LinkedIn Connections and Generic Invites

LinkedIn Outdoor Banner I know many bloggers have an open connection policy, and that’s great for them, but I am generally more restrictive in who I connect with on LinkedIn. I prefer to connect with people who I could actually say something intelligent about if asked for an introduction. However, over the past few months, I’ve noticed an increase in invitations from people whose names I don’t recognize.  The majority of these invites use the generic boilerplate text (something like “I’d like to add you to my professional network”). Frankly, if you can’t be bothered to write one sentence to customize an invitation, you’re probably not a particularly beneficial connection to have.

When I get an invite from someone I don’t know, I sometimes reply with a message similar to the one below. I’m borrowing heavily from Scott Allen’s example in How to Politely Decline a LinkedIn Invitation, so give him all the credit for the idea and most of the actual text:

Thanks for inviting me to connect on LinkedIn. I would love to start a dialog, get to know each other, and find out how we might be of service to each other. Feel free to send me a message here through LinkedIn.

However, I do use LinkedIn as they recommend; I only accept invitations from people I know well professionally, and in most cases have actually worked with on some kind of project. I’m looking for conversations before connections. Generally, I interact with someone for several months before accepting or sending an invitation.

If you’re truly interested in a relationship and not just a link, I look forward to hearing from you.


Christy Tucker

My experience is similar to Scott’s; maybe 5% of people actually reply to a response like this.  As he aptly observes, “Makes me wonder how much value there could possibly have been in that link in the first place if they aren’t even willing to start a dialog and get to know anything about each other.”

I generally accept invites from people whose names I recognize from Twitter, #lrnchat, blogs, etc., even sometimes when boilerplate text is used. But if it’s a generic invite, you’re relying on my memory to immediately place the name, and I probably don’t always make the connection between a real name and a Twitter name. So please, if you’re going to send me an invite, please take the time to customize the message and remind me how I know you. And if I don’t know you, please start with a blog comment or some other communication rather than using the LinkedIn invite as the first contact. It’s not that I won’t connect with you ever, just that I’d like a conversation before an invitation.

What about you? Do you accept invitations from anyone, or do you filter them? Am I the only one with a pet peeve about generic invites, or do you find them irritating too?

Image Credit: LinkedIn Outdoor Banner (2007-0032 0002) by tychay

22 thoughts on “LinkedIn Connections and Generic Invites

  1. Hey Christ! Great post, though a bit dated now 🙂 Re: “I generally accept invites from people whose names I recognize from Twitter, #lrnchat, blogs, etc., even sometimes when boilerplate text is used.” –> that’s something called the “Mere-Exposure Effect” and it’s so powerful. Something we see time and time again at my company (Botdogw): two users will send an invitation to the same list of people, one will get 70% acceptance, the other 10%. Doesn’t have to be massive influencers, just through repeated exposition to the name.

    1. It’s interesting, because my approach has radically shifted in the 13 years since I originally wrote this post. At the time, I did what I said here: I kept my network small and focused on individual conversations.

      Now, LinkedIn is so much more about sharing content and expertise rather than necessarily connections with people you’ve worked with. I set my account as a content creator, so the default interaction is to “Follow” rather than “Connect.” I do get a lot of invites still, but I have many more followers than direct connections. Because I’m using it as a platform for sharing content, my goals are very different, and it’s beneficial to have more connections and followers. I probably had around 250 connections at the time I wrote this original post. Now I have almost 6k connections and 16k followers! It’s a shift from one-to-one conversations to one-to-many communication.

      I suspect the “mere exposure” effect benefits me now because of that one-to-many communication. People see me in their LinkedIn feed, and they recognize my name. They’re more likely to trust my content. I could certainly lose that trust if I posted poor quality content, but familiarity is certainly a factor.

      1. I totally relate, LinkedIn changed so much in those 13 years! Same as Facebook/Instagram etc. overtime. I used to have only friends on Instagram and share only private content. Not anymore. I totally agree with “It’s a shift from one-to-one conversations to one-to-many communication.” Congrats for the connection growth! I’ll follow you!

        1. I think there’s a place for the private social media too. Facebook is still mostly a personal space for me, although I am connected to a handful of L&D folks as well. I’m not using Instagram much, but I think I’d need a fully separate account if I wanted to share L&D content there. I think it’s OK to have some separation between personal and business too.

  2. Hello Christy! What would be some good groups to join to learn more about instructional design? I’m pretty new to the field (and to LinkedIn – and so far I find very lame but maybe that’s because I don’t know how to use it properly!)

    1. LinkedIn groups have gone downhill in the last two years. Many are filled with spam and very little discussion.

      Two groups I recommend are the eLearning Guild and the eLearning Global Network. The eLearning Guild group is more active. You’ll get a wider range of opinions there. I moderate the eLearning Global Network. We’re very strict on requiring questions rather than just sharing links.

      You can also follow people on LinkedIn to see their updates even if you’re not connected.

  3. First – LOVE your blog. It’s helped me gain, and maintain, focus.
    2nd -The only way I can message you is to send an email, which LinkedIn restricts in quantity? Is that correct? I can make connections through comments without having to purchase more emails. Still learning; thanks for your patience.

    1. Hi Tracee!
      You have a couple of options.
      1. You can email me at the email address listed on my company website. It’s a little hard to find here on my blog, but it’s contact AT syniad learning DOT com.
      2. If we share any groups on LinkedIn, you can choose the “Reply Privately” on any of my posts or comments (unless you’ve already exceeded your 15 messages a month). That limit is separate from using LinkedIn’s InMail.
      3. I have a contact form on the About page of this blog and another one on the contact page for my company website. Those are both good places for private messages if you don’t want to leave a public comment on a post.
      4. Comments on posts like this also count for contact.

      I have become more flexible in my connection request responses in the last 6 months or so. I’ve been getting 5+ generic invites a week, and managing the personal replies has gotten overwhelming. I just don’t have time anymore. My use of LinkedIn is changing too. It’s becoming more of a platform to share content and build an audience. In that case, more connections means more people reading my content. I still send a version of this reply to people with no obvious connection to elearning to weed out the scam accounts.

  4. Hi Christy! I found your blog today and stumbled to this post. How timely! I feel very similarly regarding the generic invitations. I always personalize it with their name and a few thoughts about our connection. I have noticed though that sometimes I am not given the opportunity depending on how I am connecting (search field, through mutual connection). When that happens I always cross my fingers and hope someone answers as kindly as your example.

    1. Yes, I accidentally sent a generic invite a few months ago because I expected an option to customize but missed it. I’m not sure the mobile app gives users any option. This gives people a chance to start a conversation.

  5. I am just beginning to explore and discover the power of LinkedIn for professional connections. I have “followed” various schools and organizations for a while, but I needed to take some time to sit back and think about how to use this tool. I also wanted to watch how others used this tool to make connections with *individuals*. Your post above is one of the most well-thought out comments I have seen on out there and I really like your approach. Thanks for sharing your insight.

    1. You can also follow individuals, which means you see their personal content updates. As LinkedIn moves to more of a content hub, that has become a new way to interact. I suspect that a fair number of generic invites I receive are from people who really just want to follow my updates and don’t realize they can do so without actually connecting.

  6. Just stumbled on your blog and I find it very informative. Just wanted to add a thought about LinkedIn; their website use an algorithm to send invites to users unbeknownst to either side, FYI.

    I once received an invite and used a bit of sleuthing to track down a particular user. I discovered that we had worked for the same organization though our paths never crossed.

    I acquiesced to the request but added a question to the email inquiring as to why he was reaching out. He was surprised to see that an invitation was sent to my account as if “from him.”

    My suspicions were confirmed. A good amount of invitations sent out are done without the prior knowledge of the LinkedIn subscriber.

    1. I don’t think LinkedIn is actually sending automatic invites. However, they do make it really easy to unintentionally send invites without even realizing you’ve done so. People who upload their email contact lists (which LinkedIn encourages you to do) often accidentally send hundreds of invites. A few stray clicks on the “People You May Know” page can also send out invites. I suspect from whom you received an invite made one of those errors without even realizing he had done so. That seems much more likely than LinkedIn sending invites on its own, which would really undermine its credibility.

  7. Dear Christy,
    I very much like and am challenged by your approach. I get lazy. I forget where I have met people. I get confused. I am in some cross discipline environments (business/faith based/ learning/ iNGO/nternational development/ Spanish/English) so as long as there is a basic coherence from the profile I will accept invitations. I also unconnect if I find if anything is not as it seems.

    1. Jim, what is the value for you out of the weak connections on LinkedIn? Part of my issue is that I struggle to see any reason to connect to people who I’ve never had a conversation with. When you accept those invites, does that start a conversation, or is your only interaction via the invite?

      I use LinkedIn a lot; I consider it one of my top tools for learning. But most of the learning happens in the groups. There’s no additional benefit for me or other people for connecting directly when we’re talking in groups, at least as far as learning is concerned. If I was a recruiter, I’d have a more aggressive connecting policy, but currently it just seems like those connections would water down the quality of my existing connections.

      But you obviously do feel a benefit, or you wouldn’t be reaching out to people to make those weak connections. What do you see is the value in those invites you send?

      1. Dear Christy, The value is somewhat serendipidous. I chance upon an interesting thought or link. Like following on Twitter. I can only stand to drop in and visit but not keep it on. But in those short visits I am exposed to new things. I also realize I am in a stage of experimentation and observing myself as I learn. So I tend not to over analyze but want to see what happens.
        That being said I think you are further down the pipe in deciding what is helpful. I may yet get there.
        Thanks for your reply. If most were as willing to engage as yourself, I would try a much more focused approach.

  8. Thank you for this! I’ve been having this conundrum and so have just let many invitations from unidentified people sit in my LinkedIn inbox. Now I know how I can clean them out.

    1. This feels a little nicer than simply ignoring the invites (although I admit I’ve done some of that too). People have different standards for invites, and this gives them a chance.

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