Social Media Etiquette – The Proper Way to Send and Accept a LinkedIn Invitation

When you invite somebody to link to you on LinkedIn, please personalize the note that goes with the invitation. In fact, you should rarely – if ever – use the LinkedIn text defaults anywhere.

Here’s the default LinkedIn invitation text:


I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.


Pretty lame. It’s sort of like getting a birthday card from a close friend that’s signed but without any personal wishes. You probably wouldn’t do that in “real life,” so don’t do it with your LinkedIn greeting cards/invitations.

But there’s another reason: if your invitation goes to somebody you don’t know well, and if they don’t take the time to figure out who you are, they may hit the “I don’t know this person” button. If you get four of these, your account will be locked.

So what should you write? Here’s an example:

Hey Walt, we met last night at the SVASE networking event, where we spent some time talking about personal branding. Since we’re both trying to help people get found on the Internet, it would be beneficial for both of us to link.

[email protected]

Let’s dissect this:

  • My greeting used the person’s nickname – the name he used when he introduced himself. I’m Walt in person, but Walter on LinkedIn. That’s an immediate sign that the sender knows me.
  • John provided context – where and when we met, and something about what we discussed. Very helpful.
  • He said why he wanted to link – and importantly, he told me that I would get something out of the link also, not just him.
  • He provided his contact information.

That’s probably all obvious except for the final point. Invitations come in from LI in their own messaging system. If your account is set up to send you an email when you get an invitation, you’ll receive it in your inbox, but you can’t reply because the sender’s real email address isn’t shown.

I like to reply from Outlook rather than from LinkedIn. Simple reason: I use an indexing program so I can search email and documents on my computer. For me, that’s essential, and I lose the capability if I answer from within LinkedIn. Small thing but a nice touch, because I may also want to call John before I accept the invitation.

Now a word on replying. As I said, never use the Linked in defaults! When I get an invitation – whether I accept it or not – I always send a message to the sender before accepting. I do it because I think it’s a matter of simple courtesy. If John has taken the time to craft his invitation, why shouldn’t I take a couple of minutes to reply? So, I hit the reply button (if I’m reading the message there), write my reply, hit send, and that takes me back to the invitation, which I accept.

Sometimes I get an invitation from a person I don’t know, or perhaps just don’t remember. Rather than pressing that dread “I don’t know this person” button, I’ll ask them to tell me how we know each other. If I get a reasonable reply, then I’ll accept the invitation. If not, and I don’t think the person is spamming, I’ll simply archive the message. That doesn’t count agains the sender, who may have made a simple mistake.

Should you accept all invitations? Until I started speaking on personal branding, my personal rule was to accept invitations only from people I felt I could recommend. Why? Because one key use of links is to ask your first degree links to introduce you to another of your first degree links. And you shouldn’t do that unless you feel comfortable about the person who asked.

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  1. 1
    Jeff Goldman

    I would would also stear clear of using the LinkedIn feature that uploads e-mail contacts and then allows you to send an invitation to your contacts.

    I see people using this feature and then send the same invitation message to all. Even if they customize the message, it still must be general and cannot be personalized if it is being sent to an entire group.

    Thanks for the great post. It is advice everyone should follow.


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