Over time I have, like the myriad of co-members of our favourite professional network (>350 million and counting), received a fair number emails from the guys at LinkedIn, personally the most memorable one was to thank me for being one of the first million, the 950,474th to be exact.
Some of the emails were invitations to go “Premium” and others recommended taking some social media action or other, which because it was invariably good advice I usually followed up on, e.g. Connecting with a peer, how to adjust your profile settings, or again how to write a blog, and not be ashamed of it. But the emails that tickled my ego the most where the ones inviting me to publish an article and join the ever-growing list of experts, advisers, Influencers, etc. Being a blogger as well as an amateur author* of course I was tempted, after all, who wouldn’t want to join up with such an experienced group of peers and professionals.
* Following some advice from the excellent Guy Kawasaki, I went ahead and auto-published two travelogue books… 3 years on and I’m still re-editing and polishing them.
Incidentally, I did once write and share a post on LinkedIn about the then state of affairs of a French car manufacturer, as I saw it. In view of the ensuing comments, I decided not to renew the experience and, from that moment on, I kept LinkedIn for interacting with peers and my blogging, more observational than advisory, discreetly available on a parallel blog site for those who knew where to look.
So what did make me change my mind?
I’d read a small open-letter type article in LinkedIn from a new connection, who, having visibly sought to connect with a variety of people, had then followed the invitation request with an offer of services. Apparently, the person hadn’t received many, if any, responses because he duly published an article querying the expectations of people on LinkedIn. So let me, as one who’s been contacted by a fair number of prospectors since joining LinkedIn in 2004, put this into perspective and clarify a couple of points.
On the one hand, no, it’s not OK to ignore an email or a solicitation on the pretext of being too busy. For me pleading “too busy” shows poor time management skills, and is simply not acceptable in such an environment. We’re all looking to get on, but it only takes a few minutes to say something like, “Thanks for connecting, but sorry, I’m not in that line of business and can’t help you on this one”, following which three things may happen:
- You respond and never hear from the person again, except to say thanks, or
- You respond and the person comes back to you again asking for orientation, here I tend to oblige, i.e. suggesting a solution, like joining a group, but without compromising any of my connections in the process, following which you never hear from the person again, or
- You respond, the outcome is negative, but the person comes back again and persists in engaging your help. At this point, I’m generally faced with two options, 1) not respond, 2) get mad. I tend not to go for the 02nd option because that degree of insistence is often cultural and I have worked with a lot of good, but infuriatingly insistent professionals from all over the world.
On the other hand, you’d be right in saying that the person should have done some investigating first, to see if the potential connection can help. Take me as an example. I was a project manager, now I am a strategist, but I never was a vendor manager, HR specialist, recruitment agency or venture capitalist so I’m not the right person to contact for jobs or translation services. Come to think of it, neither am I rich so I don’t accept invitations from well-educated capital investment consultants, whatever their origin.
Lastly, if LinkedIn promotes groups created by and for like-minded professionals, it’s for a reason, i.e. to fast track a prospector or inquirer to the proper solution. I do recommend that anyone looking to develop their business have a look at the list of groups first and check to see which group and which contact suits his needs. The choice is rich and the response rate is higher.
My point? Joining LinkedIn is about getting on, enriching one’s culture, widening horizons, meeting new people, sharing with peers and helping others progress so there’s absolutely no excuse for bad manners, under any circumstances, anywhere, be it on the highway, on the web or in LinkedIn, but here’s a tip for prospectors. Time management and subject relevancy works both ways so do some research for the right [market] channel before looking to connect. As for me, sorry for not responding and sorry I can’t help but the good news is, with 350 million+ contacts deals get done every day in LinkedIn.