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This post was going to be a rant on the phrase “I’d like to add you to my professional network.” (but I decided that at least most people are trying…and to be nice). So, instead, I’ll take a more constructive approach and share my thoughts on how to properly invite someone to join you on LinkedIn.

If you were at a networking event, would you walk over to someone, hand them a business card, ask them to connect and walk away? I certainly hope not. I would expect you to introduce yourself and give them some sort of reason to keep talking. LinkedIn is no different.

The default ’I”d like to add you to my professional network.’ is you being lazy (yep I said it) and if you don’t ‘know’ the person, it’s even worse. If the person that you are trying to link to thinks that they don’t know you…watch out – you’ll get penalty flags thrown at you!

There are plenty of people (most) that will not accept your invitation if they do not know or remember you. Even more critical, LinkedIn has a policy that if you get too many ‘I don’t know this person’ flags that you can only connect with people that you have email addresses for which is a giant pain in the gluteus maximus.

Do you have to go crazy and write custom sentences for each person? No! Just add another sentence or two. Or create three or four introduction sentences and keep them in a word or notepad doc that you can easily clip from. I will be the first to encourage you to maximize your time, but the default invite is what I call ‘negative networking’. Negative networking is spending the time to network and completely missing the mark thereby completely wasting your time and everyone else’s.

Here is a good link for LinkedIn Invitations – Making them Great by Scott Allen. Scott put it so well that, I am not even going to re-work it.

The basic format is the same in all cases:

  1. Establish context. This is the main thing that will vary between the different scenarios. More below.
  2. Invite them to connect, in your own words.
  3. Suggest a next action. Coffee. A phone call. Sending them a link. Making an introduction. If you’re particularly interested in developing this relationship, make a commitment and then keep it.

So, to maximize your networking and really get something out of it, don’t connect to people unless you have a plan.

If you don’t want to be a ‘negative networker’, you need to go above and beyond just using the default sentence.  You need to tell them why you should be connected.

Want to save time networking? Have some sentences ready to cut and paste. The 80/20 rule will apply here, 80% of the time you will do the same thing over and over again. Remember to sign each invite with your full name. You have 300 characters to make an introduction and an impression.

There are 3 categories: active contacts, inactive contacts and people you don’t know.

1. Someone you really know (Active Contacts)

  • How’s life, biz and the family? I’d like to add you to my professional network.
  • Long time no talk. Hope things are well with you. I am trying to build my LinkedIn network; let’s connect.
  • Long time no talk. Hope things are well with you? I’ve shifted gears from selling to marketing and I am loving it. I have been helping clients plan and execute marketing campaigns. I would like to connect with you.

2.  Someone that you have met and talked to but they might not remember you (Inactive Contacts)

  • I’m not sure if you remember me, but I used to attend the XYZ events. I would like to connect with you on LinkedIn.
  • I’m not sure if you remember me, but we met at XYZ place.  I’ve shifted gears from selling to marketing and I am loving it. I have been helping clients plan and execute marketing campaigns. I am working on building my network and wondered if we could connect through LinkedIn (even better than above).
  • I’m not sure if you remember me, but we met ……. I am working on building my network and wondered if we could connect through LinkedIn.

3. Someone you don’t know

This is the group that you really need to be careful with. Make sure that the person knows why you want to connect.

You are in a LinkedIn group together  and you like someone’s comments

  • I appreciate your well-thought out comments via group discussions in LinkedIn. Let’s connect. (Borrowed)
  • Hello X, I have enjoyed reading some of your comments, very good insight and thoughts. I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. (Borrowed)

You are in a LinkedIn group together and you just want to connect

  • We are in XYZ LinkedIn group together and I thought that we might be able to help each other somehow. (Explain briefly)
  • Your post on _____ group led me to your profile to learn a little more. I’d like to add you to my professional network and, I would love to get on your calendar for a call to introduce XYZ Company that does X that you talk about.  (Borrowed)

You attended an event and want to connect with the speaker

  • I saw your presentation at XYZ event and I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. (Borrowed)
  • I attended your webinar XYZ and learned a ton. Thank you for all of the insight. I’d I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

You have many shared connections

  • Michelle, you don’t know me, but we share some very interesting connections through LinkedIn. I was wondering if it made sense for us to connect.
  • Kim XYZ mentioned that we might be able to help each other. I would be very interested in finding some way that we could both benefit from connecting with each other. Please let me know if you would be willing to have a brief call to understand why Kim thought we should connect.

Once you get accepted, send the person a more detailed message through LinkedIn about you.

If you have any great LinkedIn invitations, please share them with us.