November 9, 2016
Quick, how many Linkedin contacts do you have? Unless you’re some sort of savant you likely have no idea. A lot probably because, after all, it’s been 13 years since Linkedin infiltrated our business lives.
Hitting the 500+ contact club is no big deal anymore but, admit it, when you got there it likely gave you a little satisfaction. Kind of like watching your odometer go over 50,000 miles.
Strolling through your contacts usually reveals a lot of people who you really don’t know. Which is both a shame and understandable given how laissez faire people are at accepting an invite and then letting that relationship rot. Kind of like exchanging business cards with someone and then sticking the one you received in a desk drawer with God knows how many other cards.
There is one significant difference however between accumulating business cards and Linkedin contacts. A business card still conjures up a memory of a human interaction even if it was a brief one that occurred at a trade show, in a conference room or on an airplane.
A Linkedin invite is usually less personal and the recipient has three basic options: 1) ignore it, 2) accept it and follow up with a response, or 3) accept it with no intention of responding to the initial invite or any follow up attempts to communicate.
Which begs the obvious question of why someone would accept the invite in the first place. It’s less offensive to ignore the request altogether than it is to accept it and then go dark.
Becoming a collector of names is pretty limiting – not as satisfying as, say, playbills or as valuable as baseball cards. I suppose there is some value in being able to access other peoples’ contact lists depending on what you do for a living. But all in all the return is pretty limited and arguably not worth the trouble of fending off future correspondence from the inviters.
There is a hairier risk however: that by going dark it tarnishes your personal brand. The risk might be subtle but this doesn’t mean it’s not real. That cliche about not getting a second chance to make a good first impression is soaked in reality.
For the record, I’ve met too many people via Linkedin, both inbound and outbound, to hold a grudge against someone who has chosen to “passively” accept an invitation. At the same time, I’ve never become a valued business resource for someone who has chosen this path either. And that’s a crying shame for both parties.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Careers can only be planned out to a degree. You never know who or when someone in your social network might play a role in your future success. As such, it’s foolish to try and ascertain which contact that might ultimately become.
Accepting an invite results in having a tiny bit of skin in the game. You may do so willingly or begrudgingly but, either way, it’s there. To ignore it defeats clicking ‘accept’ in the first place.
I’m not suggesting that each new contact should fall into BFF status. Heck, most of us have a goodly number of contacts we wouldn’t recognize if we passed them on the street. Even so, each contact increases the size of your professional community. And this community can serve as friend or foe. The good news is that whichever one it becomes is based on your call and your call only.