Why Are You Bothering With LinkedIn?

In the last month I have been increasingly irritated with the growing number of LinkedIn invitations where the person has just used the standard invitation ‘I’d like to add you to my professional network’ in their email. I reckon in the last month I have had more than 30 of these standard requests against around 15 or 20 where they were personalised.

I keep thinking, why bother to connect with someone if you aren’t going to have a conversation with them? Then I saw a great LinkedIn comment which so summed up my irritation that I found myself cheering. I do hope Javier Navarro does not mind me quoting him.

“I usually get invitations from people that I do not know at all, usually fellow members of this group. Most of them do not even care about personalising the first message. Can somebody explain me what is the point of having many connections you don’t know at all?

“I think I am pretty open, do not care to add somebody I have had just a telephone call or exchanged some e-mails or even spoken in an LinkedIn group forum but definitely not from somebody which I do not know and did not care to say “hello, I’d like to talk with you about XYZ”. I might be wrong and having thousands of connections might help in some way, but until the moment I feel some people is playing some sort of Pokémon game (Gotta Catch ‘Em All) and as I know LinkedIn does not give an award to the person with more connections.”

One of the problems is down to LinkedIn. When you set up a new account it encourages you to connect to Outlook or Facebook and set an automated invitation to all your contacts. We would say to anyone new to LinkedIn – DON’T DO IT. Skip that button.

LinkedIn is a great way to get back in touch with people you know – from school, university, former colleagues. But pressing a button and clicking through to new connections is not only a waste of effort, it has a negative effect on the person receiving the email. Asking around, we are not alone – this is how people feel when they get an automated message:

  • Feel a bit insulted, they don’t see you as a valuable enough contact to spend one minute writing a personal message. LinkedIn doesn’t let you write very much on that first contact so you don’t have to write an essay
  • Not sure why they want to connect, so any business opportunities are completely lost. If they wrote (as Javier suggests), ‘I’ve just joined xyz, we have a number of interesting clients who I think could do with help on social media – would you like a coffee sometime?’ – then this is the start of a relationship. This is proper networking and can lead to business
  • Actually, so far from building the relationship, it is a negative. I don’t connect to people I don’t know and increasingly I’m not connecting to people who can’t be bothered to personalise a message.

Of course, the final issue is – help people remember who you are! I confess I don’t always have a great memory for faces or names (I know, terrible to be in PR and admit that). I sometimes send a courteous note back to ask how I know the person – but how much nicer to help people remember who you are.

Such as ‘Hi Victoria, we met at the Bank of England breakfast last year – would be good to connect and hope all is well with you’. Simple? How many automated messages have you sent out? Should this be a New Year’s resolution only to send personalised emails in future? Far better to make five quality new connections than irritate 20, 30, 40 or more contacts with an insult.

Victoria Tomlinson is founder and owner of Harrogate-based PR consultancy, Northern Lights. A former director of Ernst & Young, she started her career as a graduate trainee for Plessey and later with Bradbury Wilkinson, the banknote printers, travelling around the world to sell banknotes to foreign governments. She joined Arthur Young as part of their start-up marketing team and was made a director of client services on the management committee and managing a 100-strong division. Victoria sits on the boards of Bradford University School of Management, Northern Ballet Theatre and Common Purpose North Yorkshire. She is a Prince’s Trust mentor.