Thursday, September 27, 2007

LinkedIn Rant - And A Challenge To Bloggers

Yesterday I was asked to connect on LinkedIn by someone I have never met before. I have read his blog (which is intelligent), but we have never corresponded with one another.

A few years ago I made the decision to only link to people via Linked In with whom I had a real business relationships. Because of my being a professional motivational speaker, I tend to meet large groups of people at one time (which often follows with LinkedIn requests from some in the audience), so I modified my LinkedIn protocol to only include folks with whom I have shared a meal or a beer. (I do make exceptions to this policy when I have corresponded in a Web 2.0/Social Media/Twitter/MySpace/FaceBook/Plaxo kinda way and feel a real connection or friendship has been established).

My point is that I want my connections on LinkedIn to actually be people I know personally. I want to feel I can freely call on them to make a legitimate introduction to another person in my network should the need arise. I do not want to have some arbitrary link to a stranger. I feel these links undermine the legitimacy of the network.

Anyway, I declined the LinkedIn invitation with the following:

"Dear_______,

I really like your blog. I do not add anyone to Linked In that I have not eaten a meal or had a beer with. OR, someone I really get to know well via internet, blog, etc...
I hope we stay in touch and can get to know each other, as I would love to add you to my linked in. I hope you understand.
thom"
I thought that was polite (maybe I am wrong), and I immediately received the following response:

"no problem by me whatsoever, but i disagree with your approach to linked in. linkedin is not a closed protected garden of contacts. it's a way to network with NEW people. the web is about sharing. you're not sharing and that's cool."

I am not sure how to react to this response. I am offended and feel I am being schooled by some guy I have never met who seems to feel very superior to me in the LinkedIn world. Is the web about sharing in all circumstances? I understand that people have different views on how to link to people on social networking sites, but I cannot believe that an hour earlier he sent me a note that read:

"Hi, after reviewing your background, I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn"

It sounded friendly and professional, but did he really mean:

"After reviewing your background I decided you could be beneficial to ME. I will never respect nor care about you or your beliefs, desires and opinions. I want to scan your contacts and see if there is anyone there who would be useful to ME. You see, I view LinkedIn as my personal tool to connect to strangers around the globe because if you are on LinkedIn, you are required to share with me, even though you do not know me. If you disagree, I will call you selfish. I want NEW people to call my own...AKA, I want YOUR people."

The funny thing is that if he had tried to connect on MySpace, FaceBook, or Twitter I would have gladly accepted the invitation, as I have different personal policies that I use on those sites.

This is the one where I want comments galore. Do not be passive, jump in the game today and leave your thoughts. I want other bloggers to write about this topic. Even if you disagree with me, I want to hear what you think about social networking sites and how your personal linking policy works. Are your contacts your real friends or just random digital links to people you know nothing about. What makes these services valuable, and what drives you crazy about LinkedIn (and the rest).

I challenge every blogger who reads this to chime in with his two cents on my dilemma on his or her blog. Come on, you know you were hoping to find a subject to blog about today anyway...make this your topic...leave the chorus and sing your solo about how you link, or don't link. Scream from the hilltops.

I will give a free copy of both my books, "Some Assembly Required" (second edition) and "The ABC's of Networking" to the first five people to email me at thom@thomsinger.com with a link to your new blog post with your opinions of social networking linking. That is two books that would cost some cashola on Amazon.com....FREE.... (please include your address in the email so I know where to send the books!).

Have A Great Day
and thank you for reading this rant!

thom

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

His response was originally not offensive, as it just stating his opinion. But the last line about you not sharing was rude. My guess is you are most likely never going to connect with him on a friendly level because if he reads this he will just get more rude. You once wrote that not everyone will like you.

Thomas Graham said...

Thom --

I've had the same experience and similar responses. I hope that I can bring value to the relationships I treasure, and that I can establish relationships that bring value to me on multiple levels. One of the apparent and unfortunate side-effects of the social media/relationships phenomena is a harried approach to communications and relationship building. The last line of your online colleague's email, "you're not sharing, and that's cool." is a twist of the verbal knife that's all too common in the social media space that this perfect gentleman would never have uttered over cocktails, lunch or a business gathering in which he may have met you.

I use LinkedIn for the purpose of bringing and receiving value in business relationships, typically those are relationships I've established elsewhere. In the case of when I first joined LinkedIn's business networking site and a flood of emails went out, I took the occasion and opportunity to re-establish some unfortunately neglected relationships I've made over the years. That's been a real treasure as well!

Keep up the great work. I admire your insights and prolific writing.

All the best,


Thomas

caroldeckert said...

Hi Thom,
I'm not surprised by his response. There are a lot of people on LinkedIn who are concerned ONLY with the numbers of connections they have and do not understand the importance of the quality of the connections. When I am asked to connect, I always respond and include a question that needs to be answered. 90% of the people DO NOT even answer my first question - so how can a relationship be started if no communication is available? I do actually link to everyone who requests my connection, then I "weed out" those that are only interested in the numbers. Keeping info in my Outlook Business Contact Manager allows me to keep track of those that are willing to get to know more about how we could establish some sort of business relationship.

BTW, I DO read your blog and enjoy your posts. I also have both of your books and am recommending them on a regular basis to all my contacts. In my Referrals Unlimited Network, these are the first two books on the recommended reading list!

Keep doin' what you are doin' Thom - the majority of us appreciate the information you share so freely! We are connected on LinkedIn - but on the second tier so one of these days we could possibly fix that so we are directly connected!

Thanks again for all you do!

Carol Deckert
Networking Coach
Referrals Unlimited Network
http://www.runlancaster.com

Scott Ingram said...

Thom,

This is a particularly interesting topic. As with most of these things I agree with you. I suppose that's why we're such good friends?

In any case the way I view LinkedIn is as a tool to discover relationships that I wouldn't have known about otherwise. If I can view your profile and see that you know somebody I'd like to meet I can ask you for an introduction. However, if you don't actually have a relationship with that person and you're just linked to be linked then it has NO value for me. Your introduction would not transfer any trust.

There are definately two absolutely opposed schools of thoughts about LinkedIn in exactly this context. One group says link with everybody, the more the better. The other is the camp that you and I belong to that says only connect when there's an actual relationship.

Perhaps if there were a way in LinkedIn to designate the 'quality' or 'type' of connection. If I could somehow rank a connection. 10 = best friend, 1 = this guy sent me an e-mail and wants to connect for no specific reason. This would probably add additional value in determining who would be the best person to ask for an introduction. If I want to meet someone and I look them up on LinkedIn and we have 6 mutual connections I don't know where to go. If the connections were ranked I could ask the person who has ranked their relationship with this person a 9 rather than asking the person who ranked their relationship at a 3.

Selfishly this model would make LinkedIn more valuable to me because I could use it as a tool to visually know how strong my relationships are. I could see which ones have become weak and need strengthening and which are really strong. On the negative side it would be much more time consuming, and it's likely that 90% of LinkedIn users wouldn't spend the time necessary to actually make this valuable. Not to mention the strength of relationships is flexible... Like when you and I haven't seen each other in too many weeks. Maybe we're only at an 8 now, but I'm sure after lunch next week we'll get it back up to the 9+ area once again. :)

Happy Networking!

Anonymous said...

I too recently received a LinkedIn invitation from someone I've never met and I've been struggline with how to respond. My gut tells me not to include people I don't know personally. Thanks for encouraging me to follow my instincts.

Mary Pat said...

This debate rages about LinkedIn. I think you are right, only link to people you really know. The others are "link whores" who just like to see big numbers of contacts.

This person was rude to you. The person who commented that they would not talk that way at a cocktail party is correct. I would steer clear of anyone who would send an email with that digg at you in the end.

I hope he sleeps well at night, as he is a selfish PIG. The truth comes out when you least expect it.

Thanks for your blog, it is always the highlight of my day.

Mary Pat

Jonathon Morgan said...

It's interesting that someone would be so surprised or offended, as I've always felt that was a part of LinkedIn culture. It's there to facilitate professional relationships, not create them magically from thin air.

Actually, I feel similarly about MySpace/Twitter/Facebook as well, and maybe I'm in the minority in that regard. I've just never understood the benefit of having thousands of "connections" or "friends" or whatever, that are almost completely without substance.

I'd never meet or do business with a person who was only connected with me to me, in theory, by virtue of some website.

Aruni said...

Timely post Thom. I also get invites from people I don't know and I usually respectively decline by sending a polite note or I just ignore the invite.

Only once has someone come back to me with the 'so you don't want to meet knew people' attitude. I told him I do but if someone wants to meet someone in my network I want to feel comfortable introducing them.

I totally agree with your thoughts on this. If others want to link with everyone in the world whether they have met them or not, that's fine but please don't expect me to want to do the same.

I doubt I'll be able to be one of the first 5 to do a post, but I will get to it! :-)

BTW, I've added you to my blogroll too.

Zita said...

Hi Thom,

I've enjoyed reading your posts and thought provoking ideas on your blog. As you requested, I wrote on this subject today on my blog. The title of the post is "Stinking Thinking on Stinking Linking" and you can view the post at http://zitagustin.wordpress.com/2007/09/28/stinking-thinking-on-stinking-linking/

Josh said...

I posted my comment at the URL for my name, but I really liked Scott's idea on rating LinkedIn contacts..

Darlene McDaniel said...

Hi Thom, I have post on my blog my thoughts on LinkedIn and what I am calling "Rules of Engagement"!

Here is the post:

http://www.interviewchatter.com/rules-of-engagement-for-linkedin/

Thanks for your challenge!

Darlene
Interview Guru
www.interviewchatter.com

Anonymous said...

I found this post from the JibberJobber blog. I enjoyed your rant. The guy who sent you that note is wrong. He is why I don't use social networking sites. These people think that it changes real life. The fact is he would not be invited to a party at your cousin's house cuz he walked by you on the street. Linked In is not different. Once must earn friendships

Anonymous said...

I agree - I don't want to link to a stranger either. LinkedIn provides a nice forum to connect to people with whom you have a relationship. I usually just ignore messages from strangers - at least you replied with a reason for non-acceptance!

Thom Singer said...

Thank you to everyone who has left a comment or created their own blog post. Keep your comments, blog posts and emails coming on this subject.

thom

James Seay said...

Great post! I agree with the fact that we don't give enough attention to managing our social networks. My Facebook page is, for the most part, people I really know, and have shared interactions with. This was originally my plan with MySpace as well (that plan ended very soon). LinkedIn, however, presents a different animal. In the world of business EVERY contact counts. It can link you to a very important prospect, thus improving your business.

While I can understand the need to just have people you actually know on your LinkedIn connections, I believe you are missing a wonderful opportunity to meet and connect with people that may not have been there before (-:

Alastair said...

I don't agree or understand your approach to social networking sites.

You'll link with anyone on Facebook or Myspace, but only people you know on Linkedin?

Funny, my approach is exactly the opposite. I wouldn't dream of linking with someone I hadn't met on Facebook, I have no need for virtual friends in my life.

But I'll link with anyone on Linkedin, the more the merrier. It means that my network is larger - AND it also helps out the people linking into me, it isn't a one-way street, as you suggest.

Maybe it is because I work in recruitment, but the more people who have heard of me and my business the better. Hopefully it means more business, I can't see a downside.

I won't recommend someone I haven't met, fair enough; but I want to be part of a larger network as possible.

JibberJobber Guy said...

Great post Thom - I just wrote my own around this very topic here:

http://www.jibberjobber.com/blog/archives/909

Jason Alba
CEO - JibberJobber.com
Author - I'm on LinkedIn - Now What???

Ben Yoskovitz said...

Generally, I'm quite open to accepting friends on various social networking sites including LinkedIn.

But the other day I got a request from someone. In the request, he very quickly referenced a friend of mine, as if to imply that the friend had recommended we connect.

He was using my friend's name to reach me.

But in fact he had never spoken to my friend, and it wasn't a formal invitation through LinkedIn.

So he was using my friend's name to get me to agree to connect. And that's cheap.

I connected. I checked with my friend after (and that's when I figured out what happened.) Truthfully, I felt scammed. And a bit dirty.

So I'll be much more cautious in the future of people connecting that I don't know (at least on LinkedIn.)

Steve Harvey said...

When I first jumped into LinkedIn, I was much more open in establishing connections. Now, for the past few years, I've become much more conservative in accepting a request to link (and I've been paring down my connections count over time).

When I was into quantity, I remember the "no, thanks, not right now, I only connect with people I have a real relationship with" response I got from somebody I respect (then and still do). At first, I was a bit put off by the response (after all, gee, I'm a great guy, right?), but upon reflection, I could certainly appreciate the perspective and approach.

Every once in a while I will still accept an invitation to connect from somebody who is proactively trying to expand their relationships in a quality way (even though we haven't met in person yet). But, for most of the random invitations, I simply put them in the "decide later" bucket.

That may be chicken of me to do, and perhaps I should proactively tell each one of them why I am not accepting their invitation, but it does reflect a time constraint reality. If I send those "not now" replies, then I'll surely get sucked into some vortex of "but, why" dialog (and I struggle just trying to "keep up" with people I know).

Jeff Weidner said...

I love Linkedin. I use it every day. Currently, I'm creating some new groups and finding new ones to join. I've met a lot of great business contacts and as my network grows I'm finding more useful. I'm an open networker and happen to own a staffing company but my network and community on LI has extended far beyond my current staffing business. I also do some real estate investing and my LI network helped me locate a good real estate broker in the area I was looking. It also helped me find a reputable SEO company. I'm sure there are a ton of everyday uses that one could reach out to their network and get some help.

Jeff Weidner
Yes I'm an open networker

jeffweidnerlinkedin@gmail.com

Jeff Fekete said...

Interesting, intelligent, and still applicable observations nearly 4 years later on LinkedIn protocols and etiquette.

I enjoy this platform but use it very carefully for some if not all of reasons the original author posted. As a media account executive (read: advertising salesperson), I am intrigued by some of the LinkedIn invites I receive.

Many come from former coworkers that are now direct or indirect competitors. Some come from advertising agents that either prefer this mode of networking or may be shopping for new clients and contacts knowing that salespeople make lots of connections. Maybe it's just me but somehow I don't put a lot of stock in a 3rd level LinkedIn connection and have never used the "get introduced by" function.

In a challenged economy, wome connection requests come to me from displaced or laid off former coworkers, clients, or colleagues that understandably want to keep up with job leads or potential references. A couple of these contacts are connected with me and I look forward to their status updates especially when they have good news.

Other invites come from people that haven't always been very consistent about connecting in more personal or traditional ways. This could be because they are simply busy. It could also be they avoid anyone with a sales function or title until they feel that they need them. I often find myself asking when receiving such an invite if it's me or my contact list that prompts a contact to say out of the blue "I'd like you to join...". I wonder even more when I accept and receive no acknowledgement beyond an auto respond.

This is why I try to place my own LinkedIn requests in some kind of context... a follow up or prelude to a personal call, a related connection within a company I'm doing business or considering doing business with, etc. Still, after several years on LinkedIn, I can't help but think that this business/social platform needs a lot of work and improvement. Rarely do I ever use it for routine or recurring communication as some might use Facebook for example. I guess I missed the LinkedIn seminar.

Most of my LinkedIn connections remain people who in one way or other are selling a product or service. Whether or not they perceive themselves this way isn't really important... it's just that I find myself willingly connected to a list of peers, competitors, and industry insiders along with a few family and social friends.

I do like that LinkedIn asks users to post what business activities they are interested in. I like that I can purchase a LinkedIn ad and will say that can be worthwhile depending on your objectives.

Most of all, I would like to let any current or future LinkedIn contact to know that I'm pretty easy to reach directly. As a long time advertising professional, a published author, and registered LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter guy, I yielded much of my privacy along with the rest of the web generation. I might not even mind it if we browsed each other's virtual rolodex...as long as I knew I the connection was forged by "what" I knew as much as "who" I knew.

So visit my LinkedIn profile
or better yet just Google me, email me, or call if you really want to connect! If you do, we probably are already in each other's professional network which may beg the question... why would we be "LinkedIn" unless we just fell out of touch and wanted to make the genuine effort to reestablish contact?

http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=19695366&trk=tab_pro

Juliemarg said...

I think being a semi-open connector is beneficial to me and to people I connect with. I may not know the person today, but if we're in the same market area, I might need their services in the future. With a LinkedIn connection, I might occasionally see their updates and find out that we share a point of view or have something in common that could provide the basis of a relationship. But, most importantly, I can see their recommendations and they can see mine. I get job leads and RFPs every week from people who have been inspired to connect by things they've read about me online.

What I do find to be really weird is connections who want me to recommend them. I write a lot of recommendations, but only ones that are 110% sincere. Asking a stranger to provide a work reference is bizarre.

Thom Singer said...

I wrote this blog post nearly four years ago. During that time I have given over 200 professional presentations on business relationships, networking, branding, and social media. I stand by much of this, as my "Coffee, Meal or Beer Rule" has become a popular topic.

I still find myself arguing this point with people who want to turn LinkedIn into some giant phone book. A phone book has contact info of people you do not know. Claiming that you should get as many links as you can brings little value, as a link to a stranger is similar to having their phone number. So what?

I do have exceptions, as I have developed relationships with people in non-face-to-face ways, and thus it seems like we have sat down and had a live conversation... but we have not. I do link to those people. I also link to all head-hunters / recruiters... as I might be able to connect them to someone to place in a job, and thus that connection could bring value to my contacts.

I have taken this rule over to Facebook too (I like in the original article how I reference "MySpace"...ah how fast things change.... when is the last time you were logged onto MySpace?).

I have had many people adopt the "Coffee, Meal or Beer Rule" for themselves over the years, as when you get too many strangers in your LinkedIn and FB pools, the noise of crap gets overwhelming.

If you agree, or disagree (I do not call you names for having a different social media policy.... but I have been called all sorts of things including "wrong, a dick, out of touch, old school, a fake, someone who does not get it, etc...") .... please leave a comment and lets keep this discussion going.

thom singer
June 2011

Allison Graham said...

Hi Thom,
The way he responded was very self-serving. I think good-on-you for having policies and I completely understand your perspective. What I have found, also as a networking speaker/trainer is that the requests are numerous. When it comes to those who I have met for a coffee/meal/drink, just because I've shared a meal, doesn't necessarily mean I am willing to recommend them and would consider them a valuable member of my inner network. So: I have decided that, although Linked In SHOULD be a fairly high-end closed network, that as long as the request comes from someone who I recognize and I don't have any major objections to their character, then I will accept. My "real" network - the people who I have the strongest relationships with, I manage/keep in touch with offline - those are the people in my blackberry.