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Social Media Cheat Sheet: LinkedIn Connections (Part I)

LinkedIn Cheat SheetThere you sit facing an inbox full of LinkedIn connections from people you know, strangers you’ve never heard of, and folks you wish you could forget. So, when do you accept, ignore, and respond to invitations to connect?

I treat LinkedIn as a strong networking tool. I do not advise taking an “everyone into the pool” approach of accepting and initiating connections willy-nilly. Having benefitted from leads, clients, media attention, and reputation management enhancement from my positioning on LinkedIn, I take this tool very seriously. 

Start with a Strategy
I always advise professionals on social media to work off a strategy. To spend time on a site as powerful and lucrative as LinkedIn without a game plan is like taking a cross-country trip without a GPS. You may enjoy the ride, have some great experiences along the way, and end up in Texas instead of New York if you’re not focused and strategic. To build online credibility and see results from LinkedIn requires a strategy that helps you determine:

  1. How do I want to be positioned online? Do I seek subject matter expert (SME) status? Am I credible?
  2. Are there keywords that support my expertise and allow me to stand apart from others in my space? Instead of using “marketing” as my keyword, should I use “internet marketing for accounting firms”?
  3. Who is my target audience? It is critical to know who you are trying to reach -- what groups, forums, and connections will they value and participate in?
  4. How much time and effort can I spend on LinkedIn? A one-hour-per-week game plan will look different than someone who can dedicate an hour a day.

Accepting and Rejecting LinkedIn Invitations to Connect

When someone sends you an invitation to connect, there are several things to look for in deciding whether to accept. There are always exceptions to these guidelines, but as a general rule:

Accept the invitation if:

  1. You know this person and he/she is someone you admire, trust, have a good relationship with, or would like to know better.
  2. You don’t know this person, but after reviewing their profile you see that you have something in common; Maybe you went to the same college, grew up in the same town, worked for the same company, etc., and their work experience or current work intrigues you. Or, perhaps this person shares connections with you that are valuable and credible to you.
  3. You are willing to network with this person going forward. Do you see an opportunity to help them? Can you offer them information or connections? Will they serve to enhance your network, knowledge level, or ability to compete in your industry?
  4. They reviewed your profile and/or they personalized the invitation to connect. When someone takes the time to customize the invitation--particularly if they point out an opportunity they see--it is worth looking further.

Ignore (reject) the invitation if:

  1. You know this person and he/she is someone you’ve had a negative experience with in the past or do not want to know them going forward. Remember, if you accept the connection, you invite them into your valued network.
  2. After reviewing their profile, you see nothing in common with where you are in your career/job or where you aspire to be. For instance, a prosecuting attorney in Cleveland might choose to reject a LinkedIn invitation from a telemarketer in the Philippines. An administrative assistant in Los Angeles might not accept an invitation from a multi-level marketing specialist in Houston.
  3. You suspect they are trying to accumulate connections without much thought. One tip I offer is to see if this person viewed your profile. If they did not, and you are struggling to see how a connection to them would help either of you, then consider ignoring the request. Later, if you see that they viewed your profile, you can accept the connection.
  4. Their profile is not filled out, there is no photograph and their background has no work experience. This could indicate a spam profile.

This is your LinkedIn network--you get to control and design how you want it to work for you (based on your personal brand and reputation management strategy). When you accept and reject invitations to connect, you are building your online reputation intentionally and strategically.

Be sure to stay tuned for my next blog: LinkedIn Connections Part II: Knowing Who (and how) to Invite Connections on LinkedIn

(LinkedIn / shutterstock)

Join The Conversation

  • LidaCitroen's picture
    Nov 7 Posted 3 years ago LidaCitroen

    Dom -- It's also becoming a trend for people to use stock photos for their headshots (spam). Really? Like we don't recognize that?

    Yes, always good to be protective of your network. When in doubt, send them a message before accepting to inquire why they want to link to you. 

    Thank you for sharing your insights!


  • LidaCitroen's picture
    Nov 7 Posted 3 years ago LidaCitroen

    Good for you for scanning every post, Neil. I'm amazed how many people don't do that. 

    I got one invite this week from a guy who not only had no work experience listed, but he had five "recommendations", all posted on the same day, and for people he also gave a recommendation for... on the same day. Seems fishy.

    You raise some great additional points. Thank you for sharing!


  • Nov 7 Posted 3 years ago dfruges

    I follow most if not all of your suggestions.

    I red flag for me is when I see a pretty young woman's photo, not much work history (perhaps one job), and perhaps one education listing.

    I think there is actually a scam going on with LinkedIn and I've seen lots of those profiles in the last year.


    Dom Fruges

  • Nov 7 Posted 3 years ago Neil Pearce

    Lida, I have a simple strategy for LinkedIn that I will connect with anyone that is a real person and not harvesting my connection purely for Marketing purposes.

    There are a number of things I look for when accepting a connection or choosing to ignore.

    • I scan every profile from someone wishing to connect. It takes less than 10 secs to make a decision.
    • I look for a picture, some form of job history (single jobs are a red flag for me), education entries and a quick check to see if Groups joined tie up with their job or not.
    • A common profile i ignore is usually of a pretty female, one job often an HR manager, educated at Harvard University in 2006 and very little else. I have had literally hundreds of requests to connect with profiles like this and there are a few varients that similarly seem to be social engineering or harvesting email addresses.
    • I also typically ignore profiles from people who have been CEO of their own one person company for 20+ years!!
    • I have made useful connections with people from all parts of the world and in varying industries and I never know who I might help or who might help me in the future hence my fairly open strategy.

    Thanks for the article

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