I was chatting with a business owner the other day about online networking. He said he was getting massively frustrated with Linked In – he understood that it was important that he had a presence on the network – but just found himself inundated with connection requests, and plenty of them were from people he didn’t know.
I asked him what he did with all these requests – he replied that he simply clicked ‘ignore’.
Then the topic of conversation moved on to a face to face networking meeting that we had both been to (in fact, it was where we had met a couple of weeks previously). I asked him what he’d been thinking when I had approached him and introduced myself – and he said that he was delighted to have a conversation, as he was feeling slightly lost as a first time attendee at the event.
Given we go to networking events to help us develop our businesses, it is highly unlikely any businessperson would deliberately ignore someone they didn’t know at a networking event – so why on earth would anyone want to do it online?
Networking is networking, whether it is offline or online – it is all about building relationships. Sometimes, those relationships lead to something. Sometimes, they don’t. Having met someone face to face, if the relationship goes ‘wrong’ in some way, you simply don’t see that person any more. Likewise online – it is very easy to disconnect with contacts in Linked In should that be necessary.
The key to accepting contact requests is to then do something about them: are you going to build a relationship through online conversation, or arrange to meet for a 1-1? Just remember: even if you don’t know the person that is trying to connect with you on Linked In, you never know who they might know. Your next dream client may be just one connection away.