LinkedIn Etiquette and Social Media


I’ve found LinkedIn to be a powerful Social Media tool for building and maintaining business relationships. Over the years, I’ve connected with several hundred people, all of whom I know. I’m no Mr. Manners, but I wouldn’t dream of sending an invitation to someone I hadn't met before.

However, I have noticed that some people’s Social Media “Compass” is quite different from mine. Has this happened to you?

Phase 1: The Innocuous Email

It all starts out innocent enough; I receive the following email….



John Doe has indicated you are a Friend

I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

- John Doe

View invitation from John Doe


I rack my brain… for the life of me, I cannot recall ever knowing a John Doe. Did we meet at a recent networking event, work together, go to school together? Is he another executive recruiter, trying to “source” me for job candidates?

So, curiosity getting the best of me, I click “View invitation from John Doe” and I almost always find the following:

  1. John and I have never met.
  2. John and I have “Friends” in common.

Phase 2: The Search for Intent

John Doe, a person I have never met, wants to be my “Friend”, but unfortunately, he hasn’t shared why. Does he like one of my blogs; does he have a business proposition to discuss; is he looking for work? Depending on John’s intent, I might be very interested in connecting with him, but for some reason, he’s decided it’s okay to keep me guessing. This drives me nuts!

Phase 3: Offering an Olive Branch

Since I only connect with people I know, I do not automatically accept the invitation; instead I respond as follows:


Dear John,

Thank you for your invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Please forgive me, but have we met? I would be more than happy to connect with you, but as a rule, I do not accept LinkedIn invitations from people I do know know. If you are interested in connecting, please let me know why and provide some times when you could be available to meet face-to-face or speak via phone.




Phase 4: Resolution

Most of the time I hear back from John Doe, and he provides a rationale for connecting. We have a conference call, and if the call is productive, I often accept the Invitation to share my network and more.


Does this happen to you? When it does, what do you do?


The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily The University of Texas at Austin.

About The Author

Walter Kalmans

President, Lontra Ventures

Prior to founding Lontra Ventures in 2008, Walter Kalmans was Vice President, Business Development for Oncology Therapeutics Network (OTN), a...


#1 To help you be the latter

To help you be the latter instead of the former, the eGenieNext Digital Strategy team and I will be offering tips and tricks in a series of posts starting today, complete with guidance and case studies to help you better navigate how to use social media marketing services for your business and connect with your customers. We’ll start small and drill down over time.

#2 Walter thanks for posting

Walter thanks for posting this. It boggles my mind too how many people attempt to connect by stating their a "friend" when they clearly know we have never met. I appreciate you're laying out your response tree. I must admit, of-late, I've just not looked at those invitations. You've repositioned my thoughts to at least give them a chance. Thanks again for putting it out there.

#3 Thanks for addressing this.

Thanks for addressing this. Great way to handle it. Like one of the other indiviudals that responded it does open a door if in fact the sender has a legitimate interest.

#4 I have a very similar

I have a very similar response. When I receive a request from someone I don't recognize I usually respond with something like: John, I apologize for asking but how do we know one another? Steve The people who are just "collecting" connections generally won't take the time to respond. These typically are the same people you see stalking people at networking events and handing out and collecting business cards like there might be a prize at the end of the night. The more "forceful networkers" will often respond but indicate they are doing just that, trying to force a connection with me because they see a fit between our two companies or somehow see how I can help them. I generally respond to those with something similar to your response: I only accept requests from people I know, have done business with and can personally vouch for. I am sure you can understand. If you're still interested in connecting with me, I'd be happy to get to know you on Facebook first. Most rarely do they take me up on that. I train a lot people on building their network the right way and LinkedIn comes up a lot! I always remind people that when you blindly accept requests from people you don't just open yourself up to these people but you open up all the other people you're connected to as well. It's easy for someone to contact Bob Smith and say something like: Steve and I are connected on LinkedIn and he thought we should know one another. The networking vampires love to suck the life out of a lot of relationships and do a lot of damage without you ever knowing about. Hence why I don't typically accept blind requests. Etiquette or no etiquette, my network is only as valuable as my ability to preserve and protect it. So I carry a garlic necklace and hit ignore a lot. Ripple On!!!

#5 It's all I can do to resist

It's all I can do to resist the urge to send you a friend request on LinkedIn right now! My view is, I'm there for networking, so I accept most requests. If one of those connections turns out to be a mistake (i.e., I start receiving floods of spam in my LinkedIn inbox), I simply break the connection. No harm, no foul. I certainly agree, though, that one should include a personal note when sending an invitation to connect, stating why they feel it's a good idea to network together. Great post; thanks!

#6 Thanks for posting this

Thanks for posting this Walter: There are a number of Groups on Linkedin, such as Open Networker, where membership in the Group is based on the prmise, "all invites welcome". Those who do not share this approach, are not obligated to respond to or acknowledge an invite, and when I first joined Linkedin, was also one of those naive enough to think people who shared a connection with you, Alumni, etc, would not have a problem connecting. 1809 connections later, I know better, and at least you do respond to some people. Noah, UT Class of 1987.

#7 Walter thanks for posting

Walter thanks for posting this. It boggles my mind too how many people attempt to connect by stating their a "friend" when they clearly know we have never met. I appreciate you're laying out your response tree. I must admit, of-late, I've just not looked at those invitations. You've repositioned my thoughts to at least give them a chance. Thanks again for putting it out there.

#8 I don't have a firm rule

I don't have a firm rule about these types of requests - I usually go with a gut instinct, especially if the visitor's profile indicates (s)he is from the same industry. Unfortunately LinkedIn is attracting people who create accounts for the purpose of spamming their connections with "hey, check out this video" dreck. (Or similar stuff.) I've made the mistake about three times thus far. Another hint is whether the visitor has a REALLY small list of existing connections. (Usually <10.) By all means use Walter's gentle approach.

#9 THANK YOU Walter. This made

THANK YOU Walter. This made my day. I get people requesting to be my friend almost daily. They give me no reason why they want to connect, where we met, or what we have in common. I network all the time and meet so many people. The last LinkedIn response when I reached out and indicated I like to have a conversation before I accept new invitations said: "Omg you don't remember me?". I am like Carlos who sends a personal message when reaching out to people. Thanks again. Melanie

#10 Hi Walter, thanks for sharing

Hi Walter, thanks for sharing your experience and frustration(?) with some LinkedIn users. What you do is exactly what I always do. Also, as a rule, when I'm sending an invitation to connect with someone I ALWAYS delete the default wording and write a short personalized message to help the receiver recall how we know each other (I do this even if he/she is one of my lifetime friends!). Cheers, Carlos

#11 Very good Walter... I have

Very good Walter... I have always felt a little uncomfortable accepting such overtures, but I generally have in the past. I cut and pasted your response for future use... RSW

#12 Walter, A great approach,

Walter, A great approach, although it can be time-consuming. It seems that the person requesting the connection should spend 5 minutes to delete the standard language and write a few sentences about the request. It definitely would help. Thanks for highlighting this! Jon

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