While Twitter and Facebook encourage strangers to become connected, LinkedIn is all about relationships. However almost daily I am contacted by strangers who are merrily ignoring the rules set down by LinkedIn that state you should only connect with people you know.
The strength in LinkedIn for management consultants is the relationships between people who connect with one another. It allows for recommendations and referrals that simply cannot happen between complete strangers.
In the LinkedIn jungle such predatory stranger invites from the so-called ‘LIONS’, or LinkedIn Open Networkers, who chase numbers rather than relationships. Others simply do not know any better and of course LinkedIn makes it hypocritically easy to connect with strangers too.
Why do LIONS hunt management consultants on LinkedIn?
Like most predators LIONs are hungry for your contacts, not least those of successful management consultants. If you have curated your own LinkedIn network it is akin to a corralled herd of antelope to the hungry LION and once you accept their invitation your network will see that you, their valued contact, is connect with this stranger and may also welcome the LION as a connection.
They seek to build these numbers for a variety of reasons; for some it will be akin to the direct mailers of old or the spammers of today, when they promote an event or a course and enough people see it… well just a few might buy which makes the predatory behaviour worthwhile.
Others recognise, quite correctly, that the larger their network, the further their reach if trying to contact elusive connections on LinkedIn. Of course, the profile of a LION will turn off such discerning people and besides, if your offer is that good you can use the paid for version of LinkedIn to send Inmails to people you are not connected to.
Recruiters and sales people are often LIONS as are multi-level marketers. All roles where quality matters, but failing that quantity might work.
How management consultants can spot the LIONS
The boldest, most shameless LIONS will proclaim it within their headline, which makes these very easy to spot, others are better camouflaged.
Typically, though they have over 500 followers (LinkedIn used to show exactly how many connections someone had, but capped this at 500 to discourage people from chasing numbers!). They also often have very few recommendations from their connections, which is telling. If you have 500 connections, then you surely have earned some recommendations?
Normally those strangers who have asked to become LinkedIn, falsely claim to be friends, or wrongly state that you have worked with them. They also use the standard greeting rather than offering some insight into why you should become connected – although it isn’t only LIONS guilty of not personalising invitations!
How to respond to invitations from LIONS
LIONS simply don't bother to reply to my friendly email explaining how I do not connect with those I do not know well. Which kind of proves my point! In fact, you will find replies like the one below can also identify genuine opportunities to do business.
Typically, we send a reply such as this:
Many thanks for your invite to become connected on LinkedIn, however I only become LinkedIn with people that I know well, and certainly well enough to be able to recommend to my other contacts. This represents the true value of your network on this platform.
Certainly LinkedIn's own rules insist that you should only connect with people you know well.
If by chance I have had some kind of brain freeze and am mistaken about how well we know one another, please do tell me! Equally if you have a business enquiry in my capacity as the senior PR manager at Kelso Consulting I would be happy to chat.
I am also a Director Consultant with the international networking organisation BNI, so it might be we have this in common? If so I would love to know where you are part of BNI?
I have also written books on LinkedIn and public relations and am always happy to hear from readers.
As a public speaker on social media I am often giving talks and seminars so we might meet then, or at one of the many networking events I often attend, so who knows, perhaps we'll be LinkedIn soon after all.
So it clearly leaves the door open for further contact and does not rule out becoming LinkedIn in the future. Indeed, that has led to conversations about how best to use LinkedIn and social media. Recently a prospective client tried to become LinkedIn to start the conversation with Kelso Consulting, so the friendly email was a great way to ensure we still chatted. Simply ignoring invites doesn't make sense, even from strangers.
Sometimes you get quite indignant replies that simply serve to confirm that you shouldn't have become LinkedIn with them!
Absolutely they are entitled to disagree, but it hardly makes me more likely to connect. Interestingly, LinkedIn shows you how you are connected with anyone who invites you to connect. When you spot a LION or number chaser and realise that others in your network have connected with them, it may even bring a question mark over their approach to using LinkedIn.
So next time you receive an invitation from a stranger, pause before you ignore and think about sending a friendly reply instead. It might just lead to something interesting, and at the very least it preserves the integrity of your network on LinkedIn.
What next for management consultants serious about LinkedIn?
LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for (personas) and here at Kelso Consulting we offer a range of services alongside popular blogs like this one. Indeed, we can Pimp your LinkedIn Profile, we can also Pimp your Team’s LinkedIn Profile and Kelso Consulting help you to sell using LinkedIn