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LinkedIn: To Connect, Or Not to Connect

“I just wanted to let you know that I am no longer associated with Bob. How do I let everyone know that I don’t endorse him? AT ALL.”

I worked at a chamber of commerce for seven and a half years. About twice a year, I’d get to have this conversation with a member after they’d brought a new acquaintance to a Chamber event. They thought they were doing the right thing – bringing in a new businessperson, introducing them to their friends and colleagues, helping someone new to the community get their foot into the business community door. The problem is that skeezy people are slick and you don’t necessarily know about the skeeze factor right away.

Once you’ve introduced them, though, you can’t erase that link in the minds of those who were introduced. If one of your acquaintances is ripped off by this person it is your reputation that may suffer.

Translate this to LinkedIn, the social version of a chamber of commerce. I’ve recently heard that some experts (Gah! Experts!) are recommending that people accept all connection invitations because it increases your possible reach. And to send invitations to everyone which whom you’ve made a passing acquaintance. My mind went immediately to Mr. Skeeze.

Not only do I think you should follow this advice cautiously, I’d point out that this is the exact opposite of what LinkedIn suggests. Here’s what they say to newcomers (bold is mine, for emphasis):

Ensure your connections represent your “real-world” network.

Use webmail import to see, in seconds, all the people you know who are already on LinkedIn. You can then select who you wish to invite to join your trusted network.

On my personal LinkedIn account there are dozens of people that I know but don’t attempt to connect to. Mostly because, while I know them, I don’t feel that we’ve worked together enough for them to endorse me as a professional. I have friends on Facebook who I would not choose to connect to on LinkedIn because I like them as people but would never do business with them. The reverse is true; I have LinkedIn connections with whom I would never be a Facebook friends.

Life is life. Business is business. Common sense is common sense.

If you are interested in expanding your reach in LinkedIn, do it exactly as you would with the chamber of commerce: find groups that interest you and participate. Offer advice. Ask and answer questions. Post articles that you’ve written or share articles from others in your industry. BE THERE.

As with all social media – and life, really – people want to be heard and they’ll respect the people that listen. Respect turns, eventually, into business. That is how you achieve reach.

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Note: As an individual, there are no rules on how to use social media correctly. As long as you are being authentic to yourself, there’s no such thing as “wrong.” There are some ways you can keep yourself safe from the dangers of the world – stalkers, bosses, gossips, thieves, etc. But social media is just a tool for them; they’ll still exist without digital tools and will prey on people that don’t choose to protect themselves.

Anyone who tells and individual that they’re doing social wrong? They’re doing it wrong.