52 great comments!

Best Practices in Writing LinkedIn Invitations

invitations, writing, linkedin, best practices

Neal Schaffer is a LinkedIn expert who offered a tip in my last post 11 Ways To Personalize A LinkedIn Post. But Neal went one step further and explained his method in some detail. So I thought I’d let him have the floor for a few more minutes on the subject.

From here you are listening to Neal:

I was happy to see Tim ranting about being tired of generic LinkedIn invitations. There is an impersonal trend in online social networking that tends to move us to automate everything like tweeting out your Foursquare check-ins and integrating our tweets with our LinkedIn profile. Tim, you need to take your rant further. Connecting with someone online should be the same that is offline: a personal experience.

To be fair to those that do not personalize their invitations, part of the problem is that LinkedIn made it very difficult to by imposing new restrictions on LinkedIn invitation wording last year. In addition, I always have to laugh when sending an invitation to connect on LinkedIn, we are told that sending a personal note is optional. So, Tim, as much as I agree with you here, I do think that part of the problem was created by others.

So how to write the ultimate in invitations? I believe that the advice that I wrote in my LinkedIn book last year on sending invitations is still applicable today: (directly quoted from the book)

I highly recommend you create a standard paragraph which you can cut-and-paste into the “Personal Note” section, customizing the note for each person. This paragraph should briefly describe who you are, what your LinkedIn Objective is, why you would like to connect, and why they should connect with you.

This text will become very important as you develop your Windmill Network, so be honest and genuine. Remember, this paragraph becomes part of your LinkedIn Brand, so choose your words carefully. When writing this note, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I want to perceived? (brand yourself)
  • What am I trying to achieve? (your objective)
  • What value does this person receive in accepting my invitation? (how can you offer Pay it Forward help?)

In my eyes, the last point is the most important one. If I am receiving invitations, what’s in it for me?

I personally accept all LinkedIn invitations, but for those that are not open networkers, if you are not clear on this point it is human nature to think the opposite, that you are just trying to connect to spam them or somehow utilize your connection in a mysterious way. Stop being mysterious: You have a reason for wanting to connect, so say it! And remember to include what’s in it for them!

Do you have additional advice to help write the ultimate invitations? Please chime in!

Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Using Social Media
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  • This is a good theoretical post, unfortunately it is incorrect. I conducted an experiment for a blog post i will be publishing next week at Social Job Search. http://socialjobsearch.wordpress.com/
    In this experiment I sent out 50 invites to test acceptance. Each invite was to somone i am not connected with in any other social places.
    25 invites contained an objective and personalised message. 25 were the standard invites.
    I got 6 acceptances from the tailored invites and 23 to the standard invites. (I was expecting the opposite!)
    In another control, by far the biggest factor in acceptance was belonging to a mutual group with 100% acceptance. This was ahead of invites through another connection which was a 30% acceptance.
    Group membership looks the biggest factor in invite acceptance, and feedback on the research indicated that tailored invites were seen as pitches, with so much spam currently doing the rounds via Linked In.
    I’m not writing this to attack you in any way Tim. i like what you write, I just found the results unexpected and the opposite of what I would have anticipated.

  • Hey Bill – Thank you for your comment. I would never see a comment from you as an attack. Appreciate your responding a comment whether you agree or disagree.

    Those are very interesting results. If you send me the link to your upcoming post, I’ll link to it and tweet it.

    But I will say Bill that I don’t think your research necessarily disproved what Neal was saying in this post or what I have said in mine. The posts weren’t about which gets you more acceptances (although that may have been implied). It was about beginning solid relationships. I’d like to see a follow-up study with those same two groups – which of the two groups moved from stage 1 (connected) to stage 2 (connecting – actually using their new connection).

    Because a generic invite accepted does not begin a networking relationship. While it establishes one by definition, it is more like walking along a river picking up pretty rocks. Some day you may polish them, but more likely they will just sit in a drawer in your basement for the next 50 years.

    The research suggesting that “same group membership” is a big driver of acceptances makes sense. There is perceived safety in that affiliation. But it is not necessarily a good basis to start a relationship either. Unless your intent is to contact them in the near future to offer help or ask for something.

    In the end, I am not a believer in picking up pretty rocks or collecting badges. I will accept a LinkedIn connection from a stranger if they make an attempt to personalize their intro/give me the sense that they are more than just a one-time contact. But I won’t accept one without it.

    We all have a different policy and I will admit I have become more liberal over time . . .

    Thanks again and cheers!

  • One other thought . . .

    That the status or perceived value of the inviting party plays a huge role (untested). If Bill Boorman the recruiter, invites a job seeker, they would be highly likely to accept that invite. Or if person receiving the invite were two or three levels below the other person. To what extent should your LinkedIn connection list be largely higher level/influence than you?

    Also there is a fallacy in the group affiliation “safety” assumption. Some of these groups have over 100k members. Not exactly a tight knit group. Although a great way for people to be able to e-mail potential new contacts!

  • Glen Loock

    For me the best reason for a personalized invitation is to trigger where you met or why you want to connect. The next reason is you are making it easy to for the person you want to connect with to accept. If I get the generic LinkedIn invite and it is not immediately apparent, who you are, and where I know you from I will put it aside until I have tome to research the individual before I accept. This process takes time and makes me wonder about how helpful this person will be if I need their assistance. Always remember the “GOLDEN RULE” of networking. “It is not all about me. It is about what can I do for you.”

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  • Well said, Glen. Thanks for your perspective . . .

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  • VictorBrodt

    Thank you for your many insights, this article begs another question to me. Networking sites seem to be based on the assumption that raising contact numbers will result in meeting better sales goals, (or similar kinds of goals) In a way numbers for numbers sake. As you have inferred, it seems to me the most important thing for many, is to identify those who are truly potential targets and concentrate on that, but there is an difficulty.
    For example I am an author, the plan is for a book/audio series about Jack the Dog. It is a set of stories that are parables about life, love and the things that are really worth perusing and enjoying. While I think that the book would be extremely valuable to the average businessman, I doubt many are predisposed to such a book. I know that my best audience would be one who regularly reads books, likes pets, and is evaluating life choices; a few steps down the line, she is 45+, educated but not loaded with degrees. (this happens to be the rising face-book profile)
    On the other hand I do not want to waste my time with those are too busy climbing up the corporate ladder to look around, or bother those who disdain animals ( a similar picture applies all throughout business).
    An e-mail list of those who are interested in my subject is one thing, but building a network, or finding my target within linked-in is another. That seems to me to be the biggest challenge, and so far I have not found many really good tools to discover that. (either in linked-in or face-book) Am I/ we missing something? I have a sense that those of us using social sites are somewhat corralled into buying targeted adds rather than allowing effective ways for others to find us. It comes down to, I am sure there are many out there who want my product, but what is the most effective way, is this method worth my time? Am I barking up the wrong tree?
    JacktheDog.us / VictorBrodt

  • Hey Bill, Thanks for you input and sharing your experimental research with us. Indeed, the results are surprising! Of course, seeing that they are an experiment, there are many things which could have affected their results, including choice of Groups (larger or smaller, niche ones), your own personal profile, the geography/industry of those that the invite was sent out to…the variables are limitless, so not everyone would have the same result. That being said, you provide us all with valuable advice: If you personalize the invite, make it clear that it does not look like a pitch. With limited text to put in it is hard to do, but your experimental results do indicate that one needs to be careful on the wording.

    Overall I would still recommend the personalized approach, but your results do provide some very interesting food for thought. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to your blog post!

  • Hi Victor, Your comment raises a fundamental question: What do people use social networking sites for? While many do use them for professional networking, I don’t think that people want to be “sold to” on them. There is a contradiction in the way that companies perform their “social media marketing” and the way that we, as professionals, are using sites like LinkedIn. These sites were truly made for individuals, not businesses, so the best approach to take is to become a genuine networker and make friends with others who have similar interests, those that seek you out because of your expertise, or those that you offer a hand to. There is no tool, other than the Advanced Search, that will help you “micro-target” those that you want to sell your book to, so you might be better off on joining Groups where many people have something in common with your target audience. Sorry that I can’t be of more help, but speaking from experience, I believe that creating a blog as part of a comprehensive social media strategy is the best way to drive new business through social media. I am a published author and consult with professionals and businesses on social media strategy, so let me know if I can be of any help to you.
    Neal Schaffer – http://windmillnetworking.com

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