I’d like to join your LinkedIn network, maybe.

I don’t want to connect with you on LinkedIn. It’s really nothing personal and anyone who knows me would tell you I’m quite affable. But here’s the thing; your connection request (first impression) is no more distinguishable than the interaction you have with a mile marker on the highway… while driving 10 miles per hour over the speed limit…while eating a cheeseburger…and talking on the phone. Seriously, you need to address those dangerous driving habits. But that’s for another time.

You’ve likely seen a similar email subject line to this:

Daniel, please add me to your LinkedIn network

Only to be followed up with the unspectacular body copy that simple reads:

Hi Daniel, I’d like to join your LinkedIn network.

I’m flattered that you are interested in connecting – but if you are using that boilerplate invitation we likely haven’t had any interaction before. And I’m skeptical.

First, I don’t know who you are. I’ve seen the hit MTV show “Catfish,” even the weirdos featured on that program reach out with a message looking to get to know the person behind the profile. A professional looking photo of yourself (or your logo if you’d prefer to put your face in one less place on the Internet) is also an important piece of your LinkedIn account. It helps weed out the fake profiles and bots while providing a better opportunity for your request to be accepted. While some fake profiles use headshots instead of the standard blank image silhouette, a stock images is pretty easy to detect. I may have seen you around town but never chatted and that photo could put a face to the name.

Generic Linkedin Profile Guy
Why so mysterious? Are you hiding something?

Second, I don’t know what you want. Do you want vanity metrics on social media so you have the appearance of being an influential person? It happens a lot (see the lonely subjects of “Catfish” looking for acceptance). Do you want to connect just to browse through my connections to see if you can generate some business for yourself? Tell me you never met a sleazy salesman who will stop at nothing to make bank. Do you have a genuine interest in striking up a conversation with me to see how we can create mutually beneficial career opportunities? If you answered yes to the third question, we may be on to something worthwhile.

As the recipient of these messages I made it a goal to give people a chance. Over the course of two months I received 16 connection requests, from people I don’t know personally, who used LinkedIn’s boilerplate message. Instead of using the stranger danger technique of simply running the other way by ignoring or deleting the request, I responded with personal notes to each person explaining my personal preferences on how I use the site for networking and who I typically connect with. I also offered my email address as a means to chat more if there is anything specific they’d like to talk about.

please add me to your linkedin network

Here is how that went:

  • 16 “I’d like to join your LinkedIn network” requests from people I don’t know
  • 16 notes from me to the person sending the request
  • 4 replies
  • 3 requests disappeared (likely fake accounts or bots)

For 75% of the requests I’m still left wondering what their reason was for sending the request in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the value in making new connections. That was a major reason why I decided to get involved with AAF Buffalo (aka Ad Club of Buffalo) in 2012. By attending different events, and eventually getting involved as a member of the board of directors, I have made a number of really good connections friendships with some great people I may have otherwise never met or had the opportunity to work with. Random connections on LinkedIn don’t necessarily provide that same impact.

As a marketing professional I work to get sales and management teams to buy into the use of social media to support marketing, advertising, and public relations efforts. One of the things I have always stressed is the interaction with their network. Social networking apps and sites are great tools for connecting regardless of any barriers in time and distance, but there is still a need for personal interaction.

Don’t just peruse the “People You May Know” section, click away on the ‘connect’ buttons and rely on LinkedIn’s automated message to do your networking for you. You know what your intentions are but the recipient doesn’t. Customize it, show you are human. Explain who you are and why you are interested in connecting. Show you don’t give minimal effort.

At the end of the day people are on sites like LinkedIn to connect with a human, not a profile. A simple sentence or two goes a long way in making a first impression. Who knows, you might just get some work out of it.

Do you need some help getting you or your colleagues up to speed on how you can use social media for your sales and marketing efforts? Let’s talk.

Additional reading: LinkedIn Help: Personalizing Invitations to Connect