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The LinkedIn Conundrum

On January 12, 2012, in Social Media, by Tony Hymes

It is an unspoken (but often cited) rule of LinkedIn that everyone accepts pretty much everyone else’s invitations. True, some people have their privacy settings high and require an email address first, but the vast majority of those who are linked in do not, and are therefore accessible by invitation requests to connect. This is [...]

It is an unspoken (but often cited) rule of LinkedIn that everyone accepts pretty much everyone else’s invitations. True, some people have their privacy settings high and require an email address first, but the vast majority of those who are linked in do not, and are therefore accessible by invitation requests to connect. This is a boon for people in the sales world who use LinkedIn to narrow down which people work at which companies and to perhaps find an in to getting someone’s interest on a project. It also feels nice to look at the number of people in your network as it catapults into the tens of millions. Makes you feel kinda important!

But if you pursue this strategy, and you try to amass as many random people as possible into your LinkedIn network, you risk losing the effectiveness of your connections. If you have close connections, you can send out little messages and emails alerting them to things that might be of interest. You can also directly solicit their help for things like job searches and interviews. Or you can see who is in a certain city, and should you be traveling there you might be able to grab a coffee together.

Having tons of connections is helpful for one primary reason: it means that LinkedIn will reveal to you the information of your second and third level contacts. Especially working in the technology space, this is a huge help, meaning that you can understand who is working at which companies and a lot more information including job titles and their past history, where they went to school, etc. However, just because they are in your network technically, does not mean that it is appropriate to send them messages via LinkedIn, particularly when it is related to sales.

So you have an inverse relationship; you have a professional network that is supposed to be useful, and it is useful when the connections are strong, which requires more than a LinkedIn connection invitation. But in the process of having LinkedIn be as useful as possible you create connections that are not real connections, you might never even have spoken to or met that person, but they work for a company related to your space, so you will send them an invitation.

In effect, this means that there are two levels of connections on LinkedIn, those you know, and those you don’t. When sending out mass messages or trying to gauge interest on a project, keep your messages to your closer contacts. And if you do decide to message or email someone that you’ve never spoken to, it is best to be direct and say, “Hey, you don’t know me but we are connected on LinkedIn since we work in the same industry.” Just because we can connect on LinkedIn does not mean that we are working together or that we ever want to hear from each other. In this sense the LinkedIn connection is not real.

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