it.

You see, I want my network to be filled with people I know by name or I've had enough interaction with online to develop a sense of commonality. I'm not interested in accumulating a huge number of connections. I'd much prefer to have quality over quantity.

So rather than take the time to look up the email address of a stranger who's sent a generic invitation, and send him a personalized message like "No thanks because I don't know you," I often just click "Delete." After all, if someone's so lazy he sends me a generic message, why should I extend myself to him with a personal note?

How might a generic invitation hurt you?
When your recipient opens a LinkedIn invitation, she has a few buttons to chose from for her response. One of these buttons is "I don't know this person." If the recipient clicks that button, LinkedIn will never allow you to send another invitation to that person in the future. This could be a serious consequence if the person is important to you professionally.

If you want someone to accept your LinkedIn invitation:

Don't send her the generic LinkedIn invitation that reads:

I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
- So-and-so

Don't send her the double generic invitation that reads:

So-and-so has indicated you are a fellow group member of such-and-such group:
I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
- So-and-so

Send her a personalized message that has absolutely none of the above in it. Write a message that says one or more of the following:
  • How you know her
  • The name of someone in your network you both have in common
  • What you know or what you've read about her, and how it made a difference in your life
  • How you'd add value to her network
It should be a simple email that comes from your sincere effort to connect with this person, not because you want to have a gazillion connections, but because you really have a sense that you and this person can support each other's professional efforts.

Good invitation examples
LinkedIn invitations can be a maximum of 200 characters, so choose your words carefully to make the right impact. Here are some examples of LinkedIn invitations I think do a good job of influencing the invitee to click "Accept."

Example #1
Your name is familiar although I'm not sure if we've officially met. I'm a friend of so-and-so's, and am a such-and-such professional in the name-of-city area. Would you like to join my network?

Example #2
Your name comes up on my LI homepage as someone I should meet. We have a second degree connection through so-and-so. Please see her recommendation on my profile. Would you like to join my network?

Example #3
I would like to add you to my network because we share more than five first-degree connections in our professional field. We also belong to the such-and-such group where we both are active.

Example #4
We have several contacts in common including so-and-so. I've started to read and tweet about your blog, such-and-such. I'd like to invite you to join my LinkedIn network.

Have you received or written some outstanding invitations? Make them anonymous and share them with us in the comments section.

Other posts that address how to manage your LinkedIn account:
Top 24 LinkedIn Groups for Job Search
2 Ways to Add * Bling * to Your LinkedIn or Facebook Profile
LinkedIn Profile Help from a Social Media Expert
Quality vs. Quantity on LinkedIn

19 comments:

Dhaval Patel said...

really awesome examples Susan! Thanks so much.
-Dhaval Patel
Marietta, GA

Ray Saxe said...

Those are two good examples of how a lazy approach to LinkedIn can hurt you. I have always been a personal message proponent. I use the same approach to "Thanks for the invitation" replies. I never just click "yes" to an invitation. I always send a personal thank you note.

Mark said...

An extremely helpful set of samples—thanks a lot!

Deb Lasko said...

Thanks Susan! Awesome advice based on common sense. It always helps to make sure you personally know who your connections are.

robbondo said...

Is appropriate to approach someone to join your network who doesn't meet any of the criterion mentioned in your examples?

For instance, I have been sending out invitations to job posters with the message that: my resume is available on my profile, a couple words describing my qualifications, and asking that they keep me in mind for any appropriate positions in the future. Often these are people found through common groups that are industry specific. I'm a soon to be engineering graduate looking for a entry level position.

Susan Ireland said...

Rob,
That sounds perfectly appropriate to me. Your invitations state why you want to connect -- it's not a generic invitation.

If you have enough characters available in your message, you might add something like, "If the timing of this invitation isn't right, please archive it for furture reference." If they archive the invitation, then LinkedIn will allow you to invite them again in the future; whereas if they click "I don't know this user," LinkedIn will NOT allow you to invite again. Make sense?

robbondo said...

Thanks for the advice Susan...

julie said...

Thought you would enjoy this Lazy Follow Up example. Met this guy at an event..we exchanged about 12 words. The next day, I got an email that said (this is an exact quote, incl caps):

Networking Friend,

IT IS ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO TALK WITH YOU.

YOU JUST HAVE A FANTASTIC PERSONALITY, AND ARE SO FULL OF LIFE. I PERSONALLY THINK YOU ARE A GREAT PERSON, AND A TERRIFIC FRIEND.

I REALLY ENJOYED MEETING WITH YOU THIS WEEK!.

WE WILL HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN SOME TIME. "

It was very clear that this is something he sends everyone- even people he exchanges 12 words with. The kicker? This guy is membership director of a big networking group.

Yikes

Susan Ireland said...

Julie,
Don't get me started about obvious form messages and auto responses like that. Who are they kidding? If you hadn't actually met that person (even for just 12 words) you could easily assume that was spam. Especially with the ALL-CAPS. Geesh!

I also get auto Direct Messages on Twitter sometimes when I follow someone. It's so lame.

Thanks for sharing!

Andrew S. Baker (ASB) said...

Very good post, Susan.

Your examples were very helpful. Hopefully, they will be heeded by the folks who are now starting to embrace professional networking.

ASB (My XeeSM Profile)

Debbie said...

Susan,

I agree with your comments. I received one invite from someone who worked at company I used to work at, but he started after I left! There's a right way and a wrong way to connect. If it's someone I worked with from a previous job that I know, I will say something like "I don't know if you remember me, but..." I will then give abrief explanation how I know them along with the name of a common person we would both know. Nine out of ten times they accept my re-connection.

I have only connected with someone I didn't know personally once (although I have come across his name in articles he has written on our field). That person as a well know person in my field and I truly found his profile fascinating. I admire his accomplishments and hope to learn from them. He accepted my invitation and I was grateful that he did. I am trying to put the word out that I am unemployed and seeking a new job; maybe my contacts can help me.

Personalize and relate, especially if you are trying to achieve a connection you don't know personally that can be a valuable asset to your career. Connections should be as valuable to your profile as gold.

uviospl said...

Hi Susan,

First of all thanks for being an eye opener. Because i was one of that lazy example you've given. Though i've stupid excuse for that i.e. i'm totally totally new to these networking sites, still "common sense" was missing.

Anyways now can you please guide me for something related to "appropriate use of networking site"? I'm running my "Placement Consultancy in Delhi (India), catering to good clients. But like all we are still using job portals only. As i find it so confusing how to keep track of comments and replies (for example this one), how to search candidate, if searched how to get contact etc? So nutshell- how can i utilize my links for personal & professional betterment.?

Thanks in anticipation.
uviospl@gmail.com

Susan Ireland said...

Uviospl, I'm going to refer you to Jason Alba's blog, Jibberejobber.com. Here's the page on his site that's all about LinkedIn: http://www.jibberjobber.com/blog/category/linkedin-book/. Jason sells an ebook and DVD about using LinkedIn effectively.

Also, investigate the LinkedIn Groups and the Q&A sections on linkedin.com. They're very generous with information.

Sara said...

I think the only time generic invitations are appropriate is if you already know the person and you need no introduction. A friend or close colleague is going to accept no matter what you put in the invitation! Although I do agree, if you don't know each other well or don't have an obvious connection, then a better introduction is in order.

Susan Ireland said...

I just had a really good experience come from a personalized invitation I wrote to a colleague. We knew of each other for years but had never communicated. I wrote her a 140-character peronsalized invitation, and she accepted with a personalized note to me. Now we're in touch. The extra effort on both our parts will pay off, I'm sure.

Julia Smith said...

Thanks for writing about this topic. I've been on long enough to have received two unknown invitations. I hesitated at first, not sure if it was "safe". Then commmunicated more via email with the first one before accepting.

The second one came two days ago and stated that an article I posted was useful, so I accepted.

It's still a little scary to me to accept an invite from someone I don't know, but then, this is all about "connecting", right?

Susan Ireland said...

Julia,
Here's an option for when you don't know yet if you want to connect with someone: You can Archive the invitation (that's one of the options LinkedIn offers) and then email the person to say that at this time you're going to decline his invitation to connect. If you see something relevant in his profile, explore that point via email to see if it's something you want to dialog about. Later, if you develop a professional relationship, you can open the archived invitation and accept.

In my opinion, the name of the game isn't to have as many connections as possible. Better to have really good people in your network. The ideal would be to connect with lots of really good people.

Other LinkedIn members disagree with my approach. It's a personal decision. Have fun with LinkedIn. I hope you meet some fantastic people.

Beholder said...

Thanks Susan for the article..very helpful..I also realised a few mistakes I was making

Cynthia said...

Thank you Susan for your advice and taking the time to educate people like me. I have accepted invitations randomly and now would like to weed out the "fluff" as it is not what I want the site to provide me. Quality over quantity is how I live my life in many other areas and it clearly is the way to go here too.