Update Notice: While this article is still relevant you may want to look at a more recent post: LinkedIn Connections – should you connect with people you don’t know?
The other day I received the following question: “How do I add a person to my LinkedIn network if I’ve never met them before? I don’t have any relation to the person but they are in my industry.”
Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn discourages you from contacting people you don’t know. When you send someone an invitation to connect, LinkedIn asks how you know this person: colleague, classmate, business partner, friend, groups & associations or other.
When you choose how you know the person you’ll be given a drop-down menu of items from your profile. Look through their profile to see if you have any groups or organizations in common. This is why having a complete profile and joining LinkedIn groups can be helpful. It increases the number of people you can access.
If you select other, you’ll be required to add their email address. I have on occasion looked up someone’s email address from their website. It’s a little forward, but if their email address is published on their website you’re not doing anything nefarious. Just fess up in your invitation.
If you select, “I don’t know Joe” you’re be told you can’t invite this person.
If you don’t have any common groups or organizations and don’t feel pushy enough to dig up their email address, try using the introductions feature of LinkedIn. If you are a 2nd or 3rd degree connection, get someone you are connected with to forward an introduction. Not everyone forwards introductions or checks their LinkedIn account regularly so choose the person to introduce you carefully. Look for someone who is an “open networker” as they are more likely to forward your request.
If none of these suggestions work, another option is to send a message thru LinkedIn InMail (from their profile page, to the right of their photo is the link to do this). In your message state why you’d like to connect and include your email address so they can send you an invitation to connect.
Connecting with someone you don’t know on LinkedIn takes a little more work than on other social networking sites, but the benefits can really be worth it. By putting in a little more effort, you can create a real relationship with someone rather than just an anonymous link.
Andrea J. Stenberg
If you have specific questions about LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or marketing in general, don’t be shy. If you send me an email with your question, I promise to do my best to answer.