LinkedIn RequestsThere was a spirited conversation on LinkedIn recently about how users decide whether to accept a connection request or not.

The question that started the conversation was: How do you feel about receiving “I’d like to add you to my professional network” notifications?

One group of respondents said they appreciate receiving any invitations to connect, even the impersonal, automatically generated ones mentioned above, because new connections help expand their network.

Some shared that they typically accept all connection requests, but if any LinkedIn contacts start spamming them with sales messages they are quick to disconnect with them.

Another few said they dislike receiving any invitations from people they have not met in real life. They either ignore the requests or they reply to ask why the invitation was sent.

Those are some pretty interesting insights into the world of LinkedIn users, right?

It’s about personal choice and comfort level.

Reading through the conversation thread it’s clear to see there are solid opinions on the topic. LinkedIn use is a personal choice and, like any other social media platform, each user has to feel comfortable with why and how they are using the tool.

For those that are on the fence or even unclear about what to do when connection requests are received, I’ll share a few thoughts on why I personally choose to accept nearly every one – even the ones that arrive via an “I’d like to add you to my professional network” notification.

I once heard an analogy that compared ignoring LinkedIn connection requests to walking into a networking event and ignoring anyone you didn’t already know. That analogy stuck with me. It’s my personal goal to be open and accessible, and to consistently practice positive networking – accepting connection requests from people I don’t already know is one way to achieve those goals.

When a connection is made on LinkedIn, both people will start seeing info about each other’s business on their timeline. That means if you post a status update about projects you’re working on, or services available at your company, the other person has a chance to see that info. When done properly (without pushy sales tactics), this type of subtle marketing can be very effective in raising awareness of a company and your personal brand.

People can switch careers and change employers on a regular basis. While the person sending the invitation may not be a solid networking contact today, they (or you) may land someplace interesting in the future…you never know what’s ahead. LinkedIn serves as a virtual Rolodex so current contact information is always at hand.

Most of us have been through career transitions; many of us have watched friends or our own kids take the first step down their career path. During those times we’ve all hoped someone would be nice along the way. Sometimes the simple act of accepting a LinkedIn connection request can make a difference to someone just starting out. It’s free and easy good karma.

It’s time to continue the conversation; let’s hear from you. What are your thoughts about LinkedIn and receiving connection requests from people you don’t know in real life? Have you had positive or negative experiences? Do you mind receiving impersonal requests or do you prefer a personalized approach? Share your thoughts in the comment section of the online version of this column.

This article was originally published in the Bellingham Business Journal.

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