One of my LinkedIn connections, Andy Birol of Birol Growth Consulting, recently wrote me for some advice about using LinkedIn. Andy has been using LinkedIn for a while and has about 100 connections, but feels like he hasn’t really explored its full potential. He finally uploaded
his entire a larger part of his contact database and wants to send the invitations. Here’s his message:
Scott, I just imported my database of 3,700 contacts into LinkedIn and wanted to ask you how this message sounds before I pull the trigger on blowing out my network.
“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. If I can be of assistance to you or you feel I can be of help to you or your network, I would look forward to the opportunity to do so.”
I read the sources and they are not really helpful on how to construct the message.. Any thoughts? Also, if I am about to relaunch my website next week, should I wait to send this message out till then? Thanks,
I thought Andy’s comment about LinkedIn not being really helpful on how to construct the message was spot on. This is, in my opinion, one of the finer points of effective LinkedIn usage, but it’s especially problematic at the moment.
You see, LinkedIn makes it very easy, perhaps too easy, to upload those 3,700 contacts and send them all a canned message. The reality for most people is that if they do that, they’ll end up with their account suspended.
Let me explain…
LinkedIn is currently trying to crack down on the practice of people sending invitations to people they don’t know. I support that in principle, but right now, their automated detection is set far too strict – if five people click the “I don’t know Andy” option when they receive an invitation, his account will be temporarily suspended for review. I’ve been through this with several friends who are NOT “promiscuous linkers”, and have had to grind through the issue with LinkedIn customer service.
Even though Andy actually knows all of those people and they “should” know him, out of 3,700 people, odds are good that at least five people will not immediately recognize Andy’s (or anybody else’s) name, think that it’s just another unwanted invitation, and click “I don’t know Andy” (and unfortunately, there’s no longer any way to “just say no”). And then Andy, who’s trying to do the right thing with the tools LinkedIn provides, ends up with his account suspended.
So my best advice is don’t send it to the entire list, especially if it’s your Outlook contact list and not an import from Act! or something. Go through (yes, this is time-consuming, I know) and make sure to check off only those people you are reasonably confident will immediately recognize your name and want to connect.
A slightly more time-consuming approach, but a far more effective one, is to segment your invitations and send each group an appropriate invitation. For example, to your clients, you might say something like:
As one of my valued clients, I’d like to invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn. This allows me to better serve you with trusted referrals into my extended network.
Or for your local chamber of commerce members, or networking group members, etc.:
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed participating in our chamber and getting to know you there. I know we have the chamber directory, but I’d like to invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn so that we can better leverage our relationships outside of the chamber for our mutual benefit.
If that seems like too much work, I do suggest at a bare minimum one level of segmentation. Once you upload the contacts, the ones who are already in LinkedIn will be marked as such. I’d suggest contacting all of them first — they already are members and don’t need to have LinkedIn explained to them. For example, those who are already in LinkedIn could get the message:
I recently uploaded my contacts on LinkedIn and in scanning through, saw your name. Based on our previous business relationship, I’d like to invite you to connect.
Make it personable, not canned. If you’ve been on the system a while, as Andy has, you might want to do something more like this:
I’ve had it on my to-do list for a while to connect with my friends, clients and colleagues on LinkedIn, and now I’m finally getting around to it. Based on our past professional relationship, I’d like to invite you to connect with me so that we can better leverage each other’s extended networks.
People who aren’t already on LinkedIn may need a little more explanation, to be “sold” on the value of using Linkedin:
I don’t know if you’re familiar with LinkedIn, but I’ve been using it and following it in the media, and it has become clear that it is an essential business tool for professionals these days. I don’t see you in the system, so I’d like to invite you to join (it’s free) so that we can better leverage our extended networks for our mutual benefit.
If you’d like to learn more before joining, I’d be happy to share what I know and refer you to some additional resources.
The segmentation works. Remember, no one wants to feel like a number. Placing an appropriate context on the invitation not only increases the likelihood of them accepting it, it also reinforces the relationship.
Andy also asked about the timing of inviting this larger group of contacts, since he’s relaunching his website. My advice… don’t wait. Use the invitation as an opportunity to put yourself back into their mind and get them into your more immediate realm of influence. Many people will use this as an occasion to ask you for an update if they haven’t heard from you in a while (great way to reinforce the relationship when you receive an invitation, but that’ll have to wait for another post). That’s an open door to tell them about your new website and so on.
Most important thing, though, is not to send 3,700 invitations, and not send the ones you do choose to send all at once using a generic boilerplate invitation. LinkedIn makes it far too easy to do that, and then the current rules end up basically punishing most people for what they made it easy for you to do. That’s no reason not to go ahead with it – just take the time to be selective about who you’re inviting and how.