Dear LinkedIn,

I am a regular user of your product and thank you for a great platform to connect with past, present, and potential colleagues.

Here is my ask of you: can you make it harder for users to use the stock “I’d like to connect with you” and “Congratulations on your new role” buttons? I know you probably spend much of your time determining how to make your product easier to use, but think about how much more powerful the networks you are creating would be if the users had to connect at a personal level?

In March of 2016, I launched https://smalltownleadership.com as a way to share stories about my upbringing in Republic, Ohio, a town of 600 people and the important leadership lessons I learned there. Part of my mission for this website is to help the world feel like a smaller place. Just as our world has gotten connected digitally, it has detached personally.

One way I like making things personal is by always including a personal note when I connect with someone on LinkedIn – a note that includes a brief explanation about why I’d like to connect with them. Likewise, I appreciate it (and require it in many cases), when I accept others’ invitations to connect. I even created an oath that I make my networking seminar audiences take that “I promise to always include a personal note when asking others to connect on LinkedIn.”

When I launched Small Town Leadership, I updated my LinkedIn profile. I was excited to see notes of congratulations from my network. Then I realized that I was receiving the same note “Congratulations on your new role. I hope you are doing well.” I was happy that people took the time to recognize this step in my venture, but then was also disappointed to learn that there was yet another stock message opportunity available on LinkedIn.

I’d love to see you reinforce the importance of a personal message. In the meantime, I’ll do my part to encourage the use of your product, and to continue spreading my own message about the importance of a personal message.

To my readers – until the developers figure out a way to require or reinforce the use of personal messages when inviting others to connect, please consider the following:

  • Always send a personal message when asking someone to connect on LinkedIn. All you need to do is google “Personalize LinkedIn invitations” and you will find many resources to help you create an effective personal message. In general, this should be a short note that explains why you are interested in being part of that individuals network, citing a specific area of their career, company connections or specialities.
  • It’s easiest to do this from your desktop, as the option to include a message is not as intuitive on the mobile app.
  • Here’s a step-by-step view of how to include a personalized invite from the LinkedIn App on a mobile device.

Step 1: Once you find the person you want to connect with, keep clicking on their picture until you see three buttons like this:

Step 2: Click “More…” (Selecting “Connect” will automatically send a generic invitation.)

Step 3: Select “Personalize Invite” to add your personal message.

  • Reinforce the need for a personal invitation with people who want to connect with you. I send back the following greeting when I receive a generic invite. “Thanks for connecting with me on LinkedIn. Let me know if there is anything specific you’d like to connect about.”
  • In preparing for this article I scoured numerous articles and posts. The following are the two I resonate most closely with and ask you to check out:

Let’s all do our part to make the world a more personal place – one LinkedIn message at a time!

Natalie

Natalie

Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.

5 Comments

  • Paida says:

    I can relate to your frustrations around this topic. I recently celebrated my 5 year anniversary with my current employer and received a good number of congratulatory remarks, but the majority of them said, “Congrats on the anniversary! Hope you’re doing well.”

    I said to myself that it was nice of people to at least acknowledge the milestone, but using a canned response that the recipient has to read x amount of times, would be better replaced with the proverbial “Thumbs Up.”

    So as not to be a hypocrite I took the time to respond to every message, including the canned responses, with a personal note.

    I liken your story to a time when I found out via Facebook that a friend of mine’s mother-in-law passed away and I immediately proceeded to pick up the phone to call and express my condolences. Shockingly, even though I was late to find out and many had responded via Facebook, I happened to be the only one that called. Social media is great, but a lot of people are losing touch with reality because of it.

    Thanks for posting this article.

    • Natalie says:

      100% agree. Last week was my work anniversary and I received the same stock responses – I love how you handled this and still have time to follow suit with the people who reached out to me.

      • Tony says:

        Morning Natalie – I just had the exact same experience yesterday for my anniversary. I came back to your blog intending to leave a comment about it and found this discussion. I too responded with personalized messages and actually sparked up some fun conversations….

        I fast-forward in my mind to a time when our phones will be smart enough to make responses to texts on their own and the world becomes made up of devices just talking back and forth with canned messages to each other. It’s actually quite scary. I agree with you and Paida that social media can be a fantastic tool to trigger a reason to pick up the phone and catch up with someone or send an authentic, personalized note.

        Have a great day!

        • Natalie says:

          Hi Tony – I’m glad you came back to comment and that you made the most of your canned response day. AI will be good for a lot of things, but making the world more personal will be a stretch. I’ve gotten a ton of LinkedIn requests lately with no personal note and have been sending back a link to this post and asking them to tell me why they want to connect. So far the approach has been hit or miss, but at least I feel validated in the process! Keep making things personal!

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