To reply or not to reply… that is the LinkedIn conundrum

I’ve had an interesting 72 hours.  

Jemima Bird, LinkedIn Profile

On average I get c. 50-100 LinkedIn connection requests in any given week.  In of the main, most of these connections are the equivalent of cold call sales emails.  As a result, if I accept the connections, it’s likely I will then receive 50-100 inbox messages trying to sell me said service.

I’ll be honest. It’s a bore.

Either I need to read every invitation request to ascertain whether it’s a sales email – this takes time – or accept them all, hoping to then find the rare gem of a request who is looking for just that, a connection.

From the start of my near 16-year LinkedIn journey – I’m an early adopter, joining the platform on October 22nd, 2007 – I’ve always adopted the approach of accepting all requests to connect.  And then going back to everyone with a personalised message. 

But I have to say,

this is getting increasingly impossible to do.

In the halcyon days of LinkedIn, the connection requests generally fell into the mutually beneficial, supportive, and engaging type.  Roll forward 16 years and I’d now say 99% of all invitations are a cold call sales attempt – I’m not sure how many SEO/UX/Cloud/Websites/*insert any other tech field* providers I need, but I sure as hell can’t service them all!  

In one interaction I had with someone this week, they messaged to say:

  • Our cost-effective full-service creative agency specialises in branding, creative, and digital solutions, tailored to enhance awareness. With our teams’ industry expertise, we deliver efficient, high-quality results whether working alongside in-house teams or external agencies.

I replied to say I was struggling to understand why they had sent me this message… 

From my perspective, it really doesn’t take much of a look at my profile to see that my agency, Hello Finch is a cost-effective, full-service creative agency specialising in branding, creative and digital solutions, tailored to enhance awareness…

The follow on conversation went like this:

  • Me: I’m struggling to understand why you’ve sent me this message if I’m honest…
  • Person X: I’m struggling to understand why you have responded so rudely! Best of luck in your business

The reply from Person X was one of indignation. And yet why?  Clearly, they’d decided to connect to sell something to me, which I obviously (a) don’t need (b) already offer myself and (c) haven’t asked for.

And I had done them the courtesy of a reply, which I’m not obliged to do. 

I followed up with a longer explanation and a key observation:

  • My reaction was based on the fact it looked to me that you hadn’t actually taken the time to understand what the Hello Finch offer is… otherwise why send me the email…

I’ve yet to receive a reply.

I genuinely appreciate that everyone is trying to make a living and selling their “unique” proposition is part of their growth strategy. But often it’s simply not unique. It’s just more noise.

My advice – if you want to connect with me (and others) apply a few rules:

  1. Does the person you are hoping to sell something to, look like they are in a buyer’s market
  2. How is your product or service differentiated so it is value add
  3. Can you explain why you think your product or service will add benefit
  4. Have you actually taken the time to understand the background to the person you are messaging – is there a natural affinity with your product or service, or is there an overlap
  5. Do you truly understand the products and services / business(es) and client(s) that this person is involved with – again is there a natural affinity with your product or service

LinkedIn is a terrific resource; I’ve met and engaged with some fabulous people on this platform. I’ve met young entrepreneurs and invested in their businesses because of their well thought through, well intentioned engagements with me.  I’ve connected with peers in the non-executive space and many wonderful people who’ve provided advice and guidance on the roles I’ve undertook.

I don’t want to fall out of love with LinkedIn.

I want to keep accepting requests to connect. 

But in a world where everyone is shouting, perhaps a considered gentle whisper into my in-box will make a far bigger noise.