Why We Need a Simple, Flexible Formula for Inviting LinkedIn Connections
No one likes rejection.
So why do so many LinkedIn users actually invite rejection instead of connection, by using one or other of LinkedIn’s pre-set, canned, boilerplate invitations, such as “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”?
Anyone who is new to LinkedIn could be excused for thinking it is acceptable to use those pre-set formulas. But once we’ve been using the network for a while and receive one of those invitations, we are likely to assume that the sender is doing an impersonal, batch invitation to everyone on a mailing list.
Which means we are more likely to ignore or decline the invitation than to accept it.
Think about the LinkedIn invitations you’ve received lately. What proportion were genuinely personal? Did the boilerplate ones excite you? Or did most or all of those just leave you mystified and disinclined to know more?
The way I see it, it’s as if we were saying “Yes, I’m sending this invitation, but I couldn’t be bothered taking a few minutes to write something personal, so you are just getting the bog standard, boilerplate version. Take it or leave it.”
So for the want of a bit of care to craft something personal, the sender has in effect invited rejection not connection.
The Challenge of Making it Personal
All the experts will tell you to personalize your invitation.
But what does that mean? What’s the right way to invite? What do you say? Especially for someone who is not already a close friend or colleague?
And if you want to build a suitably large network, i.e. large enough to have serious reach, aren’t you going to run out of ideas for being personal?
The fact is, not everyone feels confident of consistently writing attractive, genuinely personal invitations off the top of their head. And if you are sending out a lot of invitations the challenge becomes that much greater.
The good news is that if you can find a way to make it personal and not have that be so difficult that you won’t do it, you will immediately stand out from all the people (and they are many) using the boring old boilerplate.
That can only enhance your prospects of being connected, not rejected.
But let’s face it, not everyone feels creative when they sit down to send invitations.
So if we could have a system of inviting, a system that could be actually used, happily, by any LinkedIn user, no matter how creative or uncreative they feel, we would need something that was simple, easy to remember, and wouldn’t need special skill or training to use.
The system would also need to be flexible, so as to accommodate the different levels of association (or lack of it) we have had with each person we are inviting.
I looked everywhere for such a system, on the web, on LinkedIn expert groups, in multiple blog posts, in books on LinkedIn and found a mountain of advice on being personal in our invitations.
But I did not find anything simple or particularly easy to remember.
Which is why I created my simple, three option formula for LinkedIn invitations.
My Simple, Fun Formula for Invitations
The formula is easy to remember.
Our personalized invitation can do one or more of those three things, depending on the circumstances.
This is for when we have actually had some connection with someone, offline or online, and where there is a way to remind them of that in a reasonable way.
It’s not necessary that we have actually met them offline, or even spoken or exchanged emails with them. For example, I’m always happy to accept an invitation from someone who has been at one of my presentations – the fact that they were there is in effect a filter to give me a balance of confidence that they are genuine, professional people.
Or I may have met someone at a networking event, or been at school with them. The possibilities are endless.
One thing to make sure of with any LinkedIn invitations, and especially I think with this Remind option, is to keep our egos in check. For two key reasons: firstly, we have to remember not to take it personally when someone does not accept our invitation, and secondly we need to accept that the person we met at the networking event yesterday might not actually (shock, horror!) remember us.
This is one we can have fun with.
After all, who doesn’t like being flattered, even though most of us, thinking about what our mothers would say, will assure anyone listening that we are impervious to flattery?
Of course, the flattery has to be based in fact and be proportionate: flattery that is manifestly insincere or too fulsome will usually be a disincentive to connect.
One example of a good flattering (or complimentary, if you will) invitation, and which I think I always accept, is when someone from a LinkedIn group I’m on starts with some compliment about my contribution to one or more discussions. Another is when they say something nice about a presentation I have given.
But of course be sincere. No grownup likes phony flattery.
This is where you tantalize the people you are inviting by telling them something about what you do or are working on, on the basis that from what you know of their interests they might want to know more about you and what you do.
It will typically be appropriate in a situation where an inviter has something genuinely intriguing to share, say a business idea or a possibility of fruitful collaboration, but the character limit for the invitation won’t permit a reasonable explanation.
Nor can you link to an external website in a LinkedIn invitation message.
There is a big difference between being intriguing and being cunning. Because LinkedIn is a professional network, if the invitation seems to be a bit tricky – such as offering an unnamed “business opportunity” – there is a good chance it will be ignored, or perhaps even flagged to LinkedIn as spam.
This one should be marked “Use with Care” as you could burn your bridge before you have crossed it.
If in any doubt, don’t use it.
Mix and Match if You Choose, But Keep it Simple
You could of course use all three options in the one invitation, or two. But only if that comes naturally in the circumstances.
Usually one will do. Remember, the fact that you have actually written something personal will in itself make your invitation stand out in a sea of boring boilerplate invitations and thus be more likely to be received positively.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pre-set sentences, to save you typing some things over and over again. But check each invitation before you send, to make sure it is appropriate for this person you are sending it to. Because once it’s gone you can’t call it back.
The whole idea is to keep the process simple, so you don’t stress over it, procrastinate and never get to build your network.
And as much as you can, make the process fun. Maybe think of the process as one of inviting people to a party – your business party!
If you have something to share about what has worked (or not) for you with LinkedIn invitations, please add your comment. Or if you believe you can improve on my formula – I’m always learning!