A lot of people see a LinkedIn connection request and assume that you’re following the rules of only sending these requests to people you know. We think maybe we met you at a conference and look forward to making a connection with someone we might have missed in the rush of new acquaintances. Or we imagine that you’ve read something we wrote or encountered our name in a forum and want to connect because you share an interest.
At least, we check out your profile and you seem legit, someone working in our field or in our town whom we might know or want to know.
So we agree to connect, and you quickly send a message. Intrigued, we open it up and find something like this:
Thank you for connecting with me. Let me tell you a little more about what I do. I would love to have a few minutes of your time to learn more about what it is that you do, or possibly how we can work together…
Followed by a quick sales pitch.
Seriously? You don’t even know what I do, and you’re trying to connect with me? You think I should give you, a total stranger, a few minutes of my time so you can sell me something?
We don’t want to talk with you. In fact, except for people who are hoping that they can sell you something, nobody to whom you’ve sent that message wants to talk with you.
You probably don’t care, because you send those messages out in large numbers and you’re quite comfortable ignoring all the people who don’t respond, because maybe somebody out there will accept your sales message. After all, there are people who respond to pleas for financial management assistance from bogus Nigerian princes, so why shouldn’t you get something out of your spamming?
Think of the long-term results. I don’t mean the result on your relationships with the people you send that note to, because if we do meet at a conference, I won’t remember your message. I looked at it just for the couple of seconds it took me to see what you were doing, and I didn’t pay enough attention for your name to make an impression.
I’m talking about the long-term results for social media. And for social media marketing.
When you respond to a LinkedIn connection with an unsolicited promotional message like this, it makes it less likely that we’ll accept the next connection request, and makes LinkedIn less valuable.
Once a LinkedIn user learns that most of the groups are filled with blatant self-promotion and that connection requests are often a front for a sales pitch, that user will no longer participate. That means that you lose audience members — people who might actually need your services, and who might be willing to make a connection and talk with you more about the stuff you’re hawking because they actually want it.
You’ve basically been given a nice clean shop window to put your goods in, and instead, you’re mooching around street corners trying to sell knock-off watches hidden under your coat.
Is that good business?
Put your wares in the shop window in the form of useful curated content, original articles that demonstrate your expertise, and real connections that lead to endorsements. Participate actively and be a good citizen of LinkedIn.
You’ll find that’s more effective.