One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is, “Should I accept LinkedIn connection requests from people I don’t know?” I’ve written about this in detail before, but the short answer is no. However, there are times when it makes sense to say yes–when, for example, the request comes from someone whose title or past experience makes it clear how you might be a resource to one another. For example, I sometimes accept connection requests from CEOs and CMOs I don’t know, given their decision-making ability for the work I do and my ability to help them.
The reason it’s important to be selective in building your network is that you want to connect with people–be of service to them or have them be of service to you–not just collect people. Connecting instead of just collecting takes time, however, and you have to set priorities when it comes to how you spend your time.
With all this in mind, there’s something small but critically important missing in most people’s use of LinkedIn: after accepting a connection request from someone they don’t know well, they don’t follow up. They simply accept the connection request and move on with their day, missing an opportunity to learn more about why their new connection made the request in the first place. That’s too bad, because these loose connections may quickly drop out of mind and the relationship may never go any further.
So, what should you do instead? Something simple. Send an InMail to every connection initiated by people you don’t know well, including some brief information about how you can help them. You can make this even easier by adapting from a template, copying, editing, and pasting instead of starting each InMail from scratch.
Here’s the template I use:
Hi, [FirstName]. Thank you for the connection request. Please let me know if there’s anything specific I can help you with regarding LinkedIn, marketing, branding, social media, productivity, Evernote, communication, or public speaking. Have a great [day/afternoon/evening]!
If you’re sold on the fact you wouldn’t make a connection request of someone you know without customizing the invite, then it should make sense to not accept an invite without taking this action.
I wouldn’t do this if it’s someone you already know well, of course. However, it’s an easy way to generate a conversation and turn a loose LinkedIn connection into something more. Like some many other things on LinkedIn, it’s about doing a little more than what most users do, more than what you’ve done in the past, and a little more than your connections might expect, to get much, much better outcomes in the long run.