I posted the following question to LinkedIn’s Social Media Marketing Canada Group discussion board: “Should you add a connection you don’t know or have never have met in person to your LinkedIn connections list?”
The short answer: Yes, it is within proper LinkedIn etiquette to add people you have not met in person to your LinkedIn connections list. But, that doesn’t mean you should accept invitations from ANYONE and EVERYONE. Beware of spammers or shameless “list builders”.
Here’s what some members of the group had to say about the topic:
“I believe in paying it forward, so I like to accept everyone. Unless you are being spammed by sales pitches, I don’t think it can ever hurt to have new connections. You never know how you can help someone and isn’t that what (LinkedIn) is all about?” – A. Weinhandl, Marketing Coordinator at the Ontario Hospital Association
“For me, LinkedIn provides a safe way to meet new people professionally. As such, I limit the amount of personal information on my profile (i.e. phone number). I can tell you that there have been countless times when I have reconnected with old friends and even received new clients (not that I expect that) out of the blue on LinkedIn.” – T. Underwood , Marketing, Social Media, Publicity, & Business Consultant
“I don’t think I’ve ever rejected an invitation on LinkedIn. It’s all business here, unlike Facebook, where I wouldn’t want strangers reading my personal information.”– T. Hignett, Business Development Professional
“I get many requests to connect with people who are complete strangers. I never accept UNLESS they have sent a personalized note explaining who they are and how they got my name. In some cases, a colleague has suggested my name. But, honestly, this rarely happens and so I simply ignore the request. Having a large network is of little value if many of those folks are weak links.” -S. Lichti, Partner, Marketing Magic
I personally believe that it’s okay to accept someone’s invitation to connect over LinkedIn even if you’ve never met in person as long as you see some professional value in connecting with them or they’ve given you reason why they are reaching out to you.
Here are some other factors to consider when building your LinkedIn network:
On one hand, there are benefits to adding connections, even if you don’t know them. The more connections you add, the larger your network is and in theory the more career and business opportunities you’ll get.
However, many people believe weak connections rarely lead to more business opportunities. Also, some believe the intent of LinkedIn is to build a network of quality contacts you feel comfortable doing business with or recommending to others. So I can see the merits of respectfully declining someone’s request to connect.