Q: I’m just getting started with LinkedIn. I see LinkedIn identifies some of the members who view my profile. I’d like to reach out to those people, but I’m not sure how to do that. It feels weird to say, “I’ve seen you looking at my profile. Want to connect?”
A: Congrats on getting started on LinkedIn!
LinkedIn is the top social networking website for jobseekers. With hundreds of millions of registered users—and adding something like two new members every second—the rate at which your network can expand on LinkedIn is amazing. A hundred strategic contacts could mean indirect access to millions of people in a short amount of time. Plus, recruiters in all industries are reporting that LinkedIn is their major tool for finding job candidates, filling open positions, and verifying accuracy of resumes.
Once you have a profile in place, LinkedIn will track all the LinkedIn members who view it. At its free membership level, LinkedIn gives you information about a limited number of recent viewers (what that information actually is depends upon the privacy settings of the person who viewed your profile). At its paid membership level, LinkedIn gives you information about all recent viewers. No matter which level of membership you have, it’s natural to be curious about just who those viewers are.
Generally, people who viewed your profile will fall into one of three categories. Sometimes, you’ll immediately recognize them—perhaps they’re old classmates, colleagues, lawyers you’ve met at bar association events, or some such. Other times, you won’t know who they are, but when you visit their profile, you may see the common ground—perhaps you have a connection in common, or they’re graduates of the same school, members of the same LinkedIn group, or in a similar practice area. Still other times, you won’t find any common ground and may not even be able to guess what brought them to your LinkedIn profile.
Your question primarily focuses on viewers in the second and third groups, since it’s easy to reach out to viewers you know if you’re inclined to do so.
If you’ve uncovered the common ground, in your invitation to connect mention that common ground. As part of the request, you can send a note. LinkedIn says—and my own anecdotal evidence supports the proposition—that connection requests that come with a personalized note are more likely to receive a positive response. That personalization can be as simple as “I’ve seen your posts in our shared group…” or “As a fellow alum of…”
If you can’t find the common ground, then take a step back and consider: do you actually want to connect with this person? Why? If you want to proceed, you can personalize your invitation to connect by pointing out something of interest in their profile, like “I came across your profile and I noticed your interest in…”
A word of warning: be reasonably sure the viewer will accept your invitation to connect before you send it. LinkedIn limits you the number of invitations you can send and also “punishes” you if people ignore your invitation LinkedIn has a history of restricting accounts if it suspects they are spamming members with invites.
On the plus side, some LinkedIn members are open networkers, meaning that they will accept an invitation to connect from anyone. Open networkers sometimes clearly self-identify in their profiles. There’s also a fair chance that a person with 500+ contacts is an open networker, even if they don’t explicitly say so. You can generally expect open networkers will accept your invitation—whether you personalize it or not.
A version of this article was originally published by Bloomberg Finance L.P. Reprinted with permission. The opinions expressed are those of the author.