LinkedIn is the biggest social media platform used exclusively to connect with businesses, colleagues and work related individuals. It is THE professional network and a question many members ask is “should I only connect to people I know personally?”
There are two arguments involved when attempting to answer this question. The first says it’s good to accept all contact requests – even if you don’t know the person who sent it. The second, on the other hand, says that you should only accept requests from people you’ve met – in the real world.
Accept All Contact Requests
In his article for Forbes, entitled Why I Accept All LinkedIn Contact Requests, Dan Schawbel gives the following reasons for accepting contact requests from strangers:
1. Referrals. The best way to get a new job is through a referral, anyone will tell you that. By increasing your first degree contacts, you have more people who can introduce you to hiring managers that you didn’t have access to.
(It doesn’t make much sense to recommend someone if you don’t know them – as such, be carefull when someone you've never met asks for a recommendation or referral. You risk losing all your credibility if you recommend someone and they turn out to be a disappointment).
2. Research. I view LinkedIn as a professional research directory. It’s the white pages for professionals. If you don’t have a large network on LinkedIn, then you are limited in the number of profiles you can view when searching.
3. Awareness. Who knows how that person found you in the first place? When you put yourself out there, sometimes people find you interesting so they connect with you. If you’re ultra-paranoid, then why not just email them and find out how they found you?
4. Branding. If you don’t have many contacts, then you will appear to be less valuable because your network is your net worth. If a recruiter is choosing between hiring two people based on LinkedIn profiles, the person with 500 contact will beat out the person with only 20 every time.
These reasons are pretty broad but make a persuasive argument for accepting LinkedIn contact invites from people you’ve never met. The point it makes is that even though you’ve never met a person they can still add value to your own profile and, in due course, your career.
Only Accept Requests from People You Know
LinkedIn states the following on their Support Page:
We recommend that you only send invitations to people you know well and trust because 1st-degree connections are given access to the primary email address on your account.
Under the “What are Connections” section, LinkedIn states that the basic type of connection is a contact you know personally and who you trust on a professional level.
On her Ask a Manager blog, Alison Green writes the following:
I tend to ignore requests to connect on LinkedIn from people who I don’t know and who don’t offer me some reason to connect anyway (i.e., they’re a stranger to me and they just send the generic connection request email, without customizing it to explain why they’d like to connect). After all, I’m not going to recommend someone who I don’t know, and I’d be wary of introducing people in a professional context when I don’t know one (or both) of them.
LinkedIn is a different breed to Facebook and Twitter. Facebook friends are people you know personally, Twitter followers are people you’ve never met but would love to know and LinkedIn seems to be a mixture of the two.
It seems that simply disregarding a person because you’ve never met isn’t the way to go on LinkedIn. However, accepting all invites isn’t either. Determine what value the connection will offer - if it’s none, you have your answer.
Ultimately it’s up to you to decide who to connect to on LinkedIn – even if the network advises otherwise. Truthfully, most of us have accepted invites from people we’ve never met (and possibly never will) simply because they’re industry related and offer compelling content. If you keep you profile (and connections) tidy and specific your LinkedIn profile will work for you.
What do you think about LinkedIn connections? Should you only connect to people you’ve personally met or accept invitations from strangers as well?
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Carina Claassens is a Writer for Sound Idea Digital | firstname.lastname@example.org | @SoundIdea | Sound Idea Digital | www.soundidea.co.za
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