My LinkedIn Connection Policy

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675486_this_way.jpgI use LinkedIn pretty much “by the book”, i.e., as they recommend in their FAQ:

When you invite a friend or colleague to reconnect, be sure the person you’re choosing will be a good addition to your network. Only invite those you know and trust. You may be asked to tell one of your trusted friends more about the person you invite, and they may have to do the same for you. Or you may be forwarding a request (your own, or one from a friend) through them. Be sure you trust them to represent you and to treat a potentially serious request with appropriate care.

Some LinkedIn users have a more open policy regarding accepting connection requests from people they don’t know. They think of this as “networking”, or at least the start of it. How else are you supposed to meet new people, right? And that’s common practice on Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites.

But as Vincent Wright has said 1,000 times, “You don’t have to link to network.”

In the context of LinkedIn, for most users, a link — a connection — implies a willingness to make business referrals, since that is the unique value of LinkedIn compared to other tools. On many other sites, I accept friend and contact requests openly, but LinkedIn is different, and here’s why…

LinkedIn isn’t a social networking site in the sense that those others are, and when you try to make it work like one, it falls short — like trying to pound a nail with a screwdriver. LinkedIn is more like a road map of your network — your real network of real relationships (they may be virtual, but there’s still some substance behind them). And if that map is filled with “connections” that aren’t really there, then the map is less useful.

In other words, if I connected directly on LinkedIn with 5,000 people, on those occasions that I wanted a “trusted referral”, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish those paths from all of the others.

If you want to network with me, my email address is public knowledge — scott [at] the virtual handshake [dot] com. Send me an email and let’s talk. Or send me an InMail. But don’t ask me to connect. A relationship starts with “Hello,” not “Please refer business to me — I’ll refer business to you.”

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  1. I absolutely agree. My personal policy:

    I network with everyone. I connect to people I have a trusted relationship with.

    And the corollary:
    Sending one email inviting me to connect because you found my address doesn’t mean we have a relationship…

  2. I use LinkedIn as my business card rolodex and will send an invite to those who I think are of value that I met and talked to at some event. This is much better than trying to flip through cards and organize them. Still to me linked in needs to allow you to have trusted and untrusted tiers so later I can easily move them into my circle of trust. Business networks are not static structures, its dynamic constantly shifting and any networking tool needs to account for this. This is one of my pet peeves with linkedin from a storing my contacts perspective. The other is from a storing my I’d like to network with “prospects” – it doesn’t seem to have a way for you to put folks into a process so you can save them for later contact or have nothing now but later might want to contact them. I usually just add these folks to my favorites and a note to myself. Otherwise I will forget how and why I thought they were interesting and who they were.

    Thus I think everyone receives many connection requests because that’s what linked in motivates them to do – this is clearly something the system itself could help clear up with better workflow design and training.

  3. I agree that linkedin could benefit from some sort of tiered system. It seems that the strength of any social networking site is in its numbers and people are more apt to join the more connected they feel. While more professional sites, such as linkedin, do need to balance that social trend with the desire to have substance behind a connection, perhaps this could best be served by having one common “simple interaction” link (basically the equivalent of swapping business cards) and one business relationship level link (where you can honestly represent that you have substance to the connection). Even casual links are worth something in the business world and by restricting these types from any representation, linkedin falls short of a greater potential. At least that’s my humble opinion.

  4. I use the same policy, Scott, but I came across a situation I wasn’t sure about: I was invited to connect with someone I didn’t know, and sent my standard response, which is basically “Thanks for reaching out. Let’s chat a bit.” 90% of people don’t take me up on this, and we never connect on LI. This person *did* follow-up, we talked, and I decided to add him to my network. The problem? He’s a LION (LI Open Networker – first time I heard the expression). We talked about it, and he realizes the issue, and understands not connecting. I went ahead, but now I’m having doubts.

    Any thoughts?

  5. I have to agree with your comments in that LinkedIn seems much more professional because of their restrictive approach. But the limitations may discourage some from becoming fully involved thus limiting the potential contact. I have to be careful since I’m in sales and don’t want to come across as just another “hungry” account executive.

  6. You have the same policy as I do: I’ll only connect with people who I know, worked with, or otherwise have an existing business connection with. The problem is that LinkedIn has been trying to grow and turn into Facebook recently so it almost feels like “more is better” will become the standard. Nevertheless, I’ll still use it for my close actual network. If I want “friends”, I’ll just use Facebook.

  7. On one side LinkedIn has a policy I Don’t Know, and other side they offer you thousands of connections wherein nothing else is required but connect. You may feel they a good for you but receiver may not. Obviously you do not know email address, they donot know you and linked in does not qualify them under one of their criterians for connection.

    Either do not present so many connections or remove the policy. I am in favor of first one, but suffering because of it too.

    Best Regards

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