In the last two days I have had discussions about how to use Linkedin. When I say use I mean the etiquette of connections, why you connect and how you should behave once you have. You always assume everyone is in it for the same reason, but that is not necessarily true as I have found out.
Let me start by summarising my contacts:
Category A: People I know very well either personally or via work, or have worked with over the years pretty closely. Linkedin for me in those cases is a good contact directory as inevitably you lose people's details over time.
Category B: People I have known, perhaps through work for a short period of time, but none the less they are people I could stop and have a chat with.
Category C: People I have met in a meeting, maybe just the once, but we met. I notice the US visitors have Linkedin before they have left the office many times!
Category D: People I have not met but have heard of along the way and so at least know someone they know and or their company, many times you know what they want before they ask it.
Category E: Randoms.
Of the 1141 contacts I have, I would say about 20-30% are in this camp. It is this category that recently caused some offence with a sensitive sales guy called Lee oh and Joanna and a couple of others. Lee felt that he should comment on his incredulity about the fact that people accept invitations on Linkedin and then don't respond to emails he sends to that contact. Well a debate started along two lines.
The first was whether you should agree to a connection if you had no real ambition to do business with that person, the second was it was rude not to reply to someone who had written to you. I think the third will soon become how you see Linkedin vs say Facebook and Twitter, but for today I am going to leave that one.
Here was my view that I expressed to their disappointment. I accept Linkedin invitations to almost anyone because I have nothing to hide or keep private like say on Facebook, so as far as I can see, more the merrier, in fact more fool them as they will have to suffer my Twitter updates! In fact the most useful thing about Linkedin is the ability to track people down you don't know and find out more. It could be an interview, a meeting, a new business pitch, whatever, if they are in your network you can see their details. Therefore the bigger the network, the more likelihood of being about to track them down. Apparently that is seen as being a little negative and cynical, I was surprised to discover this as I assumed everyone did it! Any thoughts?
As for the second debate about contact etiquette the general theme was that you should respond to every in bound email. Well on this I thought that yes in theory you should respond to every email out of politeness but then again, if it is a mass email with limited targeting and thought then absolutely no chance. There are other categories of in bound though that wont get a response. They normally start with 'I just had a meeting with someone senior in your organisation (add in whoever) who I have know for years (read old school network and good old days club) and thought we should meet for a coffee. Well you know what, for better or worse I don't reply to the name dropping approach. Cant stand it. The other blank is anyone who starts with 'I would like to take you for lunch this Friday type thing' No. I don't know you and just because I accepted your Linkedin invite does not mean we can start dating. Too pushy.
So you see there are many reasons for not replying, often the least of them is just straight too busy. It happens to all of us all of the time, people don't return calls, don't turn up for meetings and all that, so Lee in my opinion was being a little sensitive and had us all believing that he sends his 1000 copy and paste emails and then waits with bated breath for a reply. You wrote three lines and copied and pasted a couple of times and then pressed a button. Forgive me if I don't send a carrier pigeon laden with chocolates explaining that I am unable to enter into business with you. You can always remove me - I will never know!
Communication on Linkedin is the same as everywhere. Make it personalised, well thought out, relevant and well written. Even better find another way to contact me that shows you have put the slightest extra effort into the process if you are really serious. And just for clarity I am still talking Cat E types, the rest I am fine with.
What does everyone else think? Am I being too black and white? Make sure everyone of you replies or I will cry like a baby and post how upset I am that you follow my blog and don't comment!
Follow Marco Bertozzi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/m_bertozzi