What is LinkedIn?

Of course you recognize this bit of text. It is the generic, boilerplate content that LinkedIn provides in the message field of the connection request. Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat, shrieking uncontrollably, dreaming that I accidentally sent one to somebody. But it was just a dream. Because when I am awake, I personalize every invitation to connect, something I have done since I began building my LinkedIn network. Figure Helping up Friend (LS)

There is a public outcry over the continued depersonalization of LinkedIn connection requests. For a growing contingent of LinkedIn Nation, enough is enough. They are fed up with the lack of attention given to what has become the most important touch point in social business. By consensus, this is the major pet peeve of the LinkedIn user who has gained wisdom of the LinkedIn process. As someone who is fascinated by the psychology of online relationships, I am amazed as to the frequency with which I receive the generic greeting, despite the incessant wailing.

At this stage, personalizing the invitation to connect is not a strategy but rather should be viewed as common courtesy. Although LinkedIn states above the text box that the message is optional, conscientious users see it as an essential piece of LinkedIn etiquette. I deem it a best practice. I hope that you, dear reader, are personalizing your outgoing LinkedIn invitations. Many people that I know will not accept requests to connect from users who do not put some kind of original spin on the message. The continued sending of depersonalized LinkedIn connection requests is the tragic flaw of the uninitiated. 

In tracing the rash of standardized invitations, there are 3 major culprits that can be isolated. Importing an email directory to LinkedIn does not allow for customized messaging. Everybody in that database will receive the formulaic greeting. For some time, the People You May Know platform, more algorithmic than intuitive, did not allow for personalizing invitations. You merely plucked people from a deck that LinkedIn prepared and fired off a flurry of standardized connection requests. (This has been modified; you can now personalize this greeting, although with a lesser character limit.) And whereas the LinkedIn mobile application has developed nicely, it is still not meant for delicate, nuanced messaging. At the time of this writing, you are unable to personalize the invitation via mobile.

We can course correct here. First, never send out any LinkedIn invitations en masse. This is a one-on-one interaction that must be carefully staged and, in some cases warrants a pre-invitation approach (e.g., an InMail which requests permission to connect). Second, invite people to connect via their LinkedIn profile. In this manner, invitees can corroborate your visit to the page with the invitation and know that you have reviewed (vetted) them as a potential connection. Finally, do not generate or accept an invitation to connect from your mobile phone. Wait until you get to the computer at your workspace and craft an appropriate outgoing message or note of thanks upon acceptance.

And so the question remains: with so many warnings to the contrary, why are you still receiving standardized, default connection requests from other LinkedIn users?

They Don’t Know 

There are many LinkedIn users who take the sending of default invitation content as protocol and are simply not aware that the text in that box can be swapped. (Many who have attended my talks and workshops cite this as their biggest takeaway.) LinkedIn gives you the creative freedom—and 300 characters, including spaces—to frame the request, cite the details of your initial meeting, and create a reference point from which a conversation can take flight. If you were not aware of this previously, you’re very welcome. From now on, delete the default text and personalize every LinkedIn connection request you send. You will see positive results regarding your interactions right away.

They Don’t Care 

My presumption is that those who continue to send the default invitation are not callous. They merely fail to attach significance to the action. A thoughtful relationship builder knows the value of a respectful approach and understands that those on the receiving end of the connection request have feelings. A cordial, well-conceived invitation gets you immediately noticed and catalyzes the connection. Those who choose to be lazy, or retract from the responsibility of representing themselves in a forthright manner, can expect indifference or repulsion from those they message. Make the effort. Appeal to people’s sensibilities. Conscious avoidance, passivity, or apathy in connecting with others will not carry you far on LinkedIn.

They Are Not Sure What to Say

On LinkedIn, self-confidence is the key to successful social networking. Cybershyness, introversion, and reticence are not qualities that enable the assembly of a cohesive, opportunity-rich professional network. When it comes to forming LinkedIn connections with strong bonds, emotional intelligence carries the day. The personalized invitation reflects the intention of the inviter. In your invitations to those you don’t know, let them know why you wish to connect (e.g., you liked their book; you read their blog; you run in the same tribe, etc.). To those you have met, remind them of how, where, and when. Suggest an offline conversation (and, most importantly, follow through). The truth is the best of all possible communication strategies.

Parting Thoughts Tell me why on earth do you want to connect to me? Really. Tell me! WHY?Do we have synergies worth exploring? What do you hope to obtain from our connection? If you are truly interested in building long-term, sustainable business relationships via LinkedIn, your personal touch on the invitation to connect—as with any correspondence—becomes vital to the cause. Stop the madness, please!