I use LinkedIn often, probably 5-6 times a week. I've been an avid user since 2012. My then-boss encouraged me to create a profile so I could find sales prospects. This platform offered me the perfect tools to connect with people I met, or to get introductions to decision makers in order to close a sale. I've built a robust network over time, and I've learned a lot along the way. Things like:
In the past, I was quite guilty of just clicking away to see who would accept a request.
I was once one of The Strangers. It was totally a numbers game a few years ago, kind of like online dating. Now, I only send a request if I've met the person, or if I have a business purpose for connecting.
As a sex coach, and one who proudly lists this without any euphemisms on my profile, I get a lot of connection requests from The Strangers now. Like, a lot, a lot.
The Strangers are mostly men, but there have been a few ladies in the mix. However, with the ladies, usually, I look at their profiles and find that they are trainers, nutritionists, doctors, or in the health and wellness field in some capacity. I will gladly connect with both women and men in these areas, but I send them a quick note to start a conversation and try to schedule a coffee or lunch together after a few emails. It's about connecting, not collecting, right?!
But the male Strangers, well, they aren't always looking for business chit-chat.
Since last fall, I have been doing what Johnson recommended in his blog post. I now send The Strangers a polite message saying, "Thanks for the request. I don't usually connect with people I've not met before. Did we meet recently and I've forgotten, or do you have a business purpose for wanting to connect with me?" Simple and to the point.
I've gotten the full gambit of responses:
I get it - everyone uses this platform differently, and etiquette is complicated. My goal is to give people the opportunity to actually express their intentions with my message. Maybe they don't hold the same reverence for the Connect button as I do, or they just aren't savvy with the iPad app and were licking Connect on suggestion after suggestion. Maybe they are new to the area and are just trying to build their network, or worse, we met and I forgot! Maybe they really just wanna get laid.
Whatever it is, I'm finding out before clicking Accept.
Johnson and I recently discussed my experience with LinkedIn since becoming a sex coach when we ran into one another, which led me to reach out for a more in-depth conversation about what could be behind some users' behavior. I wanted to discuss The Strangers and get his perspective on using LinkedIn as anything other than a business site. Because it's complicated...
We admit there's certainly got to be users on LinkedIn that have used it as a dating site with success, even though we don't personally know someone who has (Pssst...if you met your spouse on LI, email me please). But, by and large, users are on there for business only. Not. To. Find. Dates.
Now, I admit I've checked out my share of profiles after someone pops up and I find their picture attractive, but I don't send connection requests just because I think a dude is smokin' hot. Light creeping is fine. I think it's on par these days with checking out someone at the pool from afar.
Simply put, he and I agree LinkedIn is not a dating site.
But, we kinda get why some people treat it as such. Really the problem isn't trying to find a date on there. The problem lies in one's approach.
Johnson said he is fascinated by people's use of social media platforms in relation to their emotional baggage. He noted that many people, especially men, were taught to not address their emotions, and did not learn communication skills as children. Who hasn't heard this before, right? "A lot of people don't do the work" to overcome the baggage we all gather in life. They don't grow and take that next step of letting it all go.
Many people are not good communicators, Johnson said very bluntly. "Your entire (childhood) you're told to not communicate, feel, or express emotions…now you're in the real world." And guess what? You have to use your words. Your adult relationships at home, work, and in public rely on quality communication. And many of us suck at it! We carry that baggage everywhere, even to LI. You may very well just want to connect for strictly business reasons. But if you don't tell the person on the receiving end why you want to connect, it leaves them wondering. Then their baggage can have an effect on the exchange.
"Approach matters. I always recommend you send connection requests from your laptop." Sending the personalized message along with your request noting why you want to connect is important. It provides much-needed context. Johnson notes a design flaw - clicking Connect from your mobile device does not allow you this opportunity easily. "It's not obvious. Go to a profile and click the three little dots. You'll see an option to personalize the invite."
I look to see if the person wanting to connect has actually looked at my profile, too. If you haven't, well, then I can only assume a few things. You don't know what I'm about and you don't want to connect to learn about my business, my services, or my goals. You're probably not going to be a valuable component of my network, and you're probably not going to send me referrals.
Plus, in today's digital world, there are plenty of ways to connect with someone. Look at their profile and see if they have their Twitter handle listed. Look them up on Facebook. Whatever! There are alternatives. Use them.
What if you just can't resist?
Say you're on LinkedIn one day, and you see a woman that is attractive. You click on her profile. Then you find that she's got a great job, she works with some charities that you support as well, she's actually pretty cool and seems smart, and now you're interested in more than just that business connection. What do you do? Our recommendation - tread lightly. "You don't know what she's experienced before you sent her that request," said Johnson.
This is true! Maybe she just got 6 requests from other Strangers, and someone bothered her in her DM's earlier on Twitter, she got whistled at by the construction crew down the street while walking her dog, so she's not in the mood to entertain what she perceives as creeping on her profile.
Again, approach matters!
If you do go out for coffee and there's no spark, you left it open enough to fall back on just being business buds or networking connections. Or, maybe you'll make a rad new friend!
I have had some wonderful conversations with people since I started Johnson's approach to The Strangers. People have come back with responses about their business and how we could work together, that they have a non-profit I may find interesting, that they were given my card by a friend, and many more business-relatedreasons. And I want to be clear - I do not think every man who doesn't send a note indicating why they want to connect is just trying to score a date. My point is, state your intent from the beginning with a message accompanying your request so I don't have to guess or ask!
There's no perfect way to find your potential next partner, but you can certainly up your chances of not striking out. Want to learn more ways how? Follow my blog or email me for a one-on-one session.
You can find Mic Johnson on LinkedIn.
Kristen Thomas is the Owner and Head Coach of Open the Doors Coaching, LLC. She helps people nurture their love lives as a relationship, dating and sex coach. Follow Kristen via Twitter @openthedoorskc, Facebook, and Instagram @openthedoorscoaching. Need help with your sex life or relationship? Striking out on dating sites? Email her at Kristen@openthedoorscoaching.com.