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Why You Should Connect With Strangers on LinkedIn

I know what you're thinking: connecting with strangers goes against the rules! Maybe--but that doesn't mean it isn't useful.
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"Give me one good reason you should not connect with strangers on LinkedIn."

My tweet set off a volley of responses with the general sentiment being it's a practice to be avoided. The folks who engaged with me (all of whom I don't know) gave these reasons:

  • Your LinkedIn mailbox will get loaded up with spam.
  • Connecting with someone implies you approve of or endorse the person.
  • Accepting random LinkedIn requests diminishes the value of the sum of your LinkedIn connections.

Maybe, but these things are true on Twitter, as well. Twitter's direct messaging has become nothing but a trough filled with phishing messages. If you checked my list of followers there and found a bunch of foul-mouthed wackos, it would reflect poorly on me, right? And unless you use Lists, if you follow a lot of people on Twitter it lessens the chance that you'll see tweets from folks you really want to hear from.

My Experiment

I got thinking about the subject because I recently invited all my Google contacts to connect with me on LinkedIn. While I did get a ton of new connections--going from around 800 of them to more than 1,500--it was a pain in some ways, particularly the zillion notifications plus every 20th person emailing to ask me to remind him or her how we met.

I found the queries puzzling and I wondered why these people were hesitant to connect with me. I'm a good person to know, aren't I? At the very least, how is connecting with me going to harm them?

So I decided to ask the Twitterverse, "Is someone you emailed once three years ago who doesn't remember you a stranger?"

Yes, they agreed.

Fine, but LinkedIn itself offered to let me spam all my Google contacts, in spite of the fact that the professional network is decidedly against its users connecting with strangers. It even threatens that if someone you invite to connect rats you out and says they don't know you "you'll be asked to enter an email address with each future invitation."

I just don't buy the popular notion that a person's network on LinkedIn is some kind of sacred thing that needs to be protected. For one thing, its users are business professionals so you're generally not going to see the kinds of nut jobs--Justin Bieber fanatics and the like--that you will on Twitter.

And since when is connecting with fewer people a good thing? Success in business and life often comes as a result of who you know, or at least who you can get access to.

In my line of work I sometimes need to talk with someone in a company but it might be locked up pretty tight with nary a Twitter account you can mention to get its attention nor an easily accessible PR contact.

Thanks to my recent shenanigans I now can search my connections according to company so if I needed to reach someone within the organization I may have a place to start.

As for why I had this conversation on Twitter instead of LinkedIn, there is at least one difference that remains between the two platforms. On Twitter my question was answered by a bunch of people almost instantly. After several hours on LinkedIn my lonely query got almost no action, receiving only one thumbs up from a New York entrepreneur I once interviewed.

Disagree with my thoughts on LinkedIn invitations? I'd love to read your comments.

(Thanks @jimmylin1 @daveclarkeIV @cindylchin @stormsister @adrienneolson for chiming in!)

IMAGE: sylvain kalache/Flickr
Last updated: Nov 14, 2013




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