Should You Send “Blind” LinkedIn Invitations To Connect?

Maybe not. Let me see if I can persuade you may be heading for a brick wall.  

I define a blind invitation as one that comes in out of the blue. The recipient is not aware of the inviter’s existence until the invitation to connect arrives. Sometimes the invitation to connect is personalized, but often the personalizing isn’t very imaginative, just a bland “We share ten connections so we should be connected too” type of thing.

Some aspects of the blind connection request you should take into account:

They can leave you waiting…and then what do you do?

Someone receives your invitation, reads your personalized plea to connect and goes, “meh”, and does nothing. But you don’t know that, you’re waiting for a reply.

Did they reject your invitation?

Did they just put it aside for a couple of days?

Did they turn it down?

Welcome to Limbo, population: you  

They can turn you down…with extreme prejudice

Someone you invite to connect has the option of not only declining your request, but telling LinkedIn they declined because they don’t know you. Collect enough of these “I Don’t Knows” and LinkedIn will restrict your account. Even worse, LinkedIn will not warn you if have collected any “I Don’t Knows” or how many.

Having your account restricted means having to know and provide the email address as part of any connection requests you make from now on. I had this happen to me early in my time on LinkedIn when I sent invitations to connect to customers of a company I used to work with. Apparently I remembered them a lot better than they remembered me. It took a lot of explaining with LinkedIn in order  to get my privileges restored.

LinkedIn appears to be changing the focus from a finite number of invitations to your overall invitation success rate

LinkedIn used to allow you a certain number of lifetime invitations to connect. A few years ago this number was rumored to be three thousand and in the past couple of years it was rumored to be five thousand. If you reached the invitation cap, you were cut off from inviting more people and you had to go and grovel with LinkedIn to get an extra fifty invites at a time to use.

Now it seems that “negative feedback” matters more than absolute numbers. In the LinkedIn help section, the references to a hard cap seem to have disappeared. Instead, LinkedIn says you can be “limited from inviting more members” if too many of the people that you invite to connect either ignore you or report you. So it is not just “I Don’t Knows” anymore. Even well written and personalized invitations to connect are not immune to being ignored.

Blanket acceptance of invitations is being taken advantage of

There was a “sweet spot” in late 2016 and early 2017 when a lot of people would accept connection requests pretty easily. Being rejected was something you really didn’t have to worry about. So blind invitations became a popular strategy for sales people. But the pendulum seems to have started swinging back again as too many people have used easy connection acceptance as a way to immediately bombard those new connections with sales pitches. Even more insidious, these connectors would immediately – and without permission – add those new connections to their email lists and the Spam those poor connections outside of LinkedIn too.

I think this has the potential for connection requests to be not accepted as easily as they were just a few months ago. And there are other potential problems with this as well:

  • If LinkedIn users start thinking of their connections as pests, maybe they will start ignoring messages from connections.
  • Maybe the pendulum swings too far the other way and LinkedIn members start accepting fewer and fewer connection requests.  
  • Or maybe to avoid spam, more LinkedIn members start using a “special” email address for LinkedIn. One that they never bother checking.

While these latter three may seem improbable, the idea of them happening would probably give LinkedIn a case of the cold sweats. So my guess is at some point LinkedIn will really clamp down on invite abusers.

The takeaway here? Don’t take inviting someone to connect for granted. If you are inviting ten people to connect and getting four acceptances, maybe it is time to re-think this strategy. Someone accepting your invitation shouldn’t be an open question, it should be close to a given. Keep your invitation acceptance rate up.

Be The One To Offer Value First

Once every week or two someone will contact me and the conversation goes something like this:  

Seeker: No one in my network wants to help me.

Me: How many exactly have you helped?

Seeker: Well none. No one has asked.

And there is the crux of the problem. You will be offered help from people you have offered to help.

And this leads to one thing that works on LinkedIn: providing real value to other LinkedIn users first. And for free too. Regardless of what your goals are – networking, finding a job, sales, marketing – nothing beats providing value, especially at the start of or early in a new relationship.

Because what does everyone want? More. More information to help them make better decisions. More access to the right people. More resources. That’s what it comes down to. Be the person that offers some of that information, that access. Be one of those resources.

Providing value is giving a little piece of yourself to someone else on LinkedIn that will make them better informed, give them information that they can use, or help them with a problem that they have. And at the same time, not expecting to be compensated directly for it.

When I suggest this to someone, I usually get this objection:

“We don’t give away our hard won knowledge and expertise for free. They should expect to pay for it.”

 But I didn’t suggest you give it all away…just a piece. Enough to help the other person. I often do this, sending one of my how-to’s on something like using InMail. The how-to I send will legitimately help someone with a facet of InMail such as subject lines or  calls to action. But as I teach eighteen different facets to InMail in my course on that topic, I’m not worried about giving away one of them.  

Giving away a bit of your knowledge demonstrates your expertise. And it invites the question, “Well what else can he/she do for me?”  Helping someone like this makes them think of you as an expert first and someone out to ask them for something second. It puts the focus on business and it puts the focus on them and their problems.

Some people say that what they sell or work with doesn’t lend itself to the idea of giving away little pieces of their knowledge. That’s fine. You have something else extremely powerful to offer: your LinkedIn network. You can offer access to your connections. If you have 500 connections, you have multiple people you could introduce someone to that would be valuable to them, and to your connections.

An offer to help someone, sincerely and without expectations of any direct compensation or tit for tat is something people don’t expect. But they will appreciate it. And it works.   

Outreach On LinkedIn: The Things They Don’t Want And The One Thing They Do

Pretty simple message: When you reach out to someone new on LinkedIn here are some of the things they don’t want to hear about:

  • Your company’s latest product improvements
  • Your need for a sales meeting with them
  • Your company’s new service
  • Your need to get them on the phone
  • That you are the #1 sales person or #1 anything else
  • Any other fabulously self-congratulatory achievement, even when you think you have disguised it by saying something like “I was surprised and humbled to receive the Nobel Prize for sales this week…”

All of these translate into you and what you want. Well, what about what they want? And what they really want is:

Information that helps them to make better decisions.

Give them information that will help them make better decisions with the problems they face and those other things that you want will take care of themselves.

What I Have Learned About Introductions and Referrals After Reaching Out to 2000 LinkedIn Connections

(skip the first paragraph if you have read either of my previous “2000 connections” posts)

A couple of years ago I had 1500 LinkedIn Connections. Then I started using LinkedIn Publisher and writing articles about using LinkedIn every week. And I started receiving connection invitations. Lots of them. Even accepting well less than half of them, I was adding fifty connections a week. Last year I realized that my connection network was made up of a lot of people I had connected with but didn’t know aside from reading their profiles. So I started a program of reaching out to my connections, sending individual personalized messages one at a time (I refuse to use that automated mass messaging crap) and inviting them to a 15 minute phone or Skype call to find out more about each other.  Over time I sent these messages to 2000 of my connections and wound up having several hundred conversations. Here is some of what I learned.

Almost without fail, everyone I spoke with could think of someone to introduce me to right away. I think that while people know what you do, it is not until you have a  conversation that they understand what really sets you apart. This could be because they haven’t read your profile lately (and who does?), or because  having the actual conversation prompts them to start thinking of people that you should meet.

And this gets to the heart of having these conversations: discovering the unknown paths to interesting people. Your connections are the path. The truth is you can be successful on LinkedIn without a premium account. If you have 500 connections with 500 connections each you have 250,000 second degree connections, and a lot of them are going to be people in a position to help you and that you can help in return.

Here’s an experiment for you: Go take a company you would like to be involved with, whether as a customer, supplier, or potential employer. Now look among that company’s employees for any second level connections, your two’s. Your connections are the pathway to those two’s. And if you are like a lot of LinkedIn users and you are probably saying, “yeah, but I don’t really know my connection who knows that person very well.” Well, I have one thing to say to you: that’s why you should be reaching out and having these 15 minute introductory conversations.  

And one other thing, when you get introduced by a connection to someone new  you start with the most valuable commodity of all: credibility. The connection that introduces you is in effect saying, “This person is worth ten minutes of your time. I’ll vouch for them.” That credibility is fleeting and only gets you that first few minutes, but that’s more than you would get trying email, cold calls, blind invitations to connect, InMail or even “warm” social selling outreach.

Your connections are ambassadors that can introduce you to the people that you would like to know. Shouldn’t you get to know those ambassadors?

 

Statistics For LinkedIn Articles And Posts Are Back! (Sort of…)

Last week I noticed that some of the statistics for published articles and post on LinkedIn had come back.

In addition to the total views, likes and comments, you can now see the top nine each of:

  • Which companies your viewers are from
  • The titles for viewers
  • The geographic areas your visitors are from
  • And how they found your article or post

But there are a couple of asterisks.

I am skeptical about some of the statistics. If one person comes back multiple times to comment, reply to comments, or re-read the comments thread, they appear to be counted as a “view” each time they return. I have had this happen recently on multiple articles: LinkedIn tells me that people from “XYZ company” viewed my article 17 times. It turns out XYZ company is a consultancy with one consultant.

And although this hasn’t happened to me, numerous people have reported view counts that go down instead of up. 400 views of an article as of yesterday, but only registering 380 this morning, that type of thing.

Another example can be seen in the screen cap I used for this post. The article was a general interest personal development one I shared, written by one of my connections. It had over 1600 views at that point. Now what are the odds that four of the top five companies for a general interest article would be pharma companies? Or that “Laboratory Scientist” would be the title of more viewers – by a mile – than any other?

Another oddity is in the “biggest audience” metric in the column at top right. More views from Boston than anywhere else. But how many more? I don’t know as there is no number. But LinkedIn will show me how many came from the second through ninth geographic areas. I wonder if LinkedIn was in a hurry when they decided to reinstate these stats?

And there are still no statistics on who shared your post – oddly the number of times your post or article was shared shows on the post itself, but is omitted from the statistics.

Question: If sharing isn’t that important, why does LinkedIn make a big deal of it in their social selling index? Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time LinkedIn has sent mixed signals.

So…good to see statistics back, but like many aspects of the new User Interface, still a few bugs to be ironed out, and a bit of work required on that whole sharing thing.

I Reached Out To 2000 Of My LinkedIn Connections: I Now Have An “A” Network And A “B” Network.

Last year I realized that my connection network was made up of a lot of people I had connected with but didn’t know aside from reading their profiles. So I started a program of reaching out to my connections, sending individual personalized messages one at a time (I refuse to use that automated mass messaging crap) and inviting them to a 15 minute phone or Skype call to find out more about each other.  Over time I sent these messages to 2000 of my connections and wound up having several hundred conversations.

The result is I now have an “A” network and a “B” network.

Over half the people I asked for introductory phone or Skype conversations never responded. But it’s not just in this instance: I have sent messages to connections telling them I wanted to refer business to them and got no response. Which also raises the interesting question: If you don’t wish to interact with your connections, why are you connected with them in the first place? 

So I now have an “A” network – the connections I have spoken with and that I understand better based on the conversations I had with them – and a “B” network, those connections I have never had a real person to person conversation with. For example, I have dozens of connections that design websites. Four or five of them I have had conversations with. Now I really understand them better, what their specialties are, and who makes a good fit for them. I trade messages with them, they are a resource in their specialties when I need them. And guess who gets referrals?  I subconsciously “work” on behalf of my “A” network. Don’t get me wrong, I value my “B” network. But it is my “B” network. Maybe they will become “A’s” one day.  

Connecting with someone should be the start of a professional relationship, but for many LinkedIn members it seems to be the end.  

 

For Better LinkedIn InMail Results Embrace Your Inner Mad Scientist

Many InMail users get stuck in a rut. Their response rate is stuck at three percent or six percent or sixteen percent, but it’s stuck at that number.  So I will ask them what they have tried doing differently. And invariably I get the response, “huh? What do you mean?”

That is because they don’t do anything differently. They send out the same message over and over. They think they have arrived at some ceiling response rate and this is as good as it’s ever going to get.  They don’t think about why their response rate is what it is.

They should be experimenting.  

They should take each sentence and look at it both on it’s own and in its fit with the rest of the message. They should ask “what is this sentence accomplishing?”

Is it too fat?  Too many words? For example: “In essence the core of your problem is not enough money for new initiatives” can become “Your problem is not enough money for new initiatives” or even “You need more money for new initiatives.” A more direct statement in half the words.

Or a sentence may be too thin, lack backup, read awkwardly, or not fit with the rest of the message.  

I found in one message that it made a difference if I referred to the recipient by name at the start of a sentence versus the end of the sentence.

The call to action may be too weak, or conversely, too unrealistic given the message.

And results should be tracked. Nothing is worse than going, “we did well back in January.  Now, which message was that?”

I have five core building blocks  in my InMail programs and one of them is constant experimentation.

So shake things up a little. You might be surprised.   

 

I Reached Out To 2000 Of My LinkedIn Connections: Here’s What I Learned About Networking

Background

A couple of years ago I had 1500 LinkedIn Connections. Then I started using LinkedIn Publisher and writing articles about using LinkedIn every week. And I started receiving connection invitations. Lots of them. Even accepting well less than half of them, I was adding fifty connections a week. Last year I realized that my connection network was made up of a lot of people I had connected with but didn’t know aside from reading their profiles. So I started a program of reaching out to my connections, sending individual personalized messages one at a time (I refuse to use that automated mass messaging crap) and inviting them to a 15 minute phone or Skype call to find out more about each other.  Over time I sent these messages to 2000 of my connections and wound up having several hundred conversations. Here is some of what I learned.

Networking is undervalued, under practiced and misunderstood

Most LinkedIn members these days seem to have at least five hundred  connections, but never seem to do anything with them once they are connected.  Their networks are more like collections of people than a network of connections. The calls I made and the conversations I had allowed me to get to know these connections better. And that information was what I needed in order to be able to properly recognize opportunities to introduce them to other people in my network. A LinkedIn profile can only tell you so much. When you talk to someone, you can really find what makes them tick and where their real interests are.

Networking sets you apart

LinkedIn is a networking tool, but almost no one networks on LinkedIn. I had people that were kind of boggled that I was doing this. I had people with fifteen hundred or two thousand connections saying “No one has ever asked me to talk with them. Everyone just wants to send messages.”

You need a plan, you can’t just call people for no reason

I am really confident that if someone comes to me and starts to say, “Bruce, do you know someone who can…?” that I will have some good people that I can refer them to. People that aren’t just profiles and a photo but someone I have talked to.

And in return, I think many of them know enough about my specialties that they could recognize opportunities and point people in my direction.

I didn’t do this whole exercise to pitch people. Most of my clients come to me to learn how to use Sales Navigator more effectively. Most of my connections don’t have Sales Navigator and are not prospects for my business. However, each of those connections might know one hundred people who do have Sales Navigator.  

This is the power of networking. I don’t look at my connections as possible prospects, I look at them as possible sales channels. They know hundreds of people that I don’t, and they are in a position to recommend or introduce me to those people. And I am in a position to do the same for them.

There are no guarantees, and you have to be okay with that

Networking is a transaction where nothing may result. Or nothing may result for a long time. And the two people on both sides of this transaction have to be okay with that. No promises. I usually wind up making several introductions or referrals  on LinkedIn every week. And I tend to get several referrals and introductions through my connections every week. But there are no expectations and no guarantees and that’s fine. I trust it to work.

Was this a lot of work? Yes. Several hours every week. Big enough that I had to set aside time every week to do it. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I didn’t spend that time, I invested it.

I will have a couple articles with more about what I learned sometime on the next few weeks.

 

Some First Aid For LinkedIn Desktop User Interface Problems



There are a lot of bugs in the new desktop User Interface, and while it is fun to speculate with our tin foil hats on…

  • did Microsoft push LinkedIn to roll out the new User Interface before it was ready?
  • did LinkedIn underestimate the complexity of the new User Interface?
  • did all the good LinkedIn engineers cash out their stock options and leave the rookies to do the coding?
  • maybe it was gamma rays
  • no wait, aliens!

…the causes of all the bugs and problems with the new User Interface don’t matter. Dealing with them does. I am getting half a dozen “have you seen this?” or “is this happening to you?” messages every day.

A lot of these problems are fixable or can be worked around.  

There are three reasons you may be experiencing problems with the new LinkedIn Desktop User Interface:

LinkedIn may have changed the way something works or removed a feature

Well, there isn’t anything you can do about this except confirm that the the feature has changed or disappeared. Most (unofficial) LinkedIn trainers or consultants can usually set you straight on whether a feature is gone or drastically changed. They will often be able to show you a workaround or alternative method of accomplishing what you want.

Note that LinkedIn has also backtracked on some changes to the new User Interface and re-incorporated some features that looked like they were gone for good.

You may be experiencing what I like to call a “transient”

That’s a bug or problem with the User Interface that is affecting only you in your current session on LinkedIn. In particular, these types of bugs manifest themselves as missing information or missing features on your pages. And these happen a lot.

Solution: Log off LinkedIn. Clear your browser cache and log back in. Sometimes it is necessary to reboot your computer. I use Google Chrome and I find that once I reach 300Mb of history and assorted junk in my browser cache, anomalies start showing up on LinkedIn. I was working with a client last week and he kept getting the “it’s not you, it’s us, try again” message when he wanted to do a LinkedIn search. It turned out he had 700Mb of odds and ends in his browser cache. Cleaning the browser cache fixed the problem.

You have a problem or problems specific to your Browser

There seem to be a lot of issues with different browsers. I am not a browser or operating system expert, but it is apparent that some of the bugs and oddities users are experiencing are caused by the new LinkedIn User Interface not working not integrated perfectly with their browser.

Solution: try doing the same thing you are having a problem with but using a different browser. If you use Internet Explorer, try Chrome. If you use Safari, try Firefox.

These suggestions are workarounds, ideas to keep you functional until LinkedIn stomps all the bugs out, which may take a while.  If you have solutions that have worked for you, please include them in the comments section.

LinkedIn Notifications: Updated

I published an article on all the changes to LinkedIn Notifications four weeks ago. Two weeks after I published the article, LinkedIn made one more change…a big one. So I took down the “old” article, and have rewritten it here, adding the new information (thanks to all who read, shared, commented and liked that article).

First of all, there are two terms that need to be understood: articles and posts. An “article” is written by clicking on “Write an article” at the top of your homepage feed. This takes you to LinkedIn publisher. Articles tend to be longer form content and LinkedIn publisher has more options for formatting and presenting your content. A “post” is short form content written after clicking “Share a post, article or update” at the top of the homepage feed. As often seems to be the case with LinkedIn, this can get semantically weird. For example if you take this article of mine that you are reading and share it, my shared article becomes your post.

Here are the types of notifications you will now receive:

Birthdays

Work Anniversaries

LinkedIn parses these out piecemeal over the course of the month, as for most us, dumping all fifty or five hundred people who have an anniversary this month in one notification would be overwhelming.

Job Changes

Job Recommendations

These are the jobs you may be interested in, based on LinkedIn’s algos.

Activity on your articles

These are Likes and Comments on your article. And a word about Likes. Likes are wonky in the new format. You are given less information (just the name, headline, and a photo) than we used to receive.

In these “activity on your articles” notifications, you are also offered the link to see who’s viewed your article, which brings up the new but not improved statistics for your article.

Activity on your posts

Likes and comments on your posts. And again, you are offered the link to see who’s viewed your post which takes you to the new hokey unusable statistics.

Activity on your post comments

This includes: People who liked your comment

People who liked your reply to someone else’s comment

Someone liked a comment that mentions you

People who also replied to a comment you replied to

Posts you were mentioned in

This includes: Someone mentioned you in a post

Someone mentioned you in a comment on a post

Someone liked a post that mentioned you (this is brutal. Makes for a lot of notifications)

Activity on posts you were mentioned in

This includes: Someone mentioned you in a comment or reply on a post

Someone liked a comment that mentioned you

Who my connections are following

There seems to be a bit of misdirection here, as the only notifications I seem to get so far are new people who are following me. Once a day I receive a list of any new followers I have. What’s alarming about this is that this is the only place in the new User Interface where there is any reference to my followers at all. I have approximately seven hundred followers. I know who the four are that followed me yesterday and the two from the day before. The rest of my followers? No way of knowing.

Who viewed your profile

 

Notifications that seem gone or are “to be determined”

New endorsements from your connections

A low level priority it seems. I see these occasionally.

Someone you follow has published an article

Rare. At least for me. I have had the new User Interface for about ten weeks now and have received one notification for a connection who has published an article. And I have a lot of connections who post every week. So out of several thousand possible notifications for this type of event I have received…one.

Shares

You receive no notifications when people share your post – unless the sharer mentions you. I think people who share my posts are the single most important engagement opportunity on LinkedIn. Either this is a mistake LinkedIn will rectify, or LinkedIn doesn’t think sharing is important anymore. In which case they need to change the Social Selling Index, as sharing is a critical part of the SSI.

 

Three takeaways from all of changes to Notifications

1) Notifications are now highly configurable. Hurray.

You now have the ability to turn any of the eleven types of notifications on or off. At the top right of any notification is a tool wheel (some people have three little horizontal lines with circles in them – equalizers? sliders? hamburgers gone bad?). Clicking on the tool wheel allows you to turn this type of notification on or off.

Here’s what the list of notification I have turned off looks like:

2) Mentions are insidious

This is the biggy. Mentions/tagging now rule the roost. Mentioning someone in a post, or in a comment on a post, or someone liking a post or a comment that mentions you, generates a notification, and these notifications seem to supersede all others.

A lot of LinkedIn users are already sick and tired of the mention feature, as it has already become the new way to Spam people on LinkedIn.

3) Notifications are still not there yet.

LinkedIn has consolidated some types of notifications into once a day types. This is good. LinkedIn will also consolidate your likes and comments for a particular post into one notification (as in “Bob Smith and twelve others liked or commented on your post”). This is also good.

There appears to be a hierarchy of notifications. Mentions are on top, along with likes and comments on your posts. Notifications for new posts by people you are connected with or follow are on the bottom and get lost. This is bad

Two practical suggestions for managing Notifications

Think twice before commenting or replying to comments on other people’s posts, especially posts that you can see already have a lot of likes or comments. Further activity on these posts will generate a lot of notifications. I am not saying you shouldn’t engage this way of course, just be sure you really do want to wade into a busy discussion. Your actions will have consequences that may wind up irritating you.

Hide notifications that you are not interested in seeing. In my case, I dumped birthdays, work anniversaries and jobs you may be interested in.

In closing, what LinkedIn has done with Notifications is good. Not perfect, but moving in the right direction.

Like quite a few aspects of the new User Interface, notifications have been cleaned up and made to look more presentable, which is good for the occasional user. And the ability to turn off any combination of the eleven different types of notifications is a welcome addition. However, issues such as not being notified about people who have shared your content and connections who have published articles remain. And while this is not notifications specific, it is notifications related: for us power users, we would like to have more control over what we see in our home page feed (I will have a bit of fun with this idea Thursday).

Notifications are still a work in progress – for example LinkedIn hasn’t decided between the tool wheel and the equalizer. So maybe I will see you for another update in four weeks.

This article originally appeared on my blog, www.practicalsmm.com