Should you be a LinkedIn LION?

[tweetmeme]I just received yet another invitation to connect with member of LinkedIn. It was the default message “I would like to add you to my network,” which I dislike as I stated in an earlier blog.

When I went to the person’s profile it was practically barren with a weird gravatar instead of a photo of the person. I quickly hit “delete.” But it got me to thinking, is it a good thing to be a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker)? They accept all invitations.

I think not, and here’s why.

Would you like to connect on LinkedIn

Image via Wikipedia

The original premise of LinkedIn was that you should only connect with people you know. That’s why you’re given all the choices to check off when you want to connect with someone – to prove you know him or her. However, with the “friend” option, you can basically connect with anyone.

Why You Shouldn’t be a LION

Why would anyone hit the “accept” button on an invitation like the one I received? I’ve also receive invitations from people who are so far removed from what I do that I can’t understand why they would want to connect. Maybe so they can see that magic “500+” connections on their profile that makes they seem like they belong to an exclusive club. In full disclosure, I do connect on a limited basis with members of groups I belong to once I’ve taken a look at their profile and website. They may belong to a company I’m interested in or we’ve engaged in group discussions. The question I ask myself: is this someone I want in my network that other people can see?

This is the main reason I feel it’s important to be selective with the members of your network. Potential clients and employers may look at who your connections are. They are interested in the quality of the people you know – do you have connections among former employers or clients?  It won’t look good if you’ve got people in your network who make them scratch their heads.

What do you think? Do you feel it’s OK to be a LION?


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  1. I have been thinking about that issue for many months. It seems insulting not to respond to someone. Now I agree with you. We should only respond to people we either know or want to be connected with. Otherwise you never know what kind of group you will get involved with and how it might affect your reputation in the future.

  2. Jeannette, I’m of the same mind as you and Shoya. In my opinion, LinkedIn connections should generally include those who can speak of our experience and value added. Being selective about who we invite into our networks helps us manage public perception and protect both our reputation and personal brand. I would encouage quality over quantity. This may be a good example of less is more.

  3. Jeannette, are you logged in to my blog for my next blogpost? TeeHee.

    I started out on LI as a Lion and QUICKLY undid it. I think there is a LION group that for some reason, I hadn’t noticed I am still a member – will undo that shortly.

    But those egg-head gravatars, and non-descript profiles that you find when you get that too-lazy-to-write-anything-meaningful connection requests, just aren’t what networking ANYWHERE is about. It’s a big hint that the person is just going for numbers.

    I suppose if you are going to be a LION it would behoove you to act like one: be brave and post your profile and a photo or logo, be courageous and tell someone WHY you want to connect. Hey! Maybe lion characteristics would add to another blog post!

  4. Amen, Jeannette! When I first joined LinkedIn, I thought it was supposed to be a sort of “closed network” in the sense that I should only approve people I know. However, as time went on, I started receiving all these requests from users with little-to-no profile data and with completely unrelated industries/interests (all of them with the stock message, by the way). Then I faced a dilemma: Should I approve them because they took the time to request, or should I simply hit ignore? Some articles indicated that I should approve everyone in order to mutually grow our networks, and other articles indicated that I should approve people in moderation and only if I planned to communicate with them sometime down the road. I didn’t know what to do…but eventually I decided to approve new people only if they bothered to customize their message/request to tell me why they wanted to connect with me or how they knew me.

    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE meeting new people and connecting with them on LinkedIn! I just don’t agree with connecting for the heck of it.

    Just like all social networks, LinkedIn shouldn’t be misconstrued as a popularity contest. After all, what’s the point of having 500+ connections if I have no idea who they are and I don’t talk to any them? That would be like inviting hundreds of strangers to my birthday party; I’d much rather have a smaller group of close, meaningful contacts than an extensive network of self-serving strangers! 🙂

  5. Like Pat I was a Lion about three years ago but stopped since I didn’t want to connect with anyone who invited me. Not least since by doing so you get far too much spam, both on Linkedin and by email.

    Personally I accept anyone that state they are a member of a group I belong to since they are readers of my blog.

    Strangers claiming we are friends, work together, have done business ask for my email address or ask me to invite them, I turn down. Most of them are blocked by Linkedin because they are spammers, so what’s the point of connecting with them?

  6. Jan,

    I’m more of a SNAIL than a LION — “Slow to Notice Any Invitation on LinkedIn.”
    You’re right, of course; but there’s not much danger for me. Like a turtle, I’m cautiously making my way through the brave new world of networking with social media and all of its options to connect with the universe.

  7. Thanks Catarina, Jill, Gloria and Pat. Glad to see that this blog post has stirred up some comments — and that you agree with me, of course! While it seems that most us will accept an invitation occasionally from someone whom we might not know well, it needs to have a strategic reason behind it — such as connecting because there is genuine mutual interest and the person inviting us has a fully-fleshed out profile and a legitimate website.

  8. Being a LION has never appealed to me. I agree that quality matters more. It is understandable that you don’t wish to connect with just anyone. If they are really interested in you (even after you choose not to connect) they have the option to “follow” you. Everyone wins.

    I’ll be devil’s advocate for a moment. You write:

    “I’ve also receive invitations from people who are so far removed from what I do that I can’t understand why they would want to connect.”

    I too have had these people seek connections. The silver lining is that sometimes they have had past experiences that give us wonderful common ground. Sometimes they offer personal connections or resources that can lead to beautiful networking. There are many hidden gems if one gives them a chance.

  9. I am totally in agreement with you on this Jeannette. I feel that accepting a connection is an endorsement of sorts. I honestly do not want to reach that 500+ connections until I’ve earned that by establishing myself as someone who deserves to be connected with. I do not look for mere numbers on any social networking site. I prefer to grow my network organically by connecting with like minded people like you and others who comment on your blog.

  10. Oh, this is so true and I totally agree with you. I’m always amazed by the people (that I don’t know or barely know) who ask me to friend them or connect with them yet they can’t even take the time to write a personal message. How could I possibly benefit from connecting with them?

    • Thanks, Nancy. Using the default LinkedIn invitation is like chalk on a blackboard. It grates on me. It shows a lack of caring – you’re just someone else on their list to build numbers, in my view.

  11. A close friend of mine is a LION. He is in a pretty public position with his company and it’s a technology firm that heavily promotes connecting within its corporate culture. He told me that he connects with most people if he thinks its advantageous to business.

    I’ve reached out a bit more than I normally would on LinkedIn because I’m in the midst of a job search. I always let people know why I am connecting and how we may be connected. When I receive an invite that isn’t personalized, I first look at how LinkedIn Savvy the person may be – if it’s someone who is just getting up to speed and I know them, I accept. If they should know better, I refuse the invitation.

    By the way, my friend the LION is very selective as to who is on his friends list on Facebook – he calls that his true select list. Jeannette – I’ve just started blogging and I was a lot more confident about starting after reading your site 🙂

    • Kathy – I would think, then, that you’re friend isn’t a true LION, because he is selective about who he connects with. Smart. I’m glad that you’ve taken the plunge into blogging and I’m glad that I could be helpful. Happy blogging!

  12. Jeannette,

    This is a great discussion generating blog post and it’s nice to see more people moving away from open networking. I train people on LinkedIn and specialize in using LinkedIn for sales and business development. When people hear that, they often think that I am certainly an open networker, but I’m not. The system that I teach my students involves asking for referrals and introductions from their 1st degree. If you don’t know that 1st degree, then your success rate in those endeavors will be very low. So it behooves you to make sure you’ve established some sort of a relationship with the people you connect with and that you “test” those you just meet on LinkedIn to see if they respond to wanting to get to know you or if you’re just a number.

    I have found that the blank/default invite to connect is not always from LIONs. Mostly it’s people with good intentions and bad manners .That’s why I have a standard reply saved in an easy place that I can quickly copy and paste in a reply without accepting. I will usually connect with those that reply back with more detail about why they’re wanting to connect and that they demonstrate good intentions. Those who I don’t hear from, I usually leave hanging for a while in case I find a reason that would be beneficial to me to accept the invitation.

    I could easily write a white paper on this topic. My one piece of advice – and one of the first exercises I have my students do – is to consciously determine your “networking philosophy” and to make certain it matches with your purpose and goals for using LinkedIn. When matched with the right purpose and goals, open networking does make sense. It’s just not my preferred method of doing business and generating sales. Once you’ve defined the why and how you’re using LInkedIn, it becomes pretty easy to know whose invitations to accept and whose to decline or IDK.

    • Thanks, Crystal. As usual, nothing is pure black and white. It’s always a judgment call whether to accept an invitation or not, whether you are a LION or not. There is a whole other discussion we could have about who we should be inviting to connect, as you point out.

  13. I, too, get requests from complete strangers. I’ve also gotten recommendation requests when I’ve never worked with the person in my whole life. It’s very strange. I see your point about the quality of people to keep on your account versus the quantity. I’ve taken the same rule over at Twitter. I still refer to your original post about this. I’ve never forgotten to personalize my requests.

  14. Thanks, Dennis. I’m always happy when I write a post (about personalizing LinkedIn requests) and it is helpful to a reader. I can never understand why someone would ask for a recommendation from someone they never worked with. Doesn’t make sense.

  15. Love this post! I consider myself an open networker on LinkedIn. However, in the last year or so, I’ve started to delete some requests to connect that I’ve gotten. They include those that do not have what appear to be a legitimate name or those that are lacking relevant information. I’ve been getting more and more request like that and I just delete them. 🙂 Great discussion!

  16. I have a different take. I like how LinkedIn lets us choose how we want to use it. I believe that all of you have made good points. However, there are just as many people who, in my opinion, under-utilize LI and what is the magic number? 56, 122, 206, 18? I am not urging anyone to change their position, but I hope you don’t mind my sharing my belief that, by and large, there are myriad approaches to how LI may be properly used. It is also an opinion regarding how others regard a person’s profile and connections. It is so difficult to share an opinion of one’s preference without blatantly disparaging others?

    • Bruce — As several of us have noted, it’s a matter of personal choice whether to be a LION or not. It’s not my preference, but this discussion is not meant to disparage anyone’s choice of how they use LinkedIn.

  17. Hi Jeannette,

    Although I am selective I have opened my connections up a bit. I check out their profile and who they are connected with. If it is someone who I respect then I may accept. Also I think part of the problem is the options available and maybe that is why so many use the friend option when it is not true.

  18. Jeannette:

    Well, I’ll take a controversial point of view with all the purists out there. I could care less about the LION title, but numbers of connections on LinkedIn increase your bubble of findability in LinkedIn searches just like backlinks help your SEO of your website. Look at your homepage stats. Are all of the selective people coming up in 75 searches every 2 days and is your profile being viewed double digits each day? The number of contacts plays a role in this 6 degress of separation that their database has. Here’s another reason: When you have lots of contacts (people can only see 500+), more people want to connect with you. You’re viewed as a player on LinkedIn. For job seekers that means headhunters who use LI first before posting on Monster and Careerbuilder. I get calls several times a week with opportunities.

    Now the title LION is pompous and stupid, but having large connections can help you depending on what you want from LinkedIn. I wrote an eBook on maximizing your exposure on LinkedIn and this is one way to do it (if interested go to and you’ll see a link to get it). To keep those personal contacts who are closest to you, go to Contacts and create personal tags, leaving your number contacts who you don’t know and love as untagged. I have over 1000 and I don’t get spammed a lot if that is a concern, and if so I just kick them off the list.

    By the way Jeannette, I believe your post is somewhat misleading with the “Friend” option. Using that, the person is not allowed to invite you without your email address. Now of course, there are dozens of ways to find that out too 🙂 There is a secret way to connect with just about anyone you want on LI but I won’t go into that here.

    • Well, Karl, I know where you stand on the subject! As I’ve said, different strokes for different folks. I’m glad that being an open networker has worked for you and I’m sure it has for others. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

  19. I didn’t get that much invitations anyway. I tried to connect with few people, whom I like in the groups. I regularly comment on their blogs and add comments on LinkedIn discussions. Before sending a request, I make sure, they know me from the groups.

    • Thanks, Bindhurani. I will also accept invitations from group members where I feel there’s been a connection made.