The title of this post is one of my three marketing rules to live by, so from time to time I like to make reference to examples, good and bad. (Full rule list: Don’t be rude, don’t be boring, give to get)

I rarely rant on this blog, but I just can’t take it anymore. I like LinkedIn and think it’s a great place for businesses to network – it’s worth the work it takes to get a return on time spent.

But, and this is the part that irks me, when you send out requests to connect with folks – never, ever, ever use the default – I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn. This is very much like saying – I don’t really care about you enough to write something personal and by the way, I’m really boring and unoriginal. (OK, I know some people don’t even realize they can change the default message, so this is your wake-up call.)

I accept most every connection invitation I get, but I can tell you this, I rarely pay any attention to the one’s that are not personalized.

If you want to stand out using a tool like LinkedIn take the time to craft something personal, or at least something halfway witty. This goes for any network or networking you employ.

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • John, I am afraid to comment! What can I say that is witty and non-boring? Hmmm!

    Ok, I will do Kirby

  • I totally agree with your recommendations on adding friends to your social media accounts.

    Do you have any Twitter posting recommendations? I see a lot of Twits from people and I don’t understand why they bother to post information like “just had a great cup of coffee”

  • Here’s another way of looking at it. Providing an explanation when it isn’t necessary is just standing on ceremony. Do I need to write a personal note in my linkedin request to the co-worker who’s been sitting next to me for a month, or to a friend I’ve known for 20 years? I only write personal notes for initial connection requests when I think there’s a chance that the person I’m reaching out to won’t be sure who I am.

  • Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

  • Great point John. I always try to personalize every invitation I make, even when it’s someone I’m pretty sure knows me well. The last thing I want is for someone to not connect with me, or worse, to mark me down as a spammer. Sure, if it’s the guy/gal you sit next to at work every day and you were just talking about LinkedIn you don’t need to worry about this. Everyone else, find a way to remind me I know you.

    This is especially important for entrepreneurs who may be reaching into an organization to connect with someone they met semi-briefly. A note that says “Great meeting you for coffee last Thursday. If there’s anyone in my network that can help you out, let me know.” is much more likely to hit than “I’d like to invite you to join my network.” Sure, both might get you in, but who are you going to recommend, endorse, and share with your network?

  • Good stuff, a worthy topic on which to rant.

  • John Jantsch

    @Michael – I don’t know I think it’s even sillier when someone who actually knows me doesn’t take the time to add something personal. That’s when I want a Duuuuddde – wasssuppp

  • tim Nagle

    Uh oh! Guilty as charged! Thank for the wake up call!!!!!

  • I guess it depends on your priorities. If the goal is simply to get connected to as many people as possible before you die, then I guess your point is valid. But I just don’t see things that way, and I don’t think a lot of other people do either. One friend of mine from real life decided to un-friend me because she didn’t like the tone of my updates. Well, I won’t pretend it didn’t bother me, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to change my behavior. For some people, the important thing is having lots of friends, and for some people, the important thing is having friends who don’t expect you to jump through hoops to make them happy.

  • John-

    I almost never change that message, and here’s why:

    When I am adding people on LinkedIn, it is typically after meeting them at a networking function or a party, or any other time in which it’s appropriate to exchange business cards. The next day, I sit down with new business contacts, and look them up on various social networking sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter at least. I try to do this as soon after the introduction as possible. If you add personalized messages to each one as you do it, they become a little disingenuous.

    However, when I do this, I reach out with an e-mail as well stating that I will be looking for them on the social networking sites. Of course, if I don’t know them personally, or found them after a long disconnection, this warrants a personal message.

    Would you still ignore it anyway? Is this a steadfast rule of yours?

  • John Jantsch

    @Michael – if say hey Michael let’s connect as opposed to “here is a canned message that won’t make sense” is a hoop then raise the bar.

    This isn’t about lots of anything, it’s about one to one genuine conversations.

  • John Jantsch

    @ Josh – I’m a little surprised by some of the reactions to this post – this comment “If you add personalized messages to each one as you do it, they become a little disingenuous.” doesn’t make sense to me at all. When is one to one conversation disingenuous – unless your real intention is to trick them into thinking you care.

  • I also agree to your social media recommendations, but sometimes there just isn’t enough time to consider everything. But yea thanks for the wake up call 🙂 We need to remember to be original in everything we do!

  • I’m sorry but I don’t really agree with you. I accept folks who use the standard swiss cheese statement. I don’t take offense at all to it. I think you are making a little more of this than need be. Relax and open up. Those folks may be more creative than you think….

  • I’m just ‘getting it’ about the idea of getting as many connections as possible before I die. I have been trying to be a little choosy. I like to add a little message, but sometimes reflexively click before I do. My apologies. Another defense for adding a message to tell who you are happened to me: I made a FaceBook connection with someone who had nearly forgotten who I am…49 years with only one or two contacts in between is a long time.

  • John,

    I couldn’t agree more. I can not stand receiving the boilerplate invitations. To me it is obvious that you can’t take the time to be original and in return I can’t take the time to connect with you. I actually added the following to my contact settings in the hope of limiting this behavior: “Please make sure to take the time to introduce yourself and don’t send me a boilerplate request. If you don’t want to take the time to do that I will honestly say I Don’t know you.”

    Doesn’t help too much but I feel better when declining if they had fair warning!


  • I’m with Hilary Topper. I really dont care whether people alter the boilerplate friend requests. Most custome written requests I get seem to be of of the spammy kind anyway.

    Is it because there are no tried and tested rules for socializing on the internet that everyone seems to get so hot and bothered about the ‘right’ way to do things?

  • I’m going to wade in here once more to defend the practice. Social media networking for me is ‘all about me’. When I follow someone, it is because I have looked at them and perceive I can learn or gain from the connection. When I ask someone to connect on LinkedIn or be a friend on FaceBook who is not family or longtime friends…the biz network, I choose them because I want you guys to all just get bug eyed that I know this other person. I write them a little note that says I would be so pleased to connect with them and add small info that lets them relate to me, such as “I learned about you from —, who always speaks well of you.” My goal is to be the red leaf blowing around among the many brown ones among their connections. They will most likely never see me in person. Maybe never have much more connection with me, but when my update goes by, I hope that early note, helps them to remember me. So, there, now you know the ugly, manipulative truth.

  • Hi John,

    I agree completely, and I’ve never understood why people can’t take 1-2 minutes to personalize an e-mail.

    For those of you who disagree, think about it this way: 1) social media is about engagement, and that means you have to be authentic; and 2) It’s not about me, it’s about how I perceive you.

  • John Jantsch

    I guess the real point of this post is simply to address a marketing 101 principle. In my case most of the invitations are from people I don’t know so this is my first impression of them. The question is this – when you are trying to make a positive first impression, do you send generic or something that gets attention? That’s the only point I’m making here – in the end it all comes down to your objectives.

  • Thanks John!

    To be honest I think this is just a typical case of cyber-complacency. It’s REALLY easy to be lazy about small details like that…and I’m sure many people don’t realize the depth of their “boring” impact.

    What you’ve done for me is reframe that “small detail” as an essential piece to building a business and brand.

  • I agree with you John that it is very bad to only leave the default message when adding a professional friend. This is extra critical if you were to add a boss. This is a similar idea to making sure to write emails that are well thought out. Many people forget that emails are just another form of a letter and spoken language should not be used in them.

  • I am in total agreement with you John. That extra bit is what makes your offering memorable. One has to strive to rise above the standard fare being dished out, let’s face it, this is about building and cementing relationships….

  • I have gotten several linkedin and facebook invitations recently. They were all the default. And you are right I was not even close to being motivated to accept the invitations.