Let’s say you attended a fabulous networking event last night. Today, you’ve carved out some time from your frenetic schedule to do your follow up. Let’s further say most, if not all, of your new friends use LinkedIn and would be happy to receive an invitation from you to connect. Those business cards are lined up on your desk, ready to be scanned in or organized the old-fashioned way.
You log onto LinkedIn, briefly admire your “Views/Appeared in Searches” statistics, and start entering names into the People search box. That first new contact populates your view, and you anticipate the increase in your number of LinkedIn connections (yeah, but who’s counting?). Your fingers twitch with social networking giddiness; are you ready to execute (no violent imagery deliberately intended – create?) the perfect LinkedIn invitation?!?
Do the Right Thing – Enter the Email Address from Your New Friend’s Business Card: Don’t turn into the laziest networker in the webosphere by claiming your new contact as a “Friend” or “Colleague” at your place of work. Saying you already have a connection with your recent acquaintance is akin to going to your high school reunion and pretending you really should catch up with that popular guy or gal who never spoke once to you in four years. Also, you just might annoy your invitee. If you don’t intend to save the business card, at least get one good use from it before you file it in your recycle bin!
If a New Connection Is in One of Your LinkedIn Groups or Shares Your Alma Mater, Then Go for It: People like doing business with people they perceive as similar to themselves or who share their values/passions. By letting a new connection know you both belong to the LinkedIn Group for Passive-Aggressive Monkey Trainers or that you both graduated from (Who is…) John Galt University, you proclaim, “We already share something in common – even more reason to connect!”
Don’t Project Mediocrity by Accepting the Default LinkedIn Message: When presented with the opportunity to impress a new friend after a networking event, LinkedIn offers you flexibility with your invitation message. Most people let LinkedIn do the work for them with a default “I’d like to add you to my professional network…” no-love letter. While this approach is acceptable, it surely isn’t memorable! If you’re willing to invest just a few more minutes (trust me, LinkedIn will shut you down with their character limit), you really should customize your invitation. By referencing an interesting tidbit or two from your initial conversation, you all but guarantee a swift, friendly acceptance. Online life is good…
Ask Your New Friend, “How Can I Help You?”: Whatever you do, don’t view customization of your LinkedIn invitation as one more opportunity to brazenly self-promote. When someone receives your lovingly-crafted missive, you want them to smile and click “Accept Invitation,” not grimace and think, “Oy vey, bet I’ve already been added to their online newsletter email list!” When you offer your sincere help, you push out some good networking karma. Don’t be afraid to be the one who offers help first…
Coffee, Tea, or Me(et Up)?: Do you sense a kindred spirit or just know you CAN help your soon-to-be LinkedIn linchpin? Then end your invitation with an offer to schedule a one-on-one meeting. By doing so, you set in motion the possibility of a deeper networking connection and future referrals. Whether you agree to a quick morning coffee grab or a more leisurely lunch or dinner, you’ll be glad you took the time to craft your perfect LinkedIn invitation. Do you have some tips or suggestions of your own regarding LinkedIn invitations? Please share in the form of a comment – thanks for your eyeball attention!