I get this question from attorneys A LOT. While my official answer has always been “Don’t connect with people you don’t know,” I still find guilt creeping in and causing me to “Accept” invitations from people I have never met. That’s why I was so excited when I came across this post from Kirsten Jensen on her blog It’s a Digital Life which you can find at kirstensdigitallife.com.
She boils the perfect answer to this question down to one question back at the person who asks:“If someone asked you how you know the person, what would you say?” I believe there is some credibility by association with your LinkedIn connections. This isn’t to say I won’t connect with someone I have never met in person, but there has to be some sort of connection. Even taking two minutes to tell me why you want to connect with me in your invitation will suffice. The effort is appreciated, though I rarely get invitations with a note attached. (If you are on the other end of this scenario, and want to connect with people you have not met before, take two minutes to write the note with the invitation. Even if you don’t have a “real reason” to connect, often times a little flattery will get you everywhere.)
From now on, I am “protecting the integrity of my network” and “ignoring” without guilt. Thanks, Kirsten.