Are you making this critical LinkedIn mistake?

Every day, thousands are committing an easily avoided blunder.

Have you ever gotten a request on LinkedIn from someone you didn’t know? Do you know what’s wrong with that? Do you know it’s a mistake that thousands of people make every single day on LinkedIn?

They don’t indicate why they want to connect with you, nor do they personalize the request. Instead, they opt for the default invitation, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

I wrote about this mistake nearly two years ago, Personalize Your LinkedIn Invitations, and here we are in March 2012 and the “madness” (yes, I’m a college basketball fan) continues.

Here are some tips to think about when dealing with LinkedIn invitations:

1. Generally speaking, connect only with people you know, trust, and respect. Anyone can build a massive network of people they don’t know, and those collectors are generally “takers” rather than “givers.” Steer clear of them.

2. When you send a LinkedIn invitation, personalize it. As I mentioned in the earlier article, using the standard default message is another way of saying: “Hello. I’m lazy. This invitation isn’t important enough for me to spend the 15-20 seconds it would take to write a personal message telling you who I am, how we know each other, and why I want to connect.”

3. As a general rule, many people do (and more people should) place tremendous value on their LinkedIn network. Respect that, and don’t assume that they are going to add you to their trusted network just because you sent a LinkedIn request.

4. Most people who do this aren’t Linkedin Jerks. They simply haven’t had any training on the platform and don’t know any better, because “everyone else always sends me that standard message.” Which brings me to another point: How do you differentiate yourself on a platform such as LinkedIn? It certainly isn’t by doing what everyone else is doing.

5. If someone sends you a LinkedIn request with the default message, reply with an offer to meet for coffee to get to know each other first, or you can simply start an online dialogue. An actual message I sent recently is below:

Thanks for the invitation and for taking the time to read and comment on the material you’ve read.

I typically reserve my LinkedIn network for people that I know, trust, respect, have worked with, etc. and that is also how we train people to use LinkedIn as social media coaches. This is nothing against you personally; just the way I choose to grow and protect my network. Hope you understand.

Mic Johnson is a social media and business coach at Blue Gurus. This article first appeared on BlueGurus.com.

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