How to personalize a LinkedIn connection request

One of the great things about LinkedIn is that you can connect to people who share your interests, who work in the same industry, and who live in the same area. One of the other great things about LinkedIn is that its focus is on professional connections.

Unlike Facebook, which is overrun by people sending you Farmville invitations and acquaintances who bugged your for weeks to accept their friend requests and now insist that you like their girlfriend's sister's boyfriend's second cousin's tropical fish shop in rural Kansas, LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to connect, share knowledge and nurture relationships.

One of the things I greatly appreciate and wish more people would take advantage of is the ability to personalize LinkedIn connection requests. If we meet regularly, are involved in several groups together, and are already connected on Facebook and Twitter, chances are I know who you are and what you do, and will accept a LinkedIn request from you without blinking.

But if we met at a networking event last week, I probably also met 20 other people there, and I probably have met a few dozen more since meeting you. Use a custom message to remind me who you are, where we met, and what you do. And if we haven't met, I'm unlikely to accept your connection request unless you tell me why we should connect. Maybe you read this blog post, learned something from it, and decided it would be a good thing to try out.

Here is how you send a personalized message.

1. Start at a person's profile. My public profile is here.

2. In the top right, click "Add Josh Shear as a connection" (it's the second link down next to my photo, just under the contact link).

3. Select a reason LinkedIn is a good way for us to connect (it will tell me what you selected; that might provide me a clue). If you select "Friend" or "Other," LinkedIn will ask for my email address. Use

4. There's a box that says, "Include a personal note (optional)." That's where you should tell me where we met, or why we should get to know each other.

5. Press the Submit button.

That's it. What you don't want to do is send out a bunch of generic invitations to people you don't know. If they tell LinkedIn they don't know you, LinkedIn may penalize you, either limiting the number of connection requests you can send out, or, worse, suspending your account.

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