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Connecting on LinkedIn – the Right Way and the Wrong Way

Regular blog readers will know that I am very particular about requests to connect on LinkedIn.  I’ve had a strict policy of accepting requests only from people I know personally – e.g. People I had worked with, or collaborated with on a committee.

I wrote about this in Stop Polluting LinkedIn a couple of years ago, and commented against the practice of connecting with online acquaintances in various meetings industry chats on business development strategies.

Especially annoying were requests from salespeople who clearly wanted to push their products or services (do they even realize I’m not a meeting planner?). One thought I was “ripe for the picking” because we interacted on Twitter (one request read: You mentioned my company on twitter (PartyPix_CA). I thought it would be good to connect on Linkedin as well. I hope you'll accept my invitation.” Eww…). 

Yet another tried to make me believe we’d met before: “Was it not you that I met at the Tete A Tete conference last week here in Ottawa? Maybe someone else from your organisation?” – as if THAT was going to make me accept his invitation!

But lately a few people have made compelling arguments that made me realize that I was limiting myself, perhaps even acting selfishly.  The first was my friend Mitchell Beer, who commented on my rant about LinkedIn requests from strangers (see What To Do When Mike Lipkin Asks You To Connect).  Mitchell explained that he responds to out-of-the-blue requests by inquiring about the person’s interest in reaching out.  While most people don’t reply, he says he’s had a few good conversations about business opportunities.

Then I read the story of Kelly Blazek, a Cincinnati businesswoman who clearly over-reacted when she was approached by an inexperienced job seeker.  I believe in helping people out and this quickly made me realize my curt responses were not helpful.  Maybe I could offer those unwitting connectors a bit of coaching on how to develop long-term relationships in the hospitality business.

In addition to using Mitchell’s advice, I now look at the person’s profile more carefully… Because in one instance, when I asked for clarification on we knew each other, the person pointed out we’d worked together at a hotel!  Ouch, that was awkward…

Then a few weeks ago I received this LinkedIn request from Ann Ng, a young woman I had met at the CanSPEP breakfast:

Hi Doreen. Thanks again for sharing some important information on Canada's new Anti-Spam Legislation and Privacy Act this morning. It also looks like we have a few connections in common. It'd be an honour to connect with you professionally. Hope you had an amazing Wednesday. Thanks, Anna.

Anna is Manager, Graphics & Content at Hilton Suites Toronto/Markham Conference Centre & Spa.  I think she deserves a prize for being so genuine and engaging with her LinkedIn request!  Anna, seasoned professionals could take lessons from you about how to connect in social media.  Thank you for restoring raising the bar!

What do you think is the best way to connect on LinkedIn?  Any horror stories?