Have you noticed any changes in LinkedIn recently? Are you over– or under-whelmed by the LinkedIn experience? Regularly, I can say that I feel rather frustrated with the constant flood of connection requests. I would say that LinkedIn networking is not going the way I had imagined. As I have written in the past, LinkedIn should be about building a network of known and trusted individuals, on whom you can count, at the very least to reply to a question, favour or even call for help. [See my post, How to Build a Great Linkedin Network.”] I am constantly mystified how even people I know and trust don’t reply to my messages, whether they’re an innocuous hello, a question or a favour. Without a genuine link, the strength (and utility) of the relationship is brought to below zero as it means that your inbox will be polluted by unsolicited information or, worse, spam, meaning that your real network won’t get through to you.
Linkedin Functionality and Workflow
Up until recently, I thought I had a good system set up for dealing with the volume of connection requests that are not — or seem not to be — legitimate (i.e. people I know and trust).
The philosophy I have long used is that, out of courtesy, I don’t want to reject (“ignore”) out of hand a connection request just because I don’t recognise him/her. This is typically the consequence of the request coming through without any relevant commentary. Yet, I always prefer to write back to explain my rejection. Until recently, this worked because individuals with a legitimate request or whom I had met previously but mistakenly rejected could fire back a message directly via LinkedIn. In this way, I don’t let legitimate connection requests fall through the cracks. Ultimately, for me, it’s about keeping my LinkedIn network strong, fluid and current.
In their latest update, however, LinkedIn has made a change that puts a spanner in my workflow. Specifically, after I send a message and ignore the connection request, the new functionality settings no longer allow people to reply to me after I have ignored their request. As a result, I have had to change my workflow, which is what I want to share with you.
My New LinkedIn Connection Request Workflow
First, I prepare a number of different responses (in French and English). These are stored in Evernote and fluctuate around the theme of “I’m sorry but I don’t recognise your name, I won’t connect with people I don’t know and trust… But if you had a special reason, I am all ears.” I have about 6 different template messages in each language. Here’s one example:
I checked out your request for a connection. I see we have a couple of connections in common, but unless I’m mistaken, I don’t believe we have met? I have made a habit of only accepting people I know and trust. If you have a specific question or project in mind, please don’t hesitate to write to me [email protected]
Best regards, Minter
The key point is to make the connection worthwhile on a two-way basis. And, with some further exchanges, we can get a better feel for the interest of going further in the relationship.
Taking the talk outside Linkedin
After giving a little personal touch to the message, I then ignore the request (otherwise I don’t have a way of keeping tabs of people I have yet to respond to). It used to be that these “ignored requests” were still able to reply to “prove” the request to connect. Now they cannot. They are blocked from contacting me on LinkedIn messaging. With the new functionality, I therefore now add an email address that allows individuals to write back to me separately. What I have parenthetically discovered is that this extra step for getting back in touch with me means that the requester must be particularly motivated. There is a necessary extra level of engagement that can help strengthen the link. I’ve actually met some interesting new people that way.
As LinkedIn looks to monetise its community, it is naturally looking for ways to encourage users to go premium, including the “right” to send messages to other LinkedIn members. But, the company needs to be careful not to create an empty network. In their chase for money, they may forget the user experience. A second foible is the heavy promotion that LinkedIn does to encourage hitting the CONNECT button with “People you may know.” It’s quite extraordinary that, for the vast majority of the suggested people, I have absolutely ZERO reason to connect with them.
Moreover, the people sending these connection requests are often too lazy to provide any context for the request. It’s imperative to add a note if there can ANY doubt as to the nature of the LinkedIn connection request.
A Trusted Network?
I wonder how LinkedIn expects to create a worldwide and trustworthy network if people do not and/or cannot establish their reason for connecting. It seems that LinkedIn Inmail is now the only way to write after I ignore the connector’s request. Otherwise, they need to resend another request (which can seem rather aggressive considering my response). So, I have opted to add an email address to take the conversation outside of LinkedIn. Surely, LI doesn’t want that either? Or would they rather me just blithely ignore or accept willy-nilly? It is my belief that LinkedIn should be considering how to build a network where each connection is valued.
In the realm of other great insights on how to manage your incoming requests, check out this article and flow chart from Leah Fessler: