Mailbag: Accept or Ignore LinkedIn Invitations from Unknowns?

Posted by Rebekah Donaldson on 9/12/14 1:38 PM

Connecting with smart, ethical pros is rewarding. Connecting with creeps is not. Here’s how I filter requests before clicking ‘accept’ or ‘ignore’.

LinkedIn best practicesI a couple of weeks ago I got a savvy question from client Bob Mason at Academy Leaders. Bob is a USAF veteran and leadership training guru. In an email to me he wrote,

"Sometimes I receive LinkedIn connect requests from people I don't know. I've heard fairly convincing arguments that it's a good idea to accept all such requests. I've also heard fairly convincing arguments that I should ignore such requests. What are your thoughts on the subject?"

I hate to come back with the kind of "it depends" answer that consultants are notorious for, but it depends. Every request has to be put through your own filter. So I'll share what I do, and let you take what you want from it:

'Blink' assessments

I've been a Premium member of LinkedIn since at least 2007, and I think I established a profile years before that. (I’d ask LinkedIn Support how long I’ve been a member, but $50 says I’ll get the stock response they give on all tickets I open, which is, “I wish I had an answer for you but I don’t. We’ll have to escalate this to another group to investigate.” But back to the topic at hand.)

I have built up over 1,000 connections. Yes, it has brought in new business. I get a handful of invitations per month now. When I do, I first check to see if they are in my niche in my industry. If they are a Hubspot Partner, for example, they must have passed muster with Pete or his deputies at some point, so are probably reasonably trustworthy.

Red flags

If they work for an overseas data-mining company or implausibly-named investment firm, however, that’s a red flag. Too many times I have cautiously accepted those kinds of invitations, and then got spammed. Then I have to go find the link to un-connect with someone.

If I click through to somebody's profile and they have no company affiliation, or they have a company affiliation with a sketchy sounding name that doesn't sound real, I ignore the request. Occassionally, I go out of my way to report profiles. In those cases, I'd caught a whiff of phishing. Those were really, really creepy cases. (And, to LinkedIn’s credit, I think those sorts of creeps do eventually get nixed.)

You probably can make a similar "blink" assessment by looking over the requester's profile. Often you can decide simply by the person's job title and company name, and, to some extent, the sorts of connections that they have in your field. I admit that geography matters too.

So is someone an "unknown" if they have connections with lots of your connections? Yes - he's still somewhat risky. If you've been on LinkedIn for a long time and have a lot of connections, you probably don't know them all personally. A requester who is connected to people you don't know personally is as good as a stranger.

Lucky stars

Once in a while I get a request to connect from someone I’ve admired a long time. Like earlier this year, Wordstream CTO Larry Kim asked to connect. How on earth did I get on his radar? He is Cool. (Exhibit A: Data Reveals Women in Online Marketing Are Undervalued by 21%. Exhibits B-Z: See publications on LinkedIn. And besides all that, he speaks French. Or now maybe I’m the one being creepy...)

Right or wrong?

Is the way I do it right? Or wrong? Gold stars to whomever makes a good case that my approach is whacky.

- Red

Topics: Technology, Performance, Fun, Lead Generation