There’s one question my friends and colleagues ask me all the time about LinkedIn. Well, maybe not all the time. I breathe all the time, and my heart beats all the time. Let’s say I get this question about twice a week.
The question is: “Why do complete strangers try to connect with me on LinkedIn?”
Is this your question, too? You don’t know the ice cream taster from New Hampshire who is trying to connect with you. Or the hand model from New York. Or the embalmer from New Zealand. They must have some ulterior motive! (Insert ominous music here.)
Some people are really haunted by this question. If this is you, please chill. Much bigger questions in life deserve your emotional energy. For instance, my three big life questions are:
- 1. How can I make this world a better place?
- 2. Am I a good wife and mother?
- 3. What’s on Netflix?
Anyway, I’ll now answer the LinkedIn question. You’re welcome.
Short answer: I don’t know! I’m a social media expert—not a mind reader! I can’t always read my dear husband’s mind, let alone strangers’ minds.
Long answer: Here are some hypotheses.
- (1) They want to build their LinkedIn network. The larger their network, the greater their visibility and the more they appear in search results. Of course, when you connect with these folks, you reap the same rewards. It’s win-win! Besides, once you connect with them, you probably won’t hear from them again.
- (2) They want more connections to feel better about themselves. Maybe they have low self-esteem. Maybe they need validation. Or more seriously, if they’re a hand model, maybe they got a paper cut that destroyed their entire day. Accepting connection requests is a form of goodwill. And remember: Chances are you won’t hear from these folks again.
- (3) They want your services. It does happen. I’ve had numerous strangers reach out because they needed help with social media. I’ve earned tens of thousands of dollars of business from LinkedIn—business I would have lost if I had snubbed the connection requests. What money are you leaving on the table? Isn’t the point of networking to meet people you don’t already know?
- (4) They want to sell to you. This happens much less often than you think. Of my 2,000+ connections on LinkedIn—in the United States and beyond—I’ve removed connections only twice because they annoyed me. Everyone else has been peachy keen.
The moral of the story (even though there was no story): Most people have good intentions. Yes, there are weirdos and overly aggressive salespeople out there. But you’ll find them just as much at live networking mixers as you will on LinkedIn. And it’s not like your LinkedIn profile has pictures of your children or embarrassing selfies to implicate you.
Finally, remember that every friend, colleague, and client starts out as a stranger. So if you don’t want to meet strangers, you should reexamine your career. That embalmer from New Zealand could offer career tips. Admittedly, he gets personal with strangers all the time, but none are active on LinkedIn.
There’s a world of possibilities on LinkedIn and in networking overall. Add the ice cream taster, the hand model, and the embalmer to your network. Who knows where the connections might lead? In the long run, trusting humanity is a good thing.