But only know 100 of them…

When I was in college I had to network the hard way. You know, I had to call people and ask to come meet them. I had to go to events and stalk people…accidentally sit at their table.

But a funny thing happened. I actually met people. I shook a hand and got a business card. And guys, this was in 2000 – so not too long ago.

Why am I mentioning this today? Because I swear I’ve never met half of the people in my LinkedIn network. (And I’m pretty sure I don’t know them either.) I probably shouldn’t admit that but I’m guilty of accepting ‘invites to connect’ from these strangers. After all, they said ‘please’ when they asked me to join their network. But it did get me thinking when it became ok to send invites to people we don’t know and have never met.

It’s easy to fall into this trap, right? And of course LinkedIn makes it so easy to do. However, as you go forth and connect, consider two thoughts:

  • Learn about your connection. LinkedIn has plenty of ways for you to get to know people, including groups, interests and other social channels. There are ways to ‘meet’ someone before you try to connect.
  • Get a cup of coffee. You can do this before or after you make the connection. If there’s someone you think would be worth knowing or meeting, invite them to meet up ahead of making the connection. Or, if you’re addicted to inviting people to connect, go ahead. Once the connection is made why not try to reach out them and ask to meet in-person?
  • Of course there are many other ways to get more out of your connections. In my opinion, the bottom line is we can’t let LinkedIn erode the principals of solid networking. Instead, we should be using it to strengthen them.