How to Connect with People on LinkedIn to Build Powerful Relationships


You’ve probably heard that you should “always” include a custom message when you send a connection request on LinkedIn. While that is a good intention, the reality is that not every opportunity to send a connection request on the platform allows you to customize it. For example, if you are going through the LinkedIn suggestions after you just sent someone a connection request, and decide that you want to connect with someone, LinkedIn doesn’t give you the option to include a customized message when you click on “connect”. You would then have to go to their profile and send them a second message. While this isn’t a big deal, it is an extra step. So, for me, it’s less about the “always” and more about the willingness to engage.

The next thing to consider is who do you want to connect with? Some choose to connect with everyone, these people are often called LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networker), or as I call them, “connection collectors”. They generally don’t care who they are connected to, just as long as they have more connections than everyone else. They prioritize “more is better”. On the other end of the spectrum, there are the conservative LinkedIn users who will only connect with the people that they know, like, and trust. They prioritize “the relationship” of their connections.

Both are extremes and both are missing out on valuable networking opportunities. If a connection won’t respond to your email or phone call, what’s the point of being connected to them on LinkedIn? And if you aren’t open to connecting with someone you don’t know, how can you meet your next best client?

When you decide where on the spectrum you want to be. It will help you decide who you should connect with and who you can ignore. Remember, if you ignore or click on the “X” on someone’s connection request, they will not receive ANY notifications, so it is ok to do so!

Some ideas for why you would connect with someone can include the industry they are in, a location they are based, mutual connections, mutual past work or educational experiences, volunteer experiences, or they are aligned with something you are aspiring or working toward giving you some ideas. You may also decide on who you do not want to connect with. Some ideas can include people that pitch you in their customized connection request, people who you currently work with, LIONs, people you went to high school with, or people who have less than 500 connections. There are no right or wrong reasons why you choose to or not to connect with someone, it's whatever you feel comfortable with, so you don’t feel overwhelmed or that you are wasting your time on LinkedIn.

When you are sending a connection request, there are three areas that you’ll want to focus on in your message: personalize it, make it appropriate, and multipurpose. Personalization helps the receiver feel like you genuinely want to connect with them. Making it appropriate means that you don’t send a canned message to someone that you actually know or an overly personalized message (instead of for a specific person) to someone that you don’t. And, multipurpose means that it’s easy enough for you to remember and reuse so you’re not constantly reinventing the wheel.

Now, here are some ideas of messages that you can use when you send someone a connection request:

Hi [NAME], I came across your profile after you shared a post about [TOPIC]. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on [SIMILAR TOPIC]. I work in [INDUSTRY] and help businesses in your niche achieve [RESULT]. I’m interested in learning more about you.

Hi [NAME], I noticed we’re both connected to [MUTUAL CONNECTION], so I checked your profile and saw you also [SOMETHING SIMILAR—SCHOOL, WORK, INTEREST]. It’d be great to talk sometime. Feel free to drop me a message!

Those are just a few messages to get you started. You can go one step further and take the approach of creating a separate message for each category of people that you connect with—one for former colleagues, acquaintances, recruiters, academics, prospects, and so on. Personally, this is just too much work for me. If I know them or were referred to them by someone, an article, or a podcast they get a completely custom message. If not, then I do more research about them and fill in the blanks to one of the messages above. And on occasion, I forget to send a customized message—it’s ok. The world will not end, I promise.

Other ways that you could personalize the message is by referencing something you know about a mutual connection, mentioning a post they shared or commented on, or referencing a shared group you both belong to. The key is to be casual, polite, include a reason for wanting to connect, and most importantly, never pitch your products or services in the connection request message!

Here are a few tips of what NOT to include in your connection request message:

  • A sales pitch—that’s kind of like walking up to a girl you’ve never met and proposing to her before you even know her name.
  • “we’ve never met” or “never got the chance”—basically don’t use the word never. Focus on the future and the potential, not the past.
  • Overly general complements that you know really don’t mean anything—my favorite is when a connection request tells me that they are impressed with my experience or my Profile but doesn’t tell me what. I always respond to these with “Thanks [NAME]. What is it that impressed you so much?” I never hear back from these people.
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