Must you be everyone’s friend? Or perhaps from a practical perspective, must you accept everyone’s LinkedIn connection request? The answer for most people, and for many reasons, is a resounding no.
It is true that accepting a connection request yields numerous benefits, particularly around increased access and transparency:
- More of the data on your connection’s profile is now open to you.
- Improved visibility of your connection’s connections.
- Ability to reach out to their connections.
- Within search results, connections of connections are more visible.
Beyond these benefits, there is another driver to accept connections: ego. It is exciting (and flattering) to be invited to the party. And having 550 connections “feels” better – and makes you seem more important – than having only 37.
Notwithstanding these reasons, there are several factors that should be considered before saying yes:
1) How do you know each other? If you don’t know them at all, the answer to the connection question might be no. If you know them from a professional association, your workplace, or some other venue, then the answer might be yes. (And for most of us, if the person requesting a connection is in your family, the answer is definitely yes!)
2) How might the relationship develop? If you feel that it might be worthwhile to develop a real-world relationship with the person, then the answer might be yes. If the person is in an industry (or geography) that suggests zero future relationship, then the answer is likely no.
3) How might my information be used by the new connection? If it is a person who will likely be “spamming” you with sales offers, then the answer is no. If they are looking to troll through your connection list, and then directly reach out to your connections in order to sell, then the answer should also be no. If it is a recruiter, and they want you in their database for possible consideration for a future role, then the answer might be yes. The underlying question is simple: why do they want the connection?
4) What potential gain might there be for me with this potential new connection? If you see a benefit, and you are willing to invest in a relationship to earn that benefit, the answer may be yes. If there no possible benefit (financial or otherwise) – the answer may be no. This is very similar to your decision to meet someone new for coffee.
5) Am I exposing myself to any risks by accepting the connection request? Consider, for example, a CEO of an organization, whose connection list includes senior executives of many clients. Is there a risk that by accepting a connection from someone in sales from a competitor, that they will use your connection list for targeting? Or that by accepting a connection from an “activist”, that they may begin mining your connection list and causing trouble? If the risks are too high for you, then the answer is no.
One way to address these questions efficiently is to adopt a Social Media connection policy: a set of rules that govern how you accept (or don’t accept) connections in LinkedIn, Facebook, and any other platforms that you are active in.
1) To only accept connections from those with strong real-world relationships with you. (For me, I also add the criteria that they will be accepted only if they would answer a call from me and will help if asked – and that I would feel comfortable doing the same if they called me.)
2) To accept all connection requests from people that you are willing to invest in developing a stronger relationship with. (For me, this includes people in my professional association.)
3) To accept only personal connections on Facebook. (For me, I accept all connection requests on Facebook; this allows prospective clients to understand me as a person.)
This week’s action plan: If you don’t yet have a Social Media policy, it’s probably about time that you formalized it. Then look at your connections, and decide if you should disconnect from those who are using the tool – and your connections – in ways that are more harmful than healthy.
Marketing Challenge: Your connection policy should also govern those who you reach out to. How do you determine who to ask? Are there some people in your extended circles that should – based on the above criteria – be part of your LinkedIn network? And are there some people who are Facebook friends or Twitter followers who really should be with you on LinkedIn?
Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.
@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com: Professional credentials site
www.108ideaspace.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com: Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders