I’m not connected with thousands of people on LinkedIn. I don’t invite people to connect with me unless I know them or would like to get to know them. And I don’t accept every invitation I receive to connect.
The reason is simple: LinkedIn is not a numbers game. The goal of social media is not to sell; it is to begin conversations and ultimately build relationships. Hopefully, many of those relationships will yield sales or referrals. But when you start making sales pitches on LinkedIn, you don’t attract clients. You just annoy people.
Beware the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
I recently received two standard LinkedIn invitations—“I’d like to invite you to join my professional network on LinkedIn.”
I never accept these impersonal invites without asking for more information. More often than not, it’s just people who want to sell me something I’ve never expressed any interest in buying.
So I wrote to each of these people, asking why they wanted to connect with me.
One told me he’d heard my referral-based selling ideas on a webinar and wanted to follow my posts. Of course I accepted. The other wrote back with a one-page (at least) letter on what he does—with several links. It was a total sales pitch, and a dishonest pitch at that. He said since no one was teaching people how to use LinkedIn, he’d created a program. And he called himself a social media expert. (Actually, plenty of people are in the business of teaching others to use social media, and some of them at least have the good sense and networking etiquette to send a personal greeting.)
Remember Your Manners
When you connect with someone on social media, take a moment to consider your motives. If you’re just planning to copy and paste your sales pitch, don’t waste your time. If you have a legitimate reason to reach out, use that information to personalize your LinkedIn invitation
Just because you’re not face to face with people on social media doesn’t mean etiquette goes out the door. Even when we’re online, manners matter—especially in sales, where career success is driven by relationships. Social networking is a great place to begin relationships and begin conversations, but social etiquette rules still apply.
You’re Not Done Yet
You have two choices when you accept an invitation: Do nothing or respond. LinkedIn recently changed the language for responding. Instead of “reply to,” you’re prompted to “start a conversation with…” LinkedIn wants people to use the site to have conversations, not just collect connections.
Sure, it takes a few minutes to reply to everyone who asks you to connect and to personalize every invitation you send, but remember your goal: Begin relationships. You’ll set yourself apart from everyone else. I get replies to my replies. I think people are astonished that I took the time to send a personal note.
Once again, manners matter. Would you invite people to your home, open the door, and just let them walk in without greeting them? Of course not. That would be rude. So why would you invite people to connect with you online without a personal greeting? And why would you attend a party and never thank the host?
“Social” means what it says. So invite people into your network just as you would invite them into your home. Welcome them, start a conversation, and be sure to thank them for connecting with you.
Connect With Me?
Click through to my LinkedIn profile. Am I the type of professional connection that makes sense for your business? Can we help each other? If you answered “yes” to both questions, send me a personal invitation to join your network. But please don’t use the standard LinkedIn invite or send me a sales pitch. And I promise not to pester you with spam either. Instead, let’s start a conversation!