How not to follow up

Every few days I go through my LinkedIn “Who’s seen your profile” list. Anyone who has visited, and has not connected with me, gets a message offering to help and asking them to do so. LI constrains the number of characters you can use for these messages making it quite difficult to customise them, but I hope that mine is friendly enough despite this.

If someone who I am already connected to visits, then I send them a personal message. Obviously, there’s a limit to how different these can be for people who you have never met before, but I do try. If I’ve met them then I always try to make it a completely relevant and personal greeting – sent with sensitivity as they must have had some reason to revisit my profile and, given the nature of my work, that is sometimes traumatic.

It all takes a few minutes but the results are generally worthwhile. Some people just connect but don’t correspond. Others reply in similar vein and we may exchange a few messages.

Once in a while, someone responds by sending me a sales message. This is NEVER the right thing to do, but some are far worse than others. Here’s a simple example. It’s from someone who I met at an event that I was facilitating about five years ago. We connected then but haven’t said anything to one another since. Out of the blue, he has checked my LI profile, so I’ve sent a short message enquiring how he is and offering help if there’s anything I can do. This is his reply:

“Hi Graham,

Good to hear from you.

All is well here. I was looking around for potential business partners for our…

>> 118 words in three paragraphs about the technical merits of his new ‘platform’.

If you’re interested, I can drop you a brochure and, if you know of anyone who might be interested in working with us, I’d welcome chatting to them.


Now, firstly, I enquired after his well-being. In polite society, we reciprocate.

Second, there is no acknowledgement that we know one another.

Third, there’s no recognition that I might have had an awful time in the intervening years – I might even be dying for all he knows – and his new platform might be the last thing I need to hear about right now.

Then he asks me to put my hard-earned friends in touch with him, when he’s demonstrated no manners and indicated that he is merely interested in himself and his own success, and certainly not my own or that of the members of my network (which he wishes to tap into).

Finally, he signs off with a casual “BR”. Is he so lazy that he can’t even type an extra 9 characters?

Given that he is presenting himself as a senior level salesperson, I’m afraid I’d have to say that he hasn’t overwhelmed me with his performance. While I am not a headhunter, I do get approached by them for help quite frequently. In the last couple of weeks I’d say that there’s been 2 or 3 roles that have crossed my radar that might even have been of interest to someone like John. Sadly, he’s unlikely to benefit.

So… take a few minutes to review your approach to social media, business development, and consider whether this is conducive to your long-term goals as well as your short-term ones.


PS Thanks to a couple of people who have asked… Yes, I’m loving my new role as a lecturer at TOBES, and yes, it is part-time, so I’m still providing executive-level coaching ( and job-hunting support (


  1. Good and valid points.

    Glad that the role is working for you. See you at next Of2Oxford

  2. hi Graham
    You are right that LinkedIn has not yet developed an accepted etiquette for connecting.
    It is meant to be about connecting to people you know and trust to build one’s own network. Well that etiquette gets broken when people send a message asking to connect to you that have never met/talked/emailed you. That’s how young people used to use Facebook – just collect friends regardless of whether you knew them.
    The broken etiquette that is more concerning is when people you don’t know want to connect, you connect and send them a message and they don’t reply. Interpretation: I want to connect to you but I don’t want to communicate with you at all. What’s the psychology there, Graham?

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