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To Connect or Not to Connect on LinkedIn

By David Ackert on May, 30 2013

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David Ackert

Oh look, some guy fromman-looking-at-social-network-abstract Nepal wants to add you as a LinkedIn connection. You've never been to Nepal. You've never met this Nepalese gentleman. You can't even tell from his title what he does exactly. But what the heck, go ahead and add him to your 500+ connections of mostly strangers.

This sort of pointless activity is part of why social media gets a bad rap. Many still insist that social media is a waste of time, but that's like blaming the telephone for unwanted calls. It's not the platform's fault that it gets misused. In fact, with the right strategy, LinkedIn can play a valuable role as a business development tool.

The key is to understand your social media objective. Generally speaking, there are two philosophies when it comes to LinkedIn: contact targeting and open networking.

Contact targeting is when you search your network for a particular kind of person with the intention of initiating a conversation. Say you are looking for an entree to a particular GC or CEO so you can pitch some business their way, or perhaps you are interested in filling your referral pipeline with new opportunities, so you search for CPAs who work with your client profile. In order for the strategy to work, you will need to have a pretty strong relationship with the first tier person from whom you are expecting the second tier introduction. Your new Nepalese acquaintance won't cut it. You need to reserve your connections for people you know relatively well from whom you're comfortable making such a request.

Open networking is more effective when you use LinkedIn as a billboard. If you're posting a lot content into your status updates and frequently blasting marketing messages to the business community, then you may want a broader audience. And if you don't mind asking relative strangers for introductions to other strangers, then open networking is definitely for you.

So, here's today's takeaway: be thoughtful. Don't arbitrarily accept invitations if your intention is to have a meaningful resource for contact targeting. By the same token, if you want to build a vast open network, make sure it consists of the appropriate audience. If you do business with lawyers, accept them into your network. Even the ones in Nepal. At least then they might become aware of you when you post relevant content that helps them understand who you are and what you do. But don't expect anything to come from clicking "Accept" when one of them pops a connection request into your inbox. Just because you have the links doesn't mean you're LinkedIn.

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