How to avoid being creepy on LinkedIn

I have a confession to make. When I joined LinkedIn in 2005, I was kicking and screaming. I was nervous, because I'd seen what some people were doing on other more casual social media sites (you know the ones I’m talking about). I didn’t want any part of it. I was also secretly afraid that I might do something stupid or embarrassing. So, when I got this question from someone who’s afraid of being creepy on LinkedIn recently, I laughed out loud. I know exactly how she's feeling!

"Is it creepy to reach out to my 'Who's Viewed?' list?"

“Catherine, I just discovered the “who’s viewed your profile” section on LinkedIn. Whoa! Super cool. Yesterday, a director at one of my target companies looked at my profile, but didn’t reach out to me. We have 3 mutual connections, so I suspect that’s why he clicked on my profile. Would it be creepy to (reach out)?" - Sharon

Rest assured, Sharon: it's tough to be a creep on LinkedIn. If you’re just learning about the “Who’s Viewed” page, rest assured there are some great ways to reach out to people without making them run for the hills. After all, that is precisely why LinkedIn tells you who has been looking at your profile.

The "Who's Viewed" section is a treasure trove of connections … and a terrific excuse to reach out to people. Ken got a job in just 2 weeks that way. When an executive VP viewed his profile, but didn’t send a message, Ken was nervous about reaching out. He did it anyway, and the VP said “I am so glad you reached out to me. I did view your profile because I’m hiring a senior sales person. I liked your background and wanted to reach out to you, but things got crazy at work and I forgot. Would you like to hear about the job? It’s not posted anywhere, so I’ll have to give you the run-down.”

I've made tons of new connections (and found new clients) by reaching out to the people who viewed my profile. Just one example: 8 years ago, I reached out to someone this way and we struck up a fun conversation, which led to a project. Hundreds of thousands of dollars and 8 years later, we're still doing business together. There are many ways to harness the power of your mutual connections list.

It’s easy to avoid being creepy

You’ve got to work pretty hard to make the hair stand up on someone’s neck with a message on LinkedIn. In sharp contrast, it’s easy to get creepy on some other social media platforms, with so much personal information at your fingertips! Stick to referencing the information he’s put on his LinkedIn profile, or things you have found about him professionally (like an article he wrote or an award he just received) and you’ll be just fine. If he has a profile on LinkedIn, you can assume he’s open to connecting with other professionals. However, what you say will make the all the difference. Read on for some suggestions about how to boost your chances of success.

First, find common ground

Click on the person’s name to view their profile. See if you have anything in common with that person (mutual connections, career, industry, groups, schools, hobbies, etc.) Next, do a Google (or other) search to see what else you can learn about them. Remember: stick to the professional and keep it positive.

Next, send an inMail

Keep it short & sweet. Something brought that person to your profile. The only way to find out what is to ask. Here are some examples of messages I sent to people who viewed my profile (that got same-day, enthusiastic replies):

"Hello, Tom. Thanks for visiting my profile. I see that we both flew the corporate coop, and are taking our talent acquisition / career development experience to the streets. I really enjoyed your latest post on recruiters (keep 'em coming!) I'd love to learn more about your business. Would you like to connect?"

"Hello, Nancy. Thanks for visiting my profile. I see you started your career with outdoor education for at-risk youth. So did I! I'd love to learn more about your journey from that into healthcare informatics. Would you like to connect?"

"Hello, Dan. Thanks for visiting my profile. I see you work at 3M's post-it note division. I could not survive without my post-it notes. Would you like to connect?"

And sometimes, I keep it really simple:

"Hello, Jenifer. Thanks for visiting my profile. Would you like to connect?"

Even better: Harness the power of your mutual connections (if you have any)

Just yesterday, I sent a note to someone new and led with "Whoa! We have 101 mutual connections, and we haven't met yet? I'd love to fix that." She replied to me an hour later and said "Let's get together."

Sometimes, asking a friend to introduce you is a better approach. When I am reaching out to a high-level contact, I sometimes ask one of our mutual connections to introduce us. That's a great way to go from the "maybe later" pile to the "instant reply" pile. Here's how I do it:

1.      Pick the mutual connection who knows you best (and is most likely to recommend you). Remember: you’re asking someone to put their reputation on the line for you. The better they know you, the easier it will be for them to say yes and put your best foot forward.

2.      Never assume they know each other well ... or that the mutual contact will be comfortable introducing you. Find out how well they know each other before you request an introduction. The higher the stakes, the more critical this is. Understanding their relationship will help you craft the right kind of message to the person … or even better, get you a personal introduction. You will be amazed at what this simple question can do for you. Five years ago, when I saw that a prospect (Bonnie) had viewed my profile, I got much more than a connection on LinkedIn! I could have simply sent through a request for introduction on LinkedIn, but I was hoping to get some insight and advice from Holly about Bonnie, so I called her and said something along these lines:

“Hi, Holly. How are you and your family doing these days (In other words, I caught up with her before I asked for anything)? Say … Bonnie Enders viewed my profile on LinkedIn yesterday. I’d love to connect with her. How well do you know her?”

Holly said “Oh, my gosh. We’ve been friends for years. You two don’t know each other yet? You should! I’d love to introduce you.”

Please note: If your friend says “I don’t know him at all and would not be comfortable introducing you” that’s no reason to run away from trying to connect with that person. See if you can find someone else to introduce you, or simply reach out directly.

3.      Ask for the introduction. If your mutual connection knows the target fairly well, ask for a personal introduction for you. When I asked Holly to do that for me, she surprised me with something much better:

“No way. I’ll set up a coffee date for the three of us to meet.”

Ta-dah! That was WAY better than I expected. Over coffee, Holly got me hired: “Bonnie, I think Catherine and ARBEZ would be a tremendous addition to your service offerings. Why don’t you give her a try?” Bonnie did, and we’ve been having fun doing business together since then.

Make it easy for your mutual connection to introduce you. Craft a personal note to both people. Keep it short and sweet. If you had a conversation with your mutual connection about this (via phone, email or LinkedIn), reference that conversation:

“Hello, Dana. It was great catching up with you today. Have fun on your trip to The Grand Canyon! Thanks so much for forwarding this note on to Bart.”

Then write a brief note to Bart that your friend can send along:

“Hello, Bart. Thank you for visiting my profile yesterday. I noticed that we’re both connected to Dana, and several other people. I’d love to connect and learn more about (mention something you see on his profile here … it could be professional or more personal (like “I see you do some volunteering for Treehouse. I worked with at-risk youth for two years when I graduated from college. I’d love to hear all about your experience working with Treehouse.”)

If you did not catch up live with a mutual connection, don’t wait. Strike while the iron is hot (send a note within a day or two of them viewing your profile). Here’s a sample message for you:

“Hello, Dana. I hope that you and Tom are doing well. Are you getting up north to your cabin a lot lately? I hope so. Say … Bart Jones viewed my profile yesterday and I’d love to connect with him. I see that we’re both recruiters. I would really appreciate you forwarding on my request for an introduction.”

Pssst! Bottom line: never send a cold connect request

Never hit the “Connect” button on the “Who’s viewed” LinkedIn page (or on your Smartphone in the LinkedIn app) unless you know someone really well or you’re standing right in front of them and say “Let’s connect on LinkedIn. I’ll send you a connection request right now.” Your chances of hearing back from someone if you send a cold, impersonal “connect” message are slim to none.

I have had a tremendous success rate on LinkedIn with this approach. I am confident you will, too. - Catherine

Catherine Byers Breet
Thu, 10/31/2019 - 07:00