Hurdle-jumping with Linkedin

Two thought-provoking posts this week by two bloggers whose opinions I value have got me thinking about the pros and cons of connecting via business-focused social networks, and mirror some experiences of my own with LinkedIn.

Last weekend, Renee Blodgett wrote about how some people abuse the linking process in Linkedin, quoting a view by PC Magazine columnist Lance Ulanoff on the ‘template approach’ some people use when requesting a link with you, and which struck a chord with me:

[…] “Often they don’t even bother to rewrite LinkedIn’s boilerplate greeting text. So the e-mail invite sounds robotic, cold, and patently uninviting.” Because of this, he feels that LinkedIn’s approach is invasive.

More on this in a minute.

Then last night, I read Loic Le Meur’s post in which he talks about asking LinkedIn to remove an existing contact from his network, citing as one reason the way in which the contact had abused Loic’s trust re some mutual endorsements.

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. Since posting yesterday, Loic has deleted the post (he says so in a note there). I’m not going to talk in any detail about the specifics of it, therefore, although I still have the post in my RSS reader. Always remember those RSS feeds! (Loic, your act of deletion is very interesting and that could be the basis for another conversation.)

One general part of Loic’s original post relates to Renee’s commentary, and is sound advice when you’re thinking about connecting with or endorsing others via a social network:

  1. Be careful when you give endorsements to people you don’t know enough.
  2. Accept connections from people you know only.
  3. Social software, blogs and the web in general create a transparency that should be respected and dealt with. If you play with it, it will burn you one day or another.

I’ve been a member of LinkedIn since July 2004. I think it’s an excellent networking environment and I have benefited from my connections with some of those in my own network, currently 83 people around the world. And those 83 people translate into a potential network of over 3.3 million, according to LinkedIn’s calculations, a number which quite frankly is absolutely meaningless for me.

Of my 83 current network members, I know 76 of them, including Renee and Loic. And ‘know’ meaning either I’ve known the people in my network for some years and/or I’ve actually met them at some point, eg, at a conference. So what’s important to me is the quality of my connections, certainly not the quantity.

During the past few weeks, I’ve received 8 requests for connecting, all from people I don’t know and have never met (and one of those people has sent me 4 separate requests to connect – I feel like I’m being spammed). Each of those requests uses the exact same LinkedIn request text template:

I found you while I was searching my network at LinkedIn. Let’s connect directly, so we can help each other with referrals. If we connect, both of our networks will grow. To add me as your connection, just follow the link below.

No personalization, just the bog-standard text. When you see many requests with the same text, that’s when you begin to look with very jaded eyes at every request no matter who the connector is. So while I’m always willing to consider connecting with people I don’t yet know, I decided to reject any further requests that come like that, perhaps even from people I do know.

Having said all of this, I do think networks like LinkedIn have tremendous value. To me, getting past the first hurdle – making the initial connections – is the essential start point, the ‘flavour’ of which will influence your thinking about the person you might connect with (or not).

Which, of course, is absolutely the same when you first meet someone in the traditional way, face to face.

Back to Loic’s three points of sound advice.

9 thoughts on “Hurdle-jumping with Linkedin

  1. Personal Networks (Follow Up)

    In this previous article, I wrote on the use and abuse of online social networks such as LinkedIn and OpenBC. My main point of criticism regarded the value dilution created by people with an overwhelming amount of personal contacts….

  2. Neville – Interesting you should bring this up. I’ve had a few requests recently from people I have never met and I politely declined. I’ve also had a referral I’ve been reticent to follow up on as my connection that is doing the referring is only a casual acquaintence. It is unfortunate but true we need to be somewhat guarded/careful in this day and age.

  3. It’s indeed irritating to get request from people with the standard linkedin text.
    But what’s also frustrating i.m.o. is that if you say you’re working for a BIG company in the Netherlands, almost the whole salesforce of every company wants to contact me, no mather what my interests are, they have THE solution for all my problems explained in a personalised message to me. It feels almost spam to me. A lot of salespeople see it as a huge database full of euros without knowing any netiquette. If you would meet them on a trade show or something like that, they would never approach you like they did online.

  4. Hello Neville, sorry about deleting the post. The reason is simple: the person that made the original mistake called me, was very nice and said he realized the misunderstanding and his mistake and I decided to delete the post as I really have nothing against him and my post could be really interpreted in a very bad way. I woke up today thinking “after all what he did and wether it is bad or not was a case but none of my business”.
    About the link: sorry, I did that extremely rarely, I hope you understand.

  5. Neville> I would have a different take on the text enclosed in a LinkedIn invitation. As a matter of fact, I almost never pay attention to it. What is important to me is whether I know the person, and can place him/her in a business or personal context. So to me one’s profile is actually more important than the text in the body, if ever I needed additional information to decide whether I should link or not.
    When I invite people, I change the title of the email, and add my “signature” signature (the J.), and that’s it – assuming maybe wrongly that since I only invite people I know or have met recently, and have spent time with, then they know why I am inviting them.

  6. Thanks Loic, I do understand your reasons. In my post, I was thinking about the situation the HP blogger faced some months ago (don’t have a link) where he endured signficant criticism related to deleting a post, no matter the reason.
    Everyone’s comments are very interesting, thanks for leaving them. Just confirms a point for me – impersonal equals no connection. If someone cannot even do a small personal thing when trying to make a connection, there will be no connection.

  7. Have to say that I totally agree with you on abuse on Social Networks. Over the past year I have rejected a number requested to link as well as removed those who have abused my network.
    As well as random connections from people who were members of Ecademy pushing themselves forward on LinkedIn I have had to deal with Plaxo Spam from them looking to get my upto date contact details.
    I wrote about this on a previous blog under the title “Just because you have my email it does not mean that you know me”. In which I asked how can people control the abuse of others in Social Networks? Others commented that they were also being contacted by those that just wanted to be the most connected and then being asked to buy from those connected or worse still being refered to others by the “Super Node”.
    This has resulted in me blogging and reducing my use of Social Networking sites.

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