There has been much debate recently surrounding LinkedIn etiquette. I carried out a little investigation of my own into what is considered ‘spam’ behaviour or if that little polite ‘thank you for connecting’ message is a prelude to a hard sell potentially coming your way?

I learned sales the old school way, I recall my first telesales role was selling advertising space for a B2B publication. It was a steep learning curve and nothing beats being thrown in and learning from the ground upwards. Throughout the years, well before the world wide web was available. The formal follow up from a cold call, face to face connection, was to send a polite ‘thank you’ letter or a thank you call. This was deemed the basic response and was appropriate at that time for new connections where contact has been made but no discussions of business (or possible future business) had been broached. If this practice is applied in today’s business practice on LinkedIn, opinions are split into 2 distinctive camps; the camp that deems a ‘thank you’ message as ‘spammy’ practice and the other camp that say’s sending a ‘thank you’ follow up message is polite and good business practice.

Tough choice huh? or is it? I will hold my hands up and admit that when I first joined LinkedIn many years ago, I was so grateful for every person that accepted my invitation to connect. I would send a gushy ‘thank you’ email, personalised of course and say the usual fluff people say (though think their messages aren’t fluff). As I ‘matured’ both in myself and evolved with the fast changing pace of business practices. I discovered that I was on the receiving end of connection requests and the ‘thank you’ messages. At first, it was nice and thoughtful, then as the number of them increased and with no real creativity behind them (to an old school) sales person like myself, I started to grow weary of the actual ‘intent’ behind these messages. It saddened me a little, as there are genuine people on LinkedIn that are genuinely grateful for the connection and they are the one’s that lose out and are tarred with the same brush due to the people that ‘do’ send these ‘thank you’ messages and quite clearly have an ulterior motive that is to slap you in the face with a hard sell as soon as you respond or even open their message.

I did some digging and the most recent insightful reference to LinkedIn etiquette I found was written by Andy Foote in February 2018 and Caroline Leach in August 2017 (there are others but I found these to give a solid stance). I have my own personal opinion garnered through 24 years of sales, marketing, B2B, B2C, BDM and having my own businesses also.

Most people don’t have the time to read every ‘thank you’ message and those that do, either ignore it or a very small number will reply albeit hesitantly. I don’t send thank you messages anymore. Mainly because I don’t feel it is necessary practice, the fact the recipient has accepted my request to connect is an indication to me that they are open to the possibility of communicating in the future and for me this is sufficient. In my humble opinion, it is a far more productive use of my time to start to engage with their posts and add value where possible and to start to build a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. This will benefit both parties far more than a ‘thank you’ message. Whilst I understand many disagree with my opinion, that’s okay because we are allowed our own opinions regarding how we execute our best business practice’s. I just feel the time is better spent getting to know your connections and getting involved with what is important to them and seek out where you share values. This is where you will begin to build strong solid business relationships based on trust and respect. Something that simple ‘thank you’ message just cannot give you or the recipient, except just another message to delete because they don’t actually know you, as you have just connected therefore your efforts will more than likely be lost on them.

I am firmly grounded in the camp of ‘not to spam’ in any way at all. It is uncouth and lazy practice. Would you (after meeting someone new in a social situation) say to them, “lovely to meet you, let’s go on a date”, the general answer would be ‘No’ because you have only just met. So why would sending a spam message in a more formal arena be acceptable? For me, it isn’t, it’s simple, do your research and care enough about your potential business connections by delving into your own emotional intelligence and build sustainable relationships that will last.