LinkedIn Tip: Invitation Etiquette

LinkedIn Tip: Invitation Etiquette

Today our guest blogger is Matt Youngquist. Matt is the President of Career Horizons, serving Northwest individuals and organizations dealing with the unique challenges of job hunting and employment transition.  Matt is a recognized expert in the field of career coaching, job hunting, and professional employment counseling.  You can follow him on Twitter @mattyoungquist.

Over the last few weeks, my schedule has included teaching a TON of LinkedIn classes and webinars around town to continue “spreading the gospel” about LinkedIn, and its amazing benefits, to those folks who still haven’t quite gotten the hang of it.

And inevitably in these sessions — as I demonstrate the system — I’m finding that some brave soul raises their hand and asks “Matt, are you like the world’s worst correspondent, or what?  Why does your Inbox on LinkedIn show 693 unread messages?”

The reason for this seemingly anti-social metric?   Quite frankly, the lion’s share of these unread messages consist of either a. Invitations from total strangers to connect (which I don’t accept) or b. Invitations from people I might POSSIBLY know, but who didn’t bother to attach a personalized note to the invite, reminding me about who they are or indicating why they’d be interested in connecting on the system.

For this reason, I thought it might be wise to blog again about what I consider one of the most important LinkedIn etiquette tips of all, which is this: don’t ever use the default messages built into LinkedIn if your goal is to build a quality relationship with someone!

Perhaps I’m just being crotchety.  Perhaps this is a pet peeve I just can’t let go of, even if it doesn’t bother anybody else.  But as I always stress to people, the etiquette for digital networking is no different than the etiquette for traditional networking.  Never forget that there’s a REAL PERSON behind every social media profile, who, like every human being, is analyzing your every little  interaction with them (consciously or unconsciously) in order to decide if you’re somebody they like, trust, and want to associate themselves with, going forward.

So when you send a LinkedIn Invitation to an individual, and don’t take an extra moment to change the cheesy “Because you’re a person I trust…” script that comes up on the screen — which makes you sound like a sleazy con man — you’re missing a golden opportunity, I believe, to show this other individual that you care about them and are truly interested in building a solid relationship.

Even a simple one-sentence note, rephrasing the invitation into your own words, will do the trick:

“Hi John!  Haven’t talked with you in ages, but hope you’ve been well and I’d love to connect with you here on the system if you’re up for it…”

Don’t know somebody that terribly well?  Or it’s been a while since you last saw them?  Then adjust your message accordingly, perhaps to something along the lines of:

“Martha: As you may (or may not) recall, we met at the IAPS tradeshow back in September — and having recently stumbled across your profile here on LinkedIn, I thought I’d drop you a quick line to see if you might be interested in connecting here on the system.  While I don’t know what your policy is with regard to these types of sites, I’d certainly be up for linking up our networks, if you’re open to the idea, and seeing what win/win possibilities might result!”

Obviously, you can put your own spin on things, but the gist of it all is that you want to remind people exactly who you are when you extend an invitation to connect on sites like LinkedIn — and, when dealing with more distant contacts, you want to give people a graceful “out” in case they prefer limiting their network to more intimate acquaintances.  Master these simple etiquette rules when asking people to connect on LinkedIn, and you’ll likely find that the “acceptance” rate of your invitations shoots up substantially!


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