Are total strangers inviting you to join their LinkedIn networks? This will begin to happen with greater frequency as you become more active on LinkedIn, expand your network, and join larger LinkedIn groups. Some people assume that because you're members of the same group or you have mutual connections, you'll want to connect with them on the first-degree level.

If your LinkedIn strategy is to only connect with people you know and trust, you may choose to immediately ignore invitations from strangers. But I suggest most LinkedIn users should at least take a look at all of their inbound invitations—from strangers, acquaintances, and friends—to see if there might be an opportunity to begin or advance a relationship that could lead to a new business or career opportunity.

First, to see who wants to join your network, click the My Network icon in your top toolbar and then choose See all [number] in the top right corner.

This next step is critically important but often overlooked. Scroll down through your outstanding inbound invitations and look for the people who took the time to write a personal note. Typically, if someone writes a note to me, I will reply, and I have subsequently done business with some of those people. And I'd suggest you respond right away, rather than hitting the Accept button and potentially forgetting to respond later. Do this by clicking the words Reply to [name]. 

How to respond to an invitation

In addition to sending a personal response, there are two other ways to respond to a LinkedIn invitation to connect. You can:

1. Accept. If you click the Accept button, the person will immediately become a first-degree connection. This is the perfect time to invite him or her to do something that is likely to move your relationship forward. For instance, as soon as I accept someone's invitation, I send a thank-you-for-connecting note and ask if the person would like to begin receiving my free weekly email that provides LinkedIn tips and strategies. I have added literally thousands of people (with their permission) to my weekly email list.

2. Ignore. If you click the word Ignore, the invitation will be deleted from your Inbox and not saved in an archive file of any type. Before deciding to ignore an invitation, I suggest you check out the person’s profile to determine whether there might be a reason to meet him or her.

Consider these options when you decide whether to accept people into your LinkedIn network. Then your network will be made up of only the people you are truly interested in communicating with and potentially doing business with in the future.


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