I joined LinkedIn years ago when it first launched, but then deleted my account because I made the mistake of accepting a connection request from someone I knew only vaguely through a few e-mail exchanges. Because of that decision, I started accepting similar connection requests. Often these were from people on LinkedIn with hundreds of connections. Then I started receiving requests which were passed down through my connection links for favours -- either referrals or information or requests for me to suggest where they should send their manuscripts.
At that point, I realized that I had made a mistake in accepting that first connection to someone I didn't really know. The purpose of LinkedIn, after all, is to establish a network of trusted business contacts.
After I quit LinkedIn, I kept hearing good things from some of my friends and work associates about LinkedIn, about how they were using it and how much it was helping them. I decided to give LinkedIn another chance, but this time I added the following warning in my profile:
PLEASE NOTE: I only link to people with whom I have worked or know personally (e.g. have had at least one meaningful conversation). A single e-mail exchange, being members of the same LinkedIn group, and being a Facebook/Twitter friend is not enough for me to add you to my network, nor is just being familiar with each other's blogs. Either we've met in person and know each other personally, or have had a longterm working relationship. Thanks for your understanding.
I recently got a request from someone I've never met in person but with whom I had interacted a few times by e-mail. I declined and explained my reasons: that I hope she understood, but I always figure I should be able to explain each connection to anyone who wants a business referral for that person. Her response:
Actually, no. I don't understand.
You didn't seem to mind the free publicity you got for the [--deleted by me--] site I set up for you, which took hours to create and also promote. I didn't get a thing out of it, personally or professionally. Now it's just too embarrassing for you to add me in case some idiot asks why you are connected to someone?
Never mind. I get it. Thanks anyway.
Ouch. I admit I was pretty baffled by the site she described. Also felt terrible...I had forgotten that this woman had offered to enable people to send each other some of my cartoons (Nanowrimo comics, maybe?) as greeting cards years ago, but at the time, I had assumed the architecture was already being used by the woman for other purposes -- had she really created an entire SITE just for me without asking anything in return??
How could I not have noticed, either through traffic or e-mails? As soon as I got this woman's message, I went searching to check but I can't find any reference to the site anymore.
Whatever the case, I wish she had reminded me about our connection before sending me the second message above. :-( I've apologized and tried to follow up, but haven't yet received a response.
But to those using LinkedIn right now, I'm curious. Have you ever declined a LinkedIn invite? Do you have any policies for what kind of connections you will and will not accept?