If you would asked me a year ago I would have said that I only connect with people on LinkedIn that I have met or had a conversation with and I ignore everyone else. However, I’ve now changed my mind. I look at connectioWhen to say no on LinkedInns on LinkedIn very similarly to the way I look at in person networking.

If you walked into a business card exchange or chamber meeting would you spend your entire time with only people that you already know and ignore all the new faces in the room? Of course not, that isn’t productive networking.

However, at the same time, if you walk into that networking meeting and you briskly work the room quickly passing out business cards to everyone and never taking the time to get to know anyone or engage with them…the networking meeting was pointless as well.

So I now fall smack dab in between connecting with everybody and connecting with people that I know.

You have three choices when a stranger sends you a connection request, but first you have to determine if this person was at the networking meeting would you invest time to talk with them:

1. If you would like to talk with them, accept their connection and send the a brief note:

XXX, Thank you for connecting with me on LinkedIn. Typically I like to speak with my new connections so we can explore ways we might be able to help each other out. Let me know some times next week that work best for a phone call.

2. If you aren’t sure you want to connect with them, click the arrow next to “accept request” on their profile, choose “reply don’t connect” and send this note:

XXX, Thank you for requesting to connect with me on LinkedIn. Typically I like to speak with people before we connect so we can explore if it makes sense for us to be connected. Let me know some times next week that work best for a phone call.

***Once you talk with them you can decide if it makes sense to accept their connection request!

3. They are clearly someone that there is no connection or reason to be connected. In fact you would probably avoid them if you were at a networking event, so what do you do?Ignore them. The good news is they are not notified and don’t know that you just said NO to their LinkedIn request to connect.

Networking on LinkedIn is just like networking in person. We have to engage and build relationships in order for it to be effective. Get to know your connections, grow relationships and ultimately grow your business.