Repeat after me: “LinkedIn is not Facebook for professionals.” Unfortunately, too many people transfer their friend-collecting Facebook mentality to connecting through LinkedIn and it is, well…annoying.
In fact, the approach is so annoying I now won’t accept an invitation to connect unless I already know the person sending the invite. Yes, you could say the unprofessional attempt to professionally connect has become a pet peeve of mine; kind of like when a car salesman liberally uses my first name as if we’ve been buddies since high school. It is unprofessional and makes me uncomfortable. Only thing worse is being called “Honey,” and “Sugar,” by the lady who used to cut my hair.
What is the root of my peeve? I am tired of getting invitations from people I don’t know and who offer no information about why there is the desire to connect. They’ve defaulted to LinkedIn’s generic and impersonal default message: “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” It’s like a cheap pickup line. It makes me want to send a rejection message that says, “Gee, I bet you say that to all the professionals out there, don’t you?” Truth is, many do, and it communicates laziness and a lack professionalism. Think about it; surely you wouldn’t walk up to someone you didn’t know at a chamber of commerce luncheon and say, “I’m Chris and I’d like to add you to my professional network.”
So, if you don’t want to be viewed as a seedy dude with a bushy mustache and a powder blue leisure suit trying to notch hundreds of thumbnail head shots on your LinkedIn network count, then apply these three LinkedIn tips.
1. Comprehensively complete your bio.
This begins with a usable mugshot and not a picture of your dog or a cropped image of you at last year’s Christmas party. LinkedIn is a professional networking site so get a shot that communicates professionalism. If I met you at a convention would I semi-recognize you from the picture on your profile? What about your professional experience? Have you shared what you do and where you’ve worked so I can get an idea about your experience and industry? Do you have contact information? LinkedIn and Twitter are increasingly becoming HR resources to find and hire talent. What impression are you leaving with others?
2. Personalize your dang invitation!
There is an extremely obvious text box that appears AFTER you click the connect button and ABOVE the send button. USE IT FOR A PERSONAL NOTE! Delete the default message and say something unique like, “It was great to meet you yesterday at the luncheon and I’m hoping we can connect soon to finish our conversation.” Or, “I attended your conference presentation and I appreciated your comments. I’d like to connect with you as I believe you have insight that is helpful to me.” Bottom line: say something that lets the person with whom you’re connecting know they aren’t one of 100 generic connect requests you sent that day.
3. Share why the connection would be mutually beneficial
It is okay to let a person know how you could be of benefit to them and them to you. That’s been a foundational part of professional relationships for years. I can offer you an expertise; I think you could introduce me to some people in your industry, and so it goes. Sometimes the first thing that goes through my mind when I receive some connect requests is, “What could possibly be the purpose for why you want to connect with me?” There isn’t an obvious connection so help me by telling me the purpose. After all, it is a site for professionals so I expect there to be a motivation behind the desire to connect.
Social media sites like LinkedIn are certainly beneficial because they allow for covering more professional networking ground virtually than you could possibly cover physically. However, your virtual approach is as important as your in-person approach, so extend a level of professional decorum and elevate your LinkedIn use far above your Facebook approach.
Of course there is one major benefit to receiving your cheesy, powder blue leisure suit wearing, generic, virtual invitation. It’s the gray “Ignore” button imbedded in the request.
And I’m not afraid to use it.