If you’re receiving more LinkedIn invitations than you’re sending, congratulations; that’s a good place to be. People want to know you and expand their network in the direction of you. You’re popular!
But you don’t know half these people. Why should you say yes to a stranger? The answer is really up to you, and it depends on what you want from the LinkedIn network.
There is some simple math to consider: The larger your network the more searchable you become. Knocking out degrees of separation between you and the rest of the world brings you “closer” to everyone. So why not just have a Yes to Everyone policy and call it a day? Maybe you don’t want to bring the world closer by way of dilution. Maybe you want your network to be curated, crafted from only the finest quality connections.
Alexandra Samuel in the Harvard Business Review recommends a “Favor Test”, whereby invitations should only be accepted if you can imagine yourself and this person reciprocating favors for each other in real life. Seems a little rigorous. I’m thinking something in between.
My advice would be a system of criteria that you feel good about, based on your needs and comfort zone. Remember, LinkedIn connections are not “friends”. This isn’t Facebook. They aren’t going to ask you to hang out or help them move. Heck, they’re arguably not even people. They’re connections. Think less about what they can or can’t offer you and more about where the connection might lead.
Which brings us to your specific criteria. Some things to consider: Is this person operating within your industry? Are they a competitor and want to look at your connections? Are they trying to break in? Don’t necessarily pooh-pooh the new kids. They could be assets one day. Think long-term. Is this person local? Is that a factor? A detractor? Why? Who do they know? Is your one common connection a contractor you hired once and regretted? Or is it a rock-star project manager you worked with years ago? Are we not judged by the company we keep? Quality leads to quality. How is the invitation presented? Did they write a note?
If you’re a stranger trying to break into my personal network, I expect you to sell it to me. You have 10 seconds of my time. Go. How much care have they taken with their own profile? Do they look like they are ready to play ball? Is the profile picture thoughtfully chosen? Does that matter to you?
In the end there really is no right or wrong way. You can drop a connection as easily as you make one. More connections can’t really hurt you, and big numbers definitely make a statement. On the other hand, maybe you like knowing that everyone on your network could house sit for you in a pinch. Personally, with LinkedIn, I don’t need that kind of intimacy, this is a business tool. Which means I try to think of these invitations the same way I think of every business decision, in the context of opportunity.
How are you using LinkedIn to create opportunities?