Monday, April 11, 2011

Connecting with others - does it make sense to them?

Have you been the recipient of one of these messages?

And when you read it you wondered - hmm, haven't talked to them in awhile or, worse yet, who is this person? In the last week or so, I've received at least three messages like this each week. I'm telling you this, not because I think it shows that I'm in high demand, rather because it has become increasingly frustrating. It doesn't take long to create a LinkedIn Connection request - which may be part of the problem... we are all moving so fast, that we stick with the standard greeting because it's easy. There's certainly some value in easy these days...

At the same time, when I receive a message like that, a few things go through my mind, including - "really, they couldn't take the 5 minutes (that's being generous) to tailor this message to me?" More important than my annoyance at this point, is the question that keeps coming up as I work with MBA students and others on building relationships - "why didn't they choose to tailor this message?" My first thought goes back to the bit about being short on time, so they just hit send. Then I start to wonder if they have really thought through why they are connecting to me and how we can build a mutually beneficial relationship. The latter is non-trivial. In order to build a relationship you have to know how you can contribute, which means you need to understand yourself - your values, interests, and motivations AND you have to understand the other person. Back to the former, because we are all so busy, we sometimes forget to think about these things.

As you continue to develop your network, I encourage you to take the time to tailor your message. It's easy, here are a few basic steps:
  1. Remind them of how you know them
  2. Explain the why
  3. Focus on forward momentum
1. Remind them of how you know them: Back to an earlier point, we are all busy these days and through social media, among other things, we are meeting more and more people. We also have more than enough ways to keep track of our contacts. Give your contact a very brief reminder of how you know them - it's as simple as "it was nice meeting you last week at XYZ conference"; and will vary depending on how well you know the person.

2. Explain the "why": all LinkedIn connections are not created equal. Many of us crossover professional and personal boundaries with our LinkedIn connections, which means there are different reasons for keeping in touch. With a friend, for example, I might just be interested in keeping up with their career. In the case of a classmate, I may look to them as a potential collaborator on a future project and want to use LinkedIn as a way to stay in touch. The reasons to connect are many, but the underlying premise of building mutually beneficial relationships should not be lost.

3. Focus on Forward Momentum: Some people look at LinkedIn as a passive environment, where they collect contacts and reach out when they are in need. Others monitor their network regularly to see how they can be helpful to their network and/or who might be in a position to help them. In your connection request, it's always a good idea to 'generate forward momentum", a phrase I first heard from Jodi Glickman, while presenting to the Kelley Class of 2011. Give your recipient a reason to accept your request AND reach out to you. You never know when that request will turn into a client, job offer, or exciting project opportunity.

Here are a few examples to get you started:
A new acquaintance

It was so nice to meet you at Jill's party. I enjoyed our conversation about your most recent article and would love to stay in touch through LinkedIn. In fact, I just tested the process you described in your article, and hoped we could find some time to discuss my experience with it. Best,

A former colleague

It's so nice to see you on LinkedIn. I've thought of you often since leaving Acme Corporation. How is Beta Corporation (their current employer) treating you? I'd love to hear more about what's happening with you, Cindy, and the girls (they must be close to college age now).

As you can see, personalized doesn't mean long and drawn out - a short and sweet message can go a long way. Tailoring your message shows your contact that it's about them, more than it's about you. Take a few minutes to personalize your outreach messages and see if you create a more active relationship...


  1. You don't remember how you know Daffy Duck?! LOL! As you well know, I completely and wholeheartedly agree with this.

  2. I know, it's amazing that I can't remember a name like Daffy Duck... Thanks for the comment!

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