I’m a firm believer in the power of LinkedIn. As the go-to Fool for PR and company-wide networking, LinkedIn is an absolutely crucial tool that I use every day. With it, I can search and dig through company rosters to ensure I’m reaching out to the right person for my specific request. I honestly can’t imagine doing my job without it.
Because it’s a network aimed at professionals, the growth of LinkedIn has brought with it a number of etiquette questions. For example: What should you post on your page? With whom should you connect? How should you describe yourself? And on and on.
On the subject of connecting, the best advice I’ve read is to use the “help test.” Ideally, you would be willing to help any of your “connections” if they reached out to you with a request. If that’s not the case, you might want to reconsider some of those connections. On the other hand, if you’re inviting someone to connect with you, and you don’t think they’d say yes if you reached out to them for help, it might be worth re-examining that invitation.
One of the more bewildering things I come across is what I call the “cold connection request.” Occasionally I’ll get an invitation from someone I don’t know, whom I’ve never spoken to or corresponded with in any capacity. The person might be in a similar field, but not necessarily. Either way, I’m hesitant to accept cold requests. You wouldn’t accept a face-to-face meeting with someone you didn’t know unless they gave you at least a little context, right?
If you ever find yourself needing to “cold connect” with someone, I highly suggest tailoring the invitation. LinkedIn allows you to write your own invitation instead of using the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” If someone personalizes the invitation, it shows me that they at least care enough to put some thought into why they’re reaching out to me.
To be sure, I’m not looking for anything fancy. Just tell me something about who you are and why you wanted to connect with me, and I’d be much more likely to respond. It’s a low bar, really.
As you build out your networks on LinkedIn, be thoughtful about who you include. After all, a well-constructed LinkedIn network can be a powerful tool when it comes time to ask for help. Just make sure that your connections are people who’d be willing to help you, and vice versa. You’ll have more success that way. I promise.