Making professional connections on LinkedIn is an effective way to build your networks. It’s more than a social activity; adding to your LinkedIn Contacts list contributes to your marketing power by letting you establish relationships with decision-makers at potential clients’ firms and expanding the reach of content you share, which enhances your recognition as a thought leader. These important benefits make it imperative that your invitations to connect on the platform demonstrate your professionalism and inspire recipients to accept.
Since LinkedIn didn’t exist when most of us were in college, it’s reasonable that we could use guidance about the right and wrong ways to send these important invitations to connect. Here are five strategies to ensure that your invitation gives a positive impression and increase its chance of being accepted.
- Make an effort. LinkedIn makes it easy to send invitations by suggesting connections from your email accounts and offering a standard form – all you have to do is click “Send” and it’s done. That’s an acceptable approach for those you know personally, but if you want to connect with people who haven’t yet had the pleasure of your acquaintance, it’s best to write a personal invitation.
- Introduce yourself. “Who on earth is that?” That’s the reaction a random invitation to connect will get, and it’s not exactly what you’re looking for. Introduce yourself briefly, mentioning a shared interest, contact, group or activity so the recipient has some sort of context for your invitation.
- Avoid making demands. You may have a specific goal from the connection, but that’s not something to share right off the bat. You’ll have better success by making the connection and nurturing it into something resembling a relationship before you ask for favors, introductions or advice.
- Be brief. LinkedIn invitations are not lengthy correspondence, or shouldn’t be. Save the details of your life, hopes and dreams for another time. Just communicate who you are, why you want to connect and a polite invitation to do so in this initial contact.
- Pay attention to details. Proofreading is always important, and never more so than when you’re trying to make a new connection. Doublecheck names, titles, facts, spelling and grammar before sending your invitation. After all, who wants a “professional” contact that can’t get these basics right?
- Don’t be creepy. Connecting with strangers can feel awkward. It’s polite to show you have done enough research to want and value a connection; it’s creepy to show you’ve done enough research that a reasonable observer might call it stalking. Making your invitees uncomfortable by showing you’ve dug deeply into their lives is neither professional nor effective for establishing new relationships.
If there’s someone you’d like to connect with on LinkedIn, go ahead and send an invitation. It could be the beginning of a productive and rewarding relationship that’s beneficial for both of you. Just be sure to follow these tips so that relationship doesn’t start off on the wrong foot – or not at all.