LinkedIn has been reporting usage and engagement increases since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.  With more and more people moving their networking, prospecting, and business development to online platforms, LinkedIn is the smart choice.

As someone who is using the platform every day, I can attest to increased usage and engagement, for better or worse.

Now that there are more people on the platform, I really like that there is so much more content to engage with and people with whom to network.  But on the downside, so many people are trying to use LinkedIn as an online ‘easy button’ for sales.  

I’ve noticed several different “personas” that have emerged when it comes to people attempting to connect with me.  Now, for those that think I’m being a bit harsh, I want to remind you of something.  When you’re asking to connect with someone, you’re actually asking permission to access their network.  I don’t know about you, but I want my network to value me and my contribution to their network.  We should all remember that we’re the gatekeepers of our network and should be discerning of who we allow in.

So, let’s look at a few of the personas I’ve seen emerge over the last few months and their potential pitfalls in leveraging LinkedIn for business development.  At the end, we’ll list a few simple steps you can take to ensure you’re building a quality network you can have pride in!

The Mud Slinger

Have you ever heard the saying ‘If you throw enough mud against the wall, some of it is bound to stick’?  This person doesn’t even send an actual connection request.  They send an all-out pitch of their product and/or service in hopes that if they do that a few hundred times in a week, SOMEONE will reply positively!  Kudos to them for sending a note, but it’s like junk mail.  The note is all about them; it’s selfish and reeks of a salesy pitch! 

The pitfall here is that people are sick of being SOLD AT and PITCHED AT. The number one complaint I hear about LinkedIn is that it’s full of people doing this exact thing. If you’re tempted to do this, I want you to put this mental picture in your head:  Think of yourself at a real, live, in-person networking event pre-COIVD 19.  You walk up to someone, and before they can even shake your hand, you’re pitching your product/service.  How do you think that would go over? That’s exactly what you’re doing. For the love of all things LinkedIn, please stop!

The Politician

Ah, you have to love politicians. They’ll say whatever they think you want to hear in order to get your vote. A “Politician” on LinkedIn will say some nice platitudes, complimenting you to con their way into your network.  Many times, these are automated so they can be combined with the next persona.  The politician’s note will sound personalized — they’ll complement your profile, your company, or your content.  But here’s the thing: if you ask them what about your profile or company was so amazing, they won’t reply. If they say it’s your content, you’ll notice they never engaged with any of it. This, for me, poses a credibility problem.  If you’re not authentic and truthful with me about something as small as a connection request on LinkedIn, how can I trust you in a business setting? Here’s the kicker: often, these people are in the financial services industry. So, if you’re going to play fast and loose with the truth here, how can I trust you with my money???  People are longing for authentic business relationships, not those built on the shifting sands of false compliments. 

The Automaton

A growing number of automated tools have come on the market to increase your network, provide leads, and even post engagement.  These tools send out automated connection requests with pre-programmed follow-up messages.  If your goal is to build a quality network based on trust and authenticity, I don’t see how this achieves those goals.  Also, keep in mind that many of these tools and programs violate the user agreement that LinkedIn has in place.  You can read up on this HERE.

The Collector

You almost can’t blame these folks because LinkedIn actually makes this possible.  These are people who stroll through LinkedIn and click those little ‘Connect’ buttons and never add a note telling us why they want to connect.  I call them collectors because when I reach out to them (I send a note to everyone who sends an invitation with no note asking them what triggered the connection request), I fail to receive a reply from most of them.  They don’t seem to have a rhyme or reason for why they want to connect, or they’re just trying to build a large ‘following.’ An SSL co-worker of mine calls these people “baseball-card collectors,” which is a very apt way of describing this group.

I often discover that people are collecting connections because they don’t have a connection strategy. They fail to know who their ideal prospect and/or networking partner is.

The Networker

These people know why they’re on LinkedIn and the goals they want from their profile and activity. They then ask to connect with those targets in mind.  A Networker is the ideal connection persona to use when utilizing LinkedIn for business development.  Unlike the Mudslinger, the Networker doesn’t pitch on a connection request OR on follow up messages.  The Networker understands that providing value and insight is the best way to create raised hands and earn the right for a sales conversation when the time is right.

The Networker always wants to be their authentic self. They don’t want to create a ‘bait and switch’ scenario or, worse yet, get caught being false or lying in their interaction with a potential networking partner or prospect.

The Networker uses very little to no automation because, as stated above, they want to be seen as authentic. They want to ensure that their voice is being read in every message and communication they make.

One major way they do this is by sending a personalized connection request that will provide a number of important benefits:

  • Context as to why they want to connect – this takes effort (it’s called networking, after all). They look at the person’s profile, engage in content, and find a reason to connect. If they can’t, they follow the person.
  • A personal note provides valuable information that they can glance back at to discover how they met the person. This is important when re-engaging with those in your network.
  • It’s the right thing to do and starts the relationship off on the right foot.  I’ve seen some LinkedIn experts and trainers say they can prove that sending a personal note has no positive bearing on acceptance rates.  That may be true, but if you’re sending a truly personal note that tells a person why you want to connect, I can never see that being a bad thing.  

So, if you’re using LinkedIn for business development and/or networking, make sure you have the right connection persona.  By having the Networker connection persona, you’ll have a quality, more authentic network that will lead to more sales conversations when the time is right.