Quite often I get LinkedIn invitations from people I don’t know personally, and I used to be very stingy with my acceptances.
Everyone uses LinkedIn in different ways, and I like how there are no hard and fast rules about that (even though LinkedIn does advise that you connect only with people you know).
My philosophy a few years ago was that I wanted to link only with people I could recommend without hesitation if one of my contacts needed a referral. For me, that meant that I should know the individual personally and be able to vouch for their work.
At the very least, I should be able to pick them out of a line up.
So when complete strangers would invite me to link with them, especially if they didn’t include some kind of personal note introducing themselves (big no-no, read my last post on this), I would typically ignore the invitation.
Since Smart Networking was published two years ago, though, I’ve softened my stance. Because the book is international and I’ve been regularly interviewed in the media and spoken for audiences all around the world, more people know about me and seek me out. So I’ve been more open to forging new connections through LinkedIn, rather than just reconnecting with those I already know.
But then a sticky situation arises. Before you can send the invitation, you must indicate how you know the person.
Let’s say you’d like to connect with Steve, someone you met at a networking event and would like to stay in touch with online. As part of the invitation process, LinkedIn asks you to indicate how you know Steve. Here are your choices:
So now what do you do?
If you choose “Colleague” LinkedIn will ask you to indicate at which company in your profile you and Steve worked together. Hm, this doesn’t apply…
If you choose ”Classmate“ LinkedIn will ask you to indicate which school in your profile you attended with Steve. Getting colder…
If you choose “We’ve done business together“ LinkedIn will ask you to indicate which company in your profile you were working at when you did business with Steve. A bit presumptuous, aren’t we?…
I’ve been having a fun debate with my friend/colleague/other Lea Marino whom I first met just a few weeks ago at the NYXpo conference where I led a seminar on Smart Networking. We learned that we have different preferences when it comes to this issue. Honestly I had never thought about it before until Lea brought it up, but I’m glad she did!
Lea prefers “friend” over “colleague” because “Every time someone uses the colleague approach,” she says, “I always make sure they don’t think I’m someone else.” Good point. Because you have to indicate which company you worked at together, it can be confusing.