News Flash: LinkedIn is for Networking

I am writing this post as a reality check.

On a lawyers’ listserv that I follow, there is a currently a discussion thread about LinkedIn. Simply stated, the topic of this discussion is focused on how to get rid of all those pesky invitations from unfamiliar LinkedIn members.

It started when someone posted this question:

“How do you handle invitations to connect on LinkedIn when you don’t know the person? I’ve tried emailing people and asking them how we know each other, sometimes without response. What do you do when the person is unfamiliar, and doesn’t respond?”

Among the responses the question elicited were these:

  • “I’ve so far resisted all of them.”
  • “I just ignore the invitation.”
  • “I either ignore the person or I check the button that says that I don’t know them.”

Huh?

LinkedIn is a site for professional networking. Wiktionary defines “networking” as “the act of meeting new people in a business or social context.”

Why, then, would you want to ignore invitations from strangers? The whole point is to broaden your network to add people you do not currently know — not to limit it.

Think of it this way: If you were at a live networking event, would you accept or reject opportunities to mingle based on whether you previously knew the person? Of course not. The purpose of networking is to create new connections that might prove useful to you as a professional.

LinkedIn is a tool for networking, and therefore for expanding your network beyond your existing circle of colleagues and friends.

When I receive an invitation from someone I don’t know, I look at it as an opportunity and evaluate it as such. And, because you never know what might come out of a relationship, I end up rejecting very few invitations. I reject invitations that appear to be purely commercial or possible solicitations and I reject ones that appear to be random or mistaken. But if there is some professional basis for connecting to someone, I accept.

By contrast, I am far more picky on Facebook. There, I try to restrict my network to people I know or have some good reason to be “friends” with. Even there, however, I err on the side of making new friends, not rejecting them.