This is a general topic, actually, not one specific to LinkedIn, and I’ll call it “how to network electronically” for lack of a better phrase.
When I receive LinkedIn “Invitation to Connect” email, they have a specific message written by the requester. Sometimes they’re smart, intriguing messages that make me want to connect since I can immediately see the mutual value of our connection, but too often I get the following instead:
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.
I can personally guarantee that if you request a connection from me with this generic message, or request a connection on another networking site with its default message, that I’ll never connect with you.
The reason is simple: I’m happy to connect with fellow professionals in the areas within which I work (marketing, blogging, communications, business strategy, publishing, etc.) but only if you can demonstrate at least the smallest effort on your part to identify how we might find a connection mutually beneficial.
Imagine we’re at a busy cocktail party and I notice you going up to each person around me, saying “Hi, I’m John and I think we should swap business cards.” When you get to me, do you think I’m going to be favorably inclined to swap contact information with you?
If you instead came up and said “Dave Taylor? You spoke at the Blog Business Summit last month, right? Yeah, your talk was excellent. Really glad to make your acquaintance!” do you think I’d be more likely to be interested in actually networking with you? Of course I would!
Since I imagine we all have a similar perspective on effective networking, why on Earth does anyone just use the generic message when trying to link to a busy professional on a site like LinkedIn?
Next time, please, take the time to research just a little bit about the person you seek to connect with – after all, their profile is probably on the previous screen – and reference something, anything you have in common. Your results will be dramatically better!