November 28, 2005
Blog Entry

Pet Peeve: Don't Use Form Letters for Online Networking

SUMMARY: No summary available.
by Anne Holland, President

How many emails did you have in your inbox when you came back after this holiday weekend? Mine wasn’t too bad – only 2,784 messages, mainly from eretailers promoting "Black Monday" offers and from readers outside the US who didn’t have Thanksgiving off.

No fewer than 16 LinkedIn requests to connect were also in the pile.

(LinkedIn is one of those social networking systems online, where you can swap personal connections with other members. It has its uses, mainly for biz dev and some recruiting. I use it, albeit rarely, when researching story sources.)

I have this gargantuan pet peeve about people using social networking services; networking wanna-bes who hope to tap into my personal (and closely guarded) network of connections shouldn’t send me a form letter.

Yet, roughly 85% of the "requests to connect" I get use the default message LinkedIn provides for the writing-challenged:


I noticed that you are also using LinkedIn. I'd be happy to recommend you to the people I know. If you feel the same, please accept my invitation to connect networks. I'll only pass requests on to you from people I trust, and I hope you'll do the same for me.”

It’s not such a bad letter really. It’s just that it’s a form letter.

Why should I bother to connect personally with you, if you can’t be bothered to write me a personal note? Plus, because the average businessperson has more than 3,000 connections, you should probably include a description of how you know me if you’re not 100% sure I’ll remember your name.

Here are three examples of LinkedIn notes where the authors took 30 seconds to write a real note instead of lazily sending the form letter. Yes, I added each to my network immediately. In each case, it wasn’t about the cleverness of the writing, it was about the fact that it was honestly, personally-written.

“Hi Anne,

I'm taking advantage of this rainy Friday afternoon to reconnect with old friends and colleagues via LinkedIn. But we aren't in each other's networks at this point. Maybe you could add me to yours?

Good luck on the upcoming show! I have no doubt it will be a success as always.

Take care," -- Andrew Bourland

“Ahoy thar pirate Holland! Hope all is well in Sherpaland. Connectez vous?" -- Aaron Dragushan

“Hey Anne,

We met @ the BMA meeting in Denver last month, and we talked about doing case studies together.

Anyway, I found you while I was searching my network at LinkedIn. Let's connect directly, so we can help each other with referrals. If we connect, both of our networks will grow. To add me as your connection, just follow the link below." -- Natascha Lee

Anyway, I’m not writing this as an endorsement of LinkedIn over other systems, nor as a request for anyone else to request linking to me. I just figured, if you (or your biz dev reps) are using social networking you might want to improve the odds that someone will want to network with you.

Good luck!

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