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.

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?

 

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.