“To connect or not to connect, that is the question.” In my best Shakespeare voice, I present to you the conundrum of sending LinkedIn invitations and social networking. With all the known and unknown rules, it can be easy to just do nothing.
But here’s the good news: Many of the same common business etiquette tips apply—even if you’re networking from behind a computer screen or phone.
You (hopefully) wouldn’t go to a networking event and tap a stranger on the shoulder and say, “I want to connect with you,” right? That’s not only awkward, but it comes across like this: Me Tarzan. You Jane. Be my friend.
When it comes to sending LinkedIn invitations, a better approach is to be strategic, especially if it’s someone that you would like to connect with, but do not know directly. Since I know the whole process can be confusing, here are my answers to your burning questions about sending LinkedIn invitations.
1. “Where should I go to send an invitation?”
The best place to send an invitation is from the person’s profile page. If you just click the “Connect” button from other areas like “People you may know” or search results, this generic message will be sent: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. – [your name]” (this is not horrible, but remember our awkward networking example).
When you click the “Connect” button directly on the person’s profile, a window will appear with the option to indicate how you know the person and a text box to include a personal note. The text box says that a personal note is “optional,” but a customized message is always best, especially if this is a new connection.
2. “What should I say in the personal message?”
Tell the person why you want to connect. Would you like to know more about what they do? Are you interested in transitioning into their industry? Do you share similar interests and want to keep in touch? Be upfront and sincere. Take the time to see how connecting can be mutually beneficial and use these things as an icebreaker. LinkedIn shows you what you have in common with the connection on the right-side of their page and in the “Connections” section at the bottom. Don’t be afraid to use this information as part of your approach. Check out the person’s profile to see if you share:
- Work experience
Your message can be as simple as this: “Hi Ryan, I noticed that we share a mutual group, (group name), and have similar work experiences. It’s always great to connect with like-minded professionals. I would like to add you to my network and keep in touch. – Sincerely, Terri.”
3. “Is there a way to personalize invitations sent from my phone?”
Yes, there is a way to send a personalized message using the LinkedIn. Go to the person’s page and click on the menu in the top-right corner next to the search box. (For Droid phones, it will look like three vertical dots. For Apple phones, it will look like three horizontal dots). You will then see the option to “Customize invite.” Now you can write your personal note before sending the invitation.
Remember, if you just click the “Connect” button, a generic request will be sent.
4. “What If I don’t know the person I want to add to my network?”
Good question. Although LinkedIn encourages members to connect with people they know, there are times when you may want to meet someone new. There are a couple of options such as requesting an introduction or using the InMail feature.
If the person is a 2nd-degree connection, you can request an introduction from their profile page, which allows the connection you have in common to start a message to initiate the introduction (be sure to explain why you would like the introduction). There is also the InMail feature, where you can send a direct personal email to the person, but it is limited to Premium accounts (this is not free).
A workaround would be to select the “Friend” option. If you go this route, it is even more important to customize the message. This will increase the chances of the person accepting your invitation because you showed a genuine effort to connect.
5. “Is there a limit on the amount of invitations I can send?”
Yes, there is. LinkedIn has a 3,000 invitation limit to all new members. If you’re just getting started, that number may be more than enough. But it’s important that you first connect with people that you know so that you get a high return of accepted invitations. This matters because each “try” (a sent invitation) still counts towards your limit whether the person accepts or not.
You can request additional invitations if you reach your limit, but LinkedIn will look at your invitation history to see how many of the requests you sent were accepted or if you have a high rate of people who clicked “I don’t know this person” (also referred to as IDK).This is their way of controlling spam and enforcing quality over quantity when it comes to connections.
6. “How do I know if a person marks my request as someone they do not know?”
You are only notified if the person accepts your invitation to connect so you wouldn’t know each time it happens. But if you are marked as “I don’t know” more than 5 times, LinkedIn will restrict you from sending invitations. This can be resolved by agreeing to not do it again (literally, it’s a user agreement), but you want to avoid sending random invitations as they will come across as spam.
Tip: Make sure you have a fully completed profile before sending LinkedIn invitations. When you send an invitation to connect, people will check out your profile and make a decision based on if you have a professional picture, completed experience, recommendations, and a decent amount of connections. Otherwise, you may be seen as someone who is unprofessional or not trustworthy.
7. “Should I do anything once someone accepts my invitation?”
Yes! Don’t be afraid to take the conversation further and follow up with a message to simply say thank you for accepting the request. This allows you to make an official introduction and open the opportunity for dialogue. The first encounter is not a good time to ask for a job or a favor though. You should build a genuine rapport with the person first by “commenting” or “liking” articles that they share or sending them an article that you think they may be interested in reading. This is really where the true networking begins.
8. What do I do if I send a generic request by mistake?
Don’t worry. It’s happened to the best of us. You can withdraw an invitation by going to your LinkedIn inbox and clicking on Sent (under Messages). Look for the email and click the subject line. If the invitation has not been viewed, you can click the “Withdraw” button and it will be pulled from the person’s LinkedIn inbox. You will not be able to withdraw an invitation that has already been viewed or expired.
Note: Although you may be able to withdraw a request, it is possible that the person may have viewed it from their personal email address.
9. “Why am I getting accepted requests from people I didn’t send invitations to?”
Yikes! You may have given LinkedIn permission to access your address book without knowing it. This action authorizes them to send invitations on your behalf to every single email address you have stored in your mobile device (yes, you heard me correctly). You should also know that they will get multiple reminders if they do not respond. Follow the steps in #8 to individually withdraw the pending invitations. Unfortunately, these invitations will still count towards your 3,000 limit, but this will at least stop the reminder emails.
Not for nothing: If you’ve ever received one of those emails, you can have a little sympathy knowing the person may not have had any idea they sent it to you or is totally mortified.
10. “Should I accept invitations from people I don’t know?”
The answer is “Yes” with a caveat. You should apply the same rules to the people that send you invitations that you now know to follow. Did they send a personalized request? Do you share anything in common? Do they have a professional profile? Take these things into consideration. If you can answer “yes”, then they pass the test.
If the answer is “no”, you can ignore the request (only use the “I don’t know” option if you have no connection whatsoever to the person or the request seems suspicious).
So now that some of the awkwardness is cleared up, respond, relate, reciprocate. Engage and grow your LinkedIn network and you will find many benefits in return.