Think of LinkedIn as a digital extension of you.
If you were at a networking event, a physical one. In a venue, surrounded by people. Picture it? I know we are all zoomed out at the moment but think back to the last event you attended.
Did you stand in a corner all by yourself just observing and avoiding eye contact? Surely not, that would defeat the purpose of being there surely.
Did you throw your business cards up in the air and hope someone, anyone would catch it? I doubt it, especially if you are standing in the corner trying not to be spotted.
Did you go up to someone and hand them your card, not say and word and then walk away? Um, that would be weird.
Did someone new come up and introduce themselves to you and you promptly turned away and ignored them? If you did, I’m not sure even I can help you.
Hopefully you answered no to all of these questions.
If you wouldn’t act that way while networking in real life why would you online?
LinkedIn is a gift. An absolute gift. Microsoft is giving us this platform for free (yes there are paid versions but that’s not what I want to talk about today). If set up properly your profile can be a really effective, high converting landing page. Again, not what I want to talk about today.
I want to talk about LinkedIn (and let’s be fair – real life) etiquette on how to approach people.
People you don’t yet Know
It is totally okay to reach out to a stranger. As long as you say something. A simple hello and a reason for connecting will do. One thing you can not do – sell! Never ever, ever send a sales message.
Hello X, I would like to connect with you because of Y. I hope you are open to connecting. Thanks, Z
Hello X, I am trying to expand my networking in Y industry and would love to connect with you. Thanks, Z
Hello X, I really enjoyed your article on Y and would love to connect so I don’t miss any of your content. Thanks, Z
I would also like to note that you don’t have to connect with everyone. Sometimes it is better to hit the Follow button.
Contacts from a Previous Life
Time flies and we lose track of people and that is where social media is a god send. Facebook (as much as we hate it) is fantastic for keeping friends and family in touch. LinkedIn on the other hand is the perfect place to keep in touch and re-connect with your professional network.
Don’t assume that the person you are reaching out to will remember you when you ask to connect.
Hi X, Great to see you on LinkedIn. It has been days since we worked together at Y. Looking forward to hearing what you have been up to. Z
Hi X, I haven’t seen you since my time at Y. Looks like you have moved also, would love to hear more about what you have been up to. Z
Hi X, I can’t believe it has been # years. How have you been? I am now at Y and really enjoying it, fantastic culture and really innovative leadership. Can’t wait to hear more about what you have been up to. Z
There are of course people from your past you would rather avoid. That is also fine, just be prepared that LinkedIn might find a connection between you both and make a suggestion that you connect. It’s super helpful like that!
A Potential Client/Member/Sponsor/Customer
Alongside being an awesome tool to keep connected with your network and keep up to date with current trends, issues and events in your industry and sector it is also a brilliant tool to prospect potential clients. LinkedIn has arguably one of the most sophisticated professional network databases in the world and it is continually improving.
This would come under the People you don’t know yet banner too but there is a slightly different motive behind it. You do eventually want to do business with them or make a sale of some kind.
- Careful not to show all your cards at once, if they feel like they are being approached for a sale they will be put off instantly.
- Don’t bring a ring to the first date! In other words – build a relationship before bringing out the sales proposal.
- Be honest about what you do, don’t try to fool them. People aren’t stupid.
Hi X, I hope you don’t mind me connecting with you out of the blue. I saw your post about Y and it was really interesting and I would love to have you in my network. Regards Z
Hi X, I would really like to catch up with you over a coffee to discuss Y. I have been working on Z for quite a while and I am trying to get the word out. No ulterior motive or sales pitch. It would just be really helpful for me to understand what someone like you in looking for. Regards Z
When you are the One Accepting
It’s nice when someone else is doing the asking for a change. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it.
Mainly because they haven’t had my awesome advice, so they have sent you an empty request which leaves you feeling uneasy about what their intentions are.
Never fear, you can still make this work.
Hi X, Thanks for connecting. I am really interested to find out more about you and what you are working on. Can I ask what prompted you to connect with me? Regards Z