In all the LinkedIn training classes we teach and all the LinkedIn articles we’ve written, we always explain the option of how you can see if someone is a real connection or just a spammer when they send you an invitation request: Instead of accepting the invitation, instead of ignoring the invitation, and instead of reporting it as spam, simply hit Reply and ask the person why they want to connect with you. If they reply, they are clearly human. If they don’t, they are a spammer. Simple test right?
Unfortunately, as of 4/12/2013, LinkedIn has decided it is no longer a necessary function of LinkedIn. You can read about this change and some of the discussion about it in this thread on the LinkedIn forums.
NOTE: As of 1:45 PM central time on 4/15/13, this functionality has been restored. This article still offers good solutions into how to deal with connection requests on LinkedIn. Thanks for listening LinkedIn!
What can you do when you can’t reply to a LinkedIn invitation?
Instead of just whining about the change, like many will do, I want to offer some solutions for you, for both sending invitations – and receiving them.
Sending LinkedIn Invitations
If you have someone’s e-mail address, send them an e-mail BEFORE you send the LinkedIn connection request, asking them if it’s ok to connect on LinkedIn – While this will take some time, it reduces the chance of spam, though you will likely build a much more personal relationship this way, and thus, the connection will be much more valuable to you and to the other person.
Write a detailed reason for why you want to connect with the person – focusing on the recipient’s needs – If you see something you can help the person you’re sending the invitation to, or you have something or someone in common, say it in the invite. NOTE: You CANNOT customize the text for an invitation if you’re using the mobile app or if you click on the connect button from the “People You Might Know” screen. You MUST go to their profile to customize an invite.
Throw caution to the wind and keep inviting random people to your network – If you want to get your LinkedIn account shut down, this is the fastest way to do it. Anyone, anywhere, anyhow, belongs in your network. Bonus loser points if you do this without customizing your invitation and keep saying that I’m someone you trust – or that we’re friends – and we’ve never met in person.
Stop inviting people you don’t know into your network altogether – or understand you risk getting your account shut down. While this is extreme – this is also the safest thing to do for your LinkedIn safety. It means you’ll only grow your network with people you actually know – and LinkedIn will go back to the way it was meant to be, a network of TRUSTED connections.
Receiving LinkedIn Invitations
Accept all invitations – If you want your network to grow quickly, this is the quickest way to grow your network. If someone invites you, just accept – and trust that the sender isn’t a spammer.
Accept invitations from people who look reputable – Reputable people have real profiles, with a real profile picture, they are connected to more than 1 person, and have a completed profile. If you don’t have a reputable profile, you will be ignored or worse, marked as spam.
Accept invitations from only people you actually know – This is the slowest way to grow your network, but the most authentic. If you only connect with people you know, everyone in your network will be people you know and (hopefully) recommend or at the worst, connect to another person in your network in a meaningful way.
Do a Google search for this person’s name and e-mail and contact them off of LinkedIn – Admittedly, this one is the most work, but this might be the best one of all. If you don’t know someone well, look for them online. Find their e-mail address – and send them a note. Ask them why they want to connect with you, how you can help each other. Use this like the old LinkedIn invitation reply.
All of this just solidifies my belief that you need to create a personal connections strategy before you use social media. It’s definitely causing me to rethink mine.
NOTE: No matter what you do, I strongly recommend you regularly backup your LinkedIn Contacts and your LinkedIn Profile just in case someone accidentally clicks on the Ignore button and gets you banned from LinkedIn.
Your turn: What do YOU think about this feature removal? Is this a big deal to you – or is it just much ado about nothing?