What is it with some people on LinkedIn lately?

I don’t know if it’s just me but we should call the etiquette police because from what I can tell, the art of how to build relationships is dying. These thoughtless connection requests are getting rather annoying! I know a lot of this is about dealing with noise as the social web matures. However, I feel it’s my duty as an irregular digital culture commentator, obsessed with human behaviour, to share some tips.

Other the past year, I’ve been consciously keeping notes and doing some testing when I’ve received a connection request from someone I don’t know.

I should preface this with:

  1. I tend to only add people I’ve met, worked with or know on LinkedIn
  2. We all use platforms differently so this is my perspective and;
  3. I’m genuinely interested in everyone’s story, background and getting to know them more. I love people and have been told I have a weird knack for remembering everyone I meet. I hate the word ‘networking’, always have, at the end of the day I’m just really curious. Therefore, this definitely isn’t about saying ‘Don’t connect’.

So, when I receive a blanket auto-request, I’ve been responding with “Hey! Have we met?” knowing it’s unlikely we have. I find this encourages the person to do a take two and add some context via a message. The replies are where it gets interesting. I’ve had everything from the generic, “No, we haven’t. I want to build my network and you seemed like a good connection.”, to “Yes, we have – well, I once stood in the same room as you at a conference.” and “No we haven’t but I’m thinking about moving to San Francisco and just want introductions.”. I know it’s easy to forget you’re talking to an actual person when you’re clicking a few buttons, but believe it or not, I’m a human being – not a connections machine at your disposal! Don’t get me started on bad recruiters eyeing off a walking rolodex.

In the past few years, I can recall only one instance where a guy said at the end of a short and sweet intro email: “Let me know if there is any way I can help out”.

It’s not Dale Carnegie-esque pop rocket science – if you want people to be interested in you, be interested in them. If you want people to respect you, respect them. If you want people to help you, help them.

Next time you want to reach out to someone, click on their profile to connect through there as it allows you to tailor a personal message. The receiver will notice you put in effort and time to think about it. The LinkedIn suggested people you may know option and iPad/iPhone apps send off the auto request text so beware.

Now, for a couple of other suggestions:

  • Don’t put your business identity as your profile pic – you aren’t your logo
  • Don’t use vague terms to describe yourself aka ‘change-maker, thinker, innovator, dreamer’ unless you’re Bono, Hawking, Jobs, etc. – it’s meaningless fluff (which I’ve been guilty of)
  • Don’t autopost updates meant for other social channels (i.e. Twitter) using third-party apps – say more, less
  • And above all, don’t put all caps in your professional headline. Another thing that screams spam!

Add a comment if there’s something I’ve missed. :)

8 thoughts on “C’mon peeps, using LinkedIn isn’t that hard

  1. I like your post, as I do with many of them. But the fluffy description suggestion…? Then you have ‘founder. Thinker. doer’ under your own name. What gives?

  2. Thanks M. I know, hence the “which I’ve been guilty of” comment. The blog bio is a remnant from when I set this WordPress one up three years ago… should change!

  3. Nicely expressed. It seems obvipus to me that communications are about person to person relationships, eventually. However, because of the ubiquity and ease of use PLUS so so many digital platforms we try to cover, people can forget the humanity in a rush to connect…and so fail. I really try to think of every communication as a comversation. Even non-digital and traditional media are just another step in a (developing) conversation.
    You’re examples here are great. I enjoyed reading the article. We’ve never met but because of the way you communicate I feel like we have. So thank you for leading by example!

  4. Yes its amazing how people will actively ‘network’ aka hit ‘connect’ – evidently seeing the electronic connection as the valuable one. Forgetting that those connections are only valuable if you establish a human relationship.

    But people clearly see so little value in the connections they’re clicking, they aren’t willing to at least write a comment to initiate the human side. It’s win-win-win, people! (win for you, a win for them, and a win against spammers)

    I don’t get much spam attention, but I am bemused when it happens.

  5. I agree with your comments. I perceive what you say as plain common sense and good manners, but there’s less of both around these days, or perhaps they’re not being imparted in upbringing and education. Anyway, I’m glad you posted these comments.

  6. LinkedIn-agro must be going around – I was having the same thoughts! My main complaint is that there IS a little box where you can change that ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn’ message and that it doesn’t take long to do that! Also, I get requests to connect from ‘friends’ – if we’ve never met or had coffee, we’re not friends! Use one of the other options!! Perhaps I just don’t get LinkedIn … why are people I don’t know trying to connect to me? I’m afraid I decline connections if I don’t know the person but that’s a useful tip to ask where we met or how we know each other. Thanks for posting :)

  7. Good stuff, Kate. Totally agree with you. I will say though that LinkedIn’s interface is really hard to navigate, even if you are incredibly web savvy (which ahem, I like to think of myself as ;). A few things have happened to me on LinkedIn that to this day I am HORRIFIED by, but to keep this short and relevant, I’ll only share one: I spammed my entire contacts list without realizing it (I ran an art blog and had thousands of contacts just due to the nature of that industry.) This was back in 2008 (so perhaps its changed), but I had no idea I had done it until I got some overly angry emails about it. I was that person adding people I did not know IRL. So, although I agree with you — I totally decline anyone (now) that adds me whom I do not know — I try to cut people some slack around this, you know, as not a glass house I can throw stones at ;) Just my experience, and maybe it’s happening to others?

  8. Totally agree Kate. I find there’s far too much of this kind of behaviour on LinkedIn specifically, and it might be because of this that LinkedIn is generally my least preferred social platform. The nature of my work is such that I’m able to network with people much more effectively using Twitter and even Facebook to an extent. My feeling is that people are finding LinkedIn less and less relevant as a platform for this reason…

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