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The art of the Linkedin Connection Invitation

For various reasons I’ve become a bit of a public figure in the local “online scene,” which means I’ve started to get more LinkedIn connection invitations, especially from people I haven’t actually met.

I think this is great – in fact click here if you’d like to connect with me. But read the rest of this post first because what I’ve been seeing is that people are terrible at writing connection invitations.

Should you connect with people you haven’t met?

Before we get too far I think it’s worth addressing the question of whether you even should connect with people you haven’t actually met. This is something I struggled with for awhile. My response to invitations from strangers back then was:

Hi <name>,
I’ve made the decision to only connect with people on Linked in who I’ve actually met. If we have and I’m forgetting I apologize.

I would however be happy to meet and we can talk about what we’re working on. If this is something you’d be interested in let me know.

Thanks for understanding,
Terran

This met with mixed responses. Some ignored, some I ended up meeting, and some offered indignant replies indicating they thought this was a silly policy.

So what did I do? I ended up asking what other people do on, where else, Linkedin Answers. I got some great responses on both sides of the argument.

One of the especially convincing points someone made was basically “if you’re only connecting with people you know you’re basically using Linkedin as a contact manager, and there are better solutions for that.”

So now, while I don’t usually seek out connections with people I don’t know, I will accept them depending on the person.

Writing connection invitations to people you’ve met

First lets talk about writing connection invitations to people you actually have met. Here you could probably kind of get away with the default:

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
- Terran Birrell

But what fun is that? I prefer writing something more along the lines of:

Hi <name>,

It was great meeting you at <place>! I enjoyed our discussion about <topic>

Best,

Terran

Or I might thank them for a tip they gave me, or remind them about something we were discussing that we had planned to follow up on. Basically a personal anecdote to trigger their memory.

I’ll let you in on a little secret too. These don’t take a lot of work, but you can get away with even less work if you met several people at the same event because all you have to change is the second sentence.

My response to generic connection invitations

What’s worse than a generic connection invitation from someone you have met? That’s right, a generic connection invitation from someone you haven’t met. I generally don’t write a lot of these myself, but I have started to receive quite a few, which is why I’m writing this.

Lately I’ve taken to responding with something like :

Hi <name>,

I’m having some trouble placing you. Have we met? If not, would you mind sharing why you’d like to connect? I’m not opposed to “meeting” via linked in, but I like to get an idea of why people are interested in connecting :-)

Best,
Terran

People will sometimes ignore this, but I’ve also gotten some well thought out responses explaining their thinking, which generally results in my accepting the invitation.

Writing connection invitations to people you haven’t met

So how do you skip that intermediary step and just get to the person accepting your invitation and avoid people just ignoring your generic message? Make it personal!

You will of course still run into many people who won’t accept any invitations from people they haven’t met, and you’ll waste your time writing personalized messages to those who will accept any invitation, but you’ll maximize your chances if you personalize your message.

A recent response to my prodding for more information offers a great clue of what the initial invitation should have looked like:

Hey Terran,

No, we have never met, but that is the best part on online connecting!

I am a health and social media coach and it is always good to connect with a web designer ;) (just in case I need ya or perhaps you need me ;)

Hope that answers your questions!

Warmest,
<name>

So what does this message do? It acknowledges that we haven’t actually met. If it weren’t explicitly answering my question about whether we’d met, it could have been more subtle about that. It also tells me a bit about the sender, what it was from my profile that she found interesting, and best of all indicates that she might have work for me at some point. That was an excellent response, so I accepted the invitation.

A more generic example might look something like this:

Hi Terran,

I came across your profile [ saw your comment in some group,  follow you on twitter, read your blog post on x, or heard about you from a friend] and saw [some interesting thing about you]. In my work as [profession] I am also interested in [or have similar clients to you] and thought you’d be a good person to connect with.

[preferred salutaion],

[your name]

Basically, what you want to do is mention how you came across their profile, what about them you find interesting, how this relates to you or what you do, and, if you can mention, what’s in it for them.

Practice on me…

Ready to try out your new Linkedin connecting skills? If you enjoyed this post, might want some web design help or have clients that might want some, or think we should be connected for some other reason head on over to my Linkedin profile and let me know.

What do you think?

So what are your thoughts on Linkedin connecting? Do you connect with people you haven’t met? Why or why not? What do your favorite connection invitations look like?

Comments

  1. Hi, Terran, I enthusiastically agree with your invitation philosophy above. There is one thing that you didn’t mention though; on LinkedIn especially it is important to not antagonize people with blind connection requests, because this can actually hurt you. As I wrote in my blog post about this subject, “Multiple reports from users who don’t know you may actually get you banned from LinkedIn, so don’t do it!”

    http://growmyco.typepad.com/company/2010/11/linkedin-teh-art-of-sneding-a-connectin-request-to-a-stranger.html

    Best regards,
    - Christine

  2. Connecting on LinkedIn should be done strategically, in my opinion. I connect to everyone that I meet professionally or in networking situations. But I also work to build my network programmatically.

    I’m interested in being connected professionally with all kinds of people, particularly here in Western Massachusetts. So I use search to identify people who fit certain criteria, and send them an invitation like this: “Dear Invitee, I am interested in connecting with business, civic, and professional leaders in Western Massachusetts, and I’d like to ask you to join my professional network on LinkedIn.” If they do not accept within a month, I withdraw the invitation. I used to keep track of my invitees in a spreadsheet, but now I simply use the Sent folder in my LinkedIn Inbox to monitor them.

    I almost never invite somebody I don’t know who is not a fellow member of a LinkedIn Group. LinkedIn allows you to request a connection with any fellow Group member. The rationale is, of course, that you have something in common with a fellow group member.

    This is a great way to build your LinkedIn network strategically. It’s not considered obnoxious, and there is no onus if people don’t want to connect with you, unlike when you send an invitation to someone you don’t know as a Friend, which as Christine said in her comment on your blog, can get you in trouble on LinkedIn.

    You can build your Advanced People searches to include Group membership, so that it is one of the parameters you use when you are looking for people to connect to.

    You are absolutely correct that if you’re not actively expanding your network on LinkedIn you’re wasting your time. In networks, size definitely matters. Grow yours.

    One thing to avoid: if you click “Connect” on the “People You May Know” tab, you can make a connection request without having to specify how you know the person. If make the request, the message your subject gets says that you are the subject’s Friend. This is a good way to annoy people you don’t know who would be legitimate subjects for a connection request, and could lead to getting flagged by LinkedIn. Don’t do it.

    • Great – and thorough comment Daniel! I wonder what kind of response you’d get by personalizing a bit more with a name rather than “dear invitee” and picking what applies to them of “business, civic, and professional leaders”?

  3. Very relevant and thoughtful post.

    I have found work partners and clients using LinkedIn so it is definitely working for me. I invite people based on geographic area and topics of interest, much like Ann. So these can be people beyond groups I am part of and people I have never met. I think the whole point of linkedin is to connect with people beyond our networks, so as long as I am not spamming and abusing the system, I feel ok about using the friend option to extend invites.

    So I choose the friend option to connect with them and use a personalized invite that speaks to their profile. I dont have a standard invite but one that authentically engages the person based on their interests and work. Sometimes I may throw in a tip if it feels right to do so.

    The other question is once people accept your invite do you continue the conversation because very often we don’t.

  4. For many years (and in my books, blog, articles, etc.), I’ve been advocating the sort of invites that Terran and Daniel are advocating. However, as a recipient of invitations, I have been shaking my head sadly but accepting the generic invites nonetheless. I may try the “having trouble placing you” approach. It didn’t work at all when I used to do something similar on Facebook, but on LInkedIn, it’s likely to generate some much more interesting responses.

    • Interesting comment Shel. So you just accept everyone? I don’t even like sending generic invitations to people I HAVE met, and certainly not to people I haven’t.

  5. What if you are not on linkedin. I got an invite from someone and just replied to it saying thanks but I don’t use this service. The invitation had their name before it and then just invitations@linkedin.com

    Did they get this message at all?

    Thanks!

    • Good question. If the email was from invitations@linkedin.com, then no they won’t get your reply. If this is someone you know and would like to stay on good terms with you may want to track down their actual email, or even call them on the phone to deliver your message.

  6. Hi Terran,

    This is an excellent post and I really like the example scripts you put in here both for invitations and dealing with a request from someone you don’t know. I have had a profile up for a while but done very little on LinkedIn but have used it very little. I don’t know a lot about it and found this very helpful.

    Thanks.

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