I am a huge fan of LinkedIn and I run an alumni group with over 19,000 members. The site allows me to find information, develop business relationships, and expand my ability to contribute at my job. LinkedIn has helped job hunters research career fields, find contacts and job leads, and effectively apply and interview for employment opportunities. In short, I am a huge fan of the site and its capabilities.
The one drawback I encounter is what I call the “Facebook Friend Effect”. Facebook, another social media site, allows users to ‘friend’ up to 5000 people and users have been known to request ‘friend’ status with people they barely know. It has not been unusual for an incoming freshman at Notre Dame to have ‘friended’ over half the first year class prior to setting foot on campus! The result being users adopting a casual definition of a ‘friend’ or ‘contact’.
The equivalent of ‘Friends’ on LinkedIn is ‘Connections’ – you request to add someone to your list of contacts. This relationship allows users to email each other and tap into each others’ personal networks. Additionally, ‘Connections’ should be willing to pass each other along to business and networking contacts – in other words, users should be willing to put their reputation on the line for their “Connections”. So what is one to do when they receive a request from a stranger who states “I’d Like to Add You to My Professional Network.”?
I recommend sending the person requesting connection, a reply through LinkedIn. If I think I should know the person, often I will ask the individual to remind me of our connection (worked on a project, met through a mutual connection). If I am sure I do not know this person, I let them know that I am trying to manage the number of contacts and thus only accepting requests from individuals I know well. I encourage them to withdraw the invitation as opposed to me declining the invite.
I would like to hear how others are handling “Connection” requests from people they do not know.