Connecting with strangers on LinkedIn is not always a good idea. While the primary purpose of the business-to-business channel is to connect people, as pointed out by Moz.com, LinkedIn does not like overt sales tactics, you need to be more subtle than that:
Be careful not to overdo self-promotion. Advocacy and word-of-mouth magic happen through positive engagement. When brands engage customers and build strong relationships based on respect and trust, customers will “like” the brand and perhaps even love it. LinkedIn makes it easy to be both personal and specific. You know a lot about the person you’re interacting with, so use that information.
Writing for Entrepreneur.com, Kim Lachance Shandrow is a lot more vocal about how she feels about random requests from strangers:
Connection requests are nothing like friend requests. I think they’re much more serious and that the professionals I align myself with on LinkedIn should reflect nothing less than positively on me and I on them. That’s not something I take lightly. If you want to keep your professional reputation intact, you probably shouldn’t either.
So how do you know if you should accept a LinkedIn request or not?
Ask Yourself If You Know The Person
First of all, it helps if you know the person. If you don’t or don’t have any shared connections between you, the chances are the request could have been sent by a spammer or a spambot. LinkedIn actually discourages people from connecting to others they do not know or have not done business with. Like all social media platforms, LinkedIn works on a trust basis and you can’t actually trust someone you don’t know. Also, a contact on LinkedIn is more than just a connection, it is something of a professional endorsement, too. If you don’t know the person you shouldn’t be appearing on his or her profile.
Has The Person Bothered To Customize The Return Message?
Just using the default LinkedIn message without giving any information as to why people want to connect with you should send up a red flag. It shows they are too lazy or do not know enough about you to tailor their intro pitch.
You Suspect The Person Is A Spammer
Invites sent from foreign countries and invites sent from people without profile pictures just look downright dodgy. If you do feel as though a request is outright spam you can report it to LinkedIn. Never follow links in messages or open attachments from sources you do not know or trust.
An active, effective profile is more than just sending out introductions and connection requests. It is more than an online resume, along with the several million others out there. In order to stand out, it needs to tell your professional narrative:
These days, people are more likely to check out your LinkedIn profile than any corporate biography because they know where to look for what, and how to understand who you are as a professional. Your LinkedIn profile is also likely to appear at or near the top of an online search for your name. That makes it one of the most significant vehicles for telling your professional story.
Part of maintaining a profile is in keeping your data up-to-date. The other part requires you to be able to tell your professional narrative in a convincing way. If you are interested in growing your network but don’t want to weed out those who might want to sell to you, try setting up a phone call to find out how they found out about you and why they would want to connect. If their reasons are sincere, it could work out.