How NOT to Network on LinkedIn

A warm network is critical in today’s economy. We live in a connected world, dependent upon relationships. I have written quite a bit about networking before and include links to those posts at the bottom of this one. I have also had the privilege of consulting one-on-one with numerous people about building and maintaining a powerful network. The success stories have been inspiring.

Networking on LinkedIn is Not Hard

Remember, in networking, it’s “Give first, then take.” (Click to Tweet)

In your efforts to develop a network, please don’t make the mistakes one poor fellow made below.

A friend of mine and I recently got the exact same email from a mutual connection on LinkedIn. This is someone I worked extensively with at another company, so we have a decent relationship.

Here is his email:


I have been on a kick with building up my Linked In profile to help me get into the next level of networking. Along side of our well-built relationship, you continue to positively impact me and I couldn’t be more thankful.

In return, I ask that you endorse the skills or activities you feel I am strong in. Over the next couple of days I will be doing the same for you.

Thanks in advance for your help.

So what is wrong with this email? Oh, where to start? How about the very beginning.

I am not the world’s best typist and I readily admit there is likely a typo somewhere in this post, but an egregious typo in the beginning? And a greeting of “Hello, Friends?” You mean I don’t even get a personal email…or at least a mail merge email? No, thanks. If it weren’t for the learning opportunity this email presented, I would have immediately deleted it upon that greeting.

(NOTE: I do not use it except to keep a local copy of my connections, but you can export a CSV of your contacts in LinkedIn by going to your “Connections” and then towards the bottom right of the screen you will see “Export Connections”)

How to export your connections on Linkedin

I have been on a kick with building up my Linked In profile to help me get into the next level of networking.

I’m struggling to see the relevance to my life here. Perhaps you could at least inquire about my work. Or my family. You do care about those things, right? Oh, that’s right, it’s all about you.

Along side of our well-built relationship, you continue to positively impact me and I couldn’t be more thankful.

So well-built that I haven’t heard from you in two years until you need something? And you can’t greet me by name. How honored. And how exactly do I continue to positively impact you?

In return, I ask that you endorse the skills or activities you feel I am strong in. Over the next couple of days I will be doing the same for you.

In return for what? My positive impact on you or your thankfulness? If you are suggesting that I owe you something because you are thankful, I feel sorry for you. If you are truly thankful for my positive impact on your life, you should be doing something for me! And by the way, I checked, you never did do the same for me. Remember, in networking, it’s “Give first, then take.” (Click to Tweet)

Thanks in advance for your help.

You just set networking back three decades and you thank me…in advance? The nerve!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t maintain a warm network for purely altruistic reasons. Everyone knows that. But I give, give, give so that one day when I really need it, I can take.

In short, this person failed to do five things critical to successful networking:

  1. Give first.
  2. Personalize the email.
  3. Tell me what’s in it for me.
  4. Use spell check and grammar check.
  5. Follow-through on his promise.

For better ways to develop your network, here are some helpful links:

Maintaining a Warm Network – What I’ve Done
Give to Grow Your Network
Your Networking Budget – 200 Hours and $1000
Network Math

Are you making any of these networking mistakes?

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  • I have plenty to learn related to the whole network and social media world. I hope I’m not making any of these mistakes, but I guarantee I’m making some type of mistakes along the way. This is how I learn. Mistakes can be the best teachers if we’re open to learning.

  • Wade_Thorson

    I think my weakness is in the area of maintaining a warm network. I have basically made the connectios by since them I have not talked to them. I also recently finished reading the start-up of you which help established a plan for starting to use my network.

    • Awesome Wade!

      Start reaching out. Even just to say “hi” helps keep it warm.

      Don’t be “in need” the first time they see your name in two years.

      • Wade_Thorson

        Just added some time to my caledar every Wednesday morning to atleast send a note to maybe 2-3 once a week, with a plan to maybe cover everyone atleast once a year. And then from that develop certain people to connect with more often. Wednesday morning will be linked in and Thursay morning will be Thank You note day, neither one take a significant amount of time, but both very valuable.

  • Good teaching lesson Matt. Thank you.

  • I have the hardest time continuing to stoke the fire under my network. I don’t necessarily take from it on a regular basis (I don’t think I do so hardly ever, in fact) but keeping it warm? Hard for me. That would be a great topic for a post, Matt — ways to keep your network warm! :-)

    • HAHA!

      The best time to reach out to your network is when you don’t need it…because one day you really will.

    • Matt’s given some great posts on it, and I’m implementing a fair amount of it. It works, and its an easy system. Check out the links at the bottom of today’s post.

    • Now that I got past the image of hot chocolate and marshmallows, I realize that networking is hard because in some contexts it seems fake. Going to a “networking event” scares me because it seems like a pushy sale. Connecting with people I know and reaching out to offer help seems more doable, and I actually do it daily, and so do you, Bret.

  • Networking is one area where I struggle. Believe it or not, I can sometimes be very shy. I’m also a helper, which means I’ll do anything for you, but will have a hard time asking you to do something for me.

    That’s why I come to learn from you Matt. Thanks for this post.

    • Being a helper is a blessing Lily.

      That being said, remember that when your network is warm, you are not unreasonable to make an ask.

      • There’s the key: WARM network. As I’ve begun, I spend NO TIME asking them for anything. I say hi, wish them well, tell them a bit of what I’m doing, and ask them to let me know if I can assist them in any way.
        You’ve got to build the relationship, then the ask will be natural and not awkward.

  • I just asked for some endorsements/recommendations on Linkedin, so I immediately thought you were posting my request. But, unless you changed it completely, it’s not mine. I hope I’m better than this example; however, I know I have some work to do in this area. Thanks, Matt!

    • You did ask for endorsements, but here’s the difference: it wasnt a blanket request. At least it didnt seem to be such. You asked me for an endorsement AFTER I had had an opportunity to observe you exercising those skills. So I could honestly and genuinely endorse you.

    • HA! Not you bud :)

  • Bravo. As one of the ones that you have mentored in networking, I can say you rock at it. (should I endorse you for that?? actually, I think I already did!).
    This is soo true, I HATE when people ask me for something out of no where, or right off the bat. I actually immediately (within 2 hours of following) unfollowed 2 people on twitter yesterday because their first msg to me was “Hey, come to my website and download my book, or review the intro of my book”. It drives me nuts, like you said, give, give, give. THEN I will CHOOSE to download your book, or endorse your skills.
    Fantastic post Matt. I whole heartedly agree.

  • One thing that keeps me from joining LinkedIn is that it’s so spammy, I don’t want to give the impression I’m using an awful tool. I’ve never gotten a linked in request from an actual coworker. I’ve gotten them from random people, people on Twitter who want to connect that I’ve never met, or one guy who kept sending me his e-mail because he would forget the “s” in his domain name.

    I’d much rather stay connected with people on Facebook and Twitter.

    Am I the only one who thinks this?

    • I used to think the same, I am seeing the benefit in it though. It’s very useful to connect with people I already know. There’s alot more contact info, more business focused. I think it’s like any tool, its a tool. There’s good and bad and you can use it for what you will.

      • Can you provide examples of how it’s helped you?

        • The biggest benefit I’ve seen is that it is set up for business networking. whereas Facebook is just to keep in touch with friends. Yes, I can imagine that it could get spammy, but I haven’t got any of that.
          It is an easy way to maintain your network. Like Matt talks about, you can export your contacts. You are able to click on the person’s email address and have it pop up in your email program to send a quick email.
          Are those some good examples Bryan?
          I resisted getting it for quite sometime, until Matt told me if I was serious about networking, I needed to be on it. I’d say give it a good two weeks of actively using it, and then make the deicsion whether it is for you.

          • “maintain your network”. Provide examples from this. WHY has maintaining your network helped? I know sometimes people say, “Well, if I’m ever out of a job, I can go in LinkedIn and post I need a job, and then a link of a link can set me up.”

            Have people gotten unsolicited offers? The spammy “weak links” always make me think it’s of little value.

            Note: I’m not trying to mock it or anything, I’m honestly curious. It took me a few years to “get” Twitter.

          • Bryan, that is faulty thinking.

            If you need a job, you don’t “Go to LinkedIn to post a job” and then hope someone finds one for you.

            LinkedIn is the tool I use, personally. LinkedIn is no different than using a personal CRM except that others update their information FOR you. That is the value.

            Since starting with LinkedIn, I have listed 4 different email addresses. If we were close, but not super close connections, how would you know when I update my email address or leave a company?

            There is tremendous value in LinkedIn, but you have to use it properly.

            Reach out to them, help them, and yes when you need something, it will be there for you. I have said it in my other posts but it bares repeating…I will never go more than a month without a job in my life. That is not an ego thing…it’s just that history shows that when I am looking, I have such a powerful network that I will have 10 interviews within 3 days and more within a week.

            Not to mention I get referrals to clients, services, and more.

            Yes, there is spam. But you have a delete button and, at the end of the day that spam takes up less than 2 minutes per week. Totally worth the trade off.

          • well, if I hadnt started my reply before you posted yours, I could’ve just said ditto 😉 well stated.

          • Matt would be able to answer better than I. I think the most important thing is that you maintain your network. LinkedIn is a tool to do so. It may be one for you, it may not.

            Matt’s told me stories of the business he’s received because of maintaining a warm network, as well as being able to find employment when needed.

            Maintaining your network, like Matt said, does definitely have its “selfish” motives, but part of it too is if you want to make a difference in the world and in people’s lives, you’ve got to be connected to them.

            Maintaining your network allows you to not only help yourself, but also to help your friends, family, acquaintences.

            I want to be the guy that people say, “I can ask Mark, he’ll know a guy that can…”. I want to be a connector. Thats how I want to serve people, and LinkedIn is a tool to do so.

            Like I said, it may, or may not, be the tool for you. The principle is to maintain your network, use a notebook, email, facebook, linkedin, excel spreadsheets, whatever you want. But maintain it, and I know you’ll see the benefits of doing so 6 months, a year, ten years down the road.

    • How many people have you reached out to though?

      Like anything in life, if you sit around waiting for the pretty girl to ask you out, you probably won’t have a date to the dance.

      • But that’s what I don’t get. What do I reach out for? Asking them to help move? :)

        But in all seriousness, I don’t sell a product. I’m not a contractor. That’s where I’m struggling to see the benefit. It’s probably because I assume that people at “my level” don’t make hiring decisions. But looking around, I see there’s people in places that I want to be who know people in places I was at, so I’ll probably build some of those connections.

        • I don’t know your level, but let’s assume it’s 2 levels removed from the hiring decision in a mid-sized company. That’s 1 level in a small company and a few levels in large companies.

          1/3 of your contacts will be at “your level.”

          Those people are, on average, 1 level from the hiring person. Meaning, they work for a division head or CEO of a small company. When you need a job, “Hey I know this great guy named Bryan…”

          1/3 will be above “your level.” They hire people.

          1/3 will be below “your level.” These people still know people. They shared resumes with people who know people.

          I am below someone (he is a C level in a major company) that I helped land a job, for instance. I know the marketing director for another large company who tried to hire me. I knew they were looking for this type of guy. And so on…

          That is how networking works.

          Ultimately, you have to be willing to make a 100 hour investment this year with potentially no return. And next year too. If you are stuck in the here and now, immediate return mode, the future is kind of bleak. It looks just like the present. That is not fun to me, no matter how successful I may or may not be today.

          One day you may start a business. You may develop a product. You may need a job. You may want a recommendation on where to stay in a city. You may need a referral or know someone who knows someone. That is what networking does.

  • Scott


    Nothing special here feedback-wise but “great post”. Wonderful example presented.

  • I’ve been having a lot of success lately building my traffic from Linked In – but it starts with me offering something FIRST. I don’t ask anyone to visit my site – they see the content I write there and go to my profile and then check out my blog. You have to get permission first.

  • Good post. I’m really starting to like LinkedIn. It’s interesting that each social network has its own style of use.

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  • I’ve felt a bit ambivalent about LinkedIn but joined anyway. I’ve participated in discussions with an art business group – given helps, received helps, and wasted a large amount of time wading through things.

    Here is a list of stuff I can’t figure out about LinkedIn:

    1. How do you maintain a “warm network” without being a time-wasting-pain-in-the-hiney?
    2. How do some people get their current blog posts listed on their LinkedIn page? Did they pay for this in some sort of a beefed-up membership?

    3. What are you supposed to do with people asking you to endorse them for skills about which you know nothing?
    4. Why do strangers (as in folks in the Art Business group I’m in) ask to be connected to people?
    5. If the main benefit of LinkedIn is to find a job, why am I on it at all??

    Thanks, Tribe of Those Who Know Stuff!

    • Hi Jana,

      1. and and

      2. Depending on exactly what you mean by “listed” there are a few ways. First, post it as an update. Second, list your blog there in the allowed URLs. Third, post them as articles.

      3. Don’t.

      4. Money and pride. That being said, I will connect to a stranger, if by stranger I mean I have never met them but have read their stuff or they are a friend of a friend whom I have heard a lot about and think it would be beneficial for both of us.

      5. It’s not. At least not anymore. The main benefit is maintaining updated connections. And not to mention, you never know when you may need someone for anything. A job (we all like to think that will never happen, but it might), a connection to someone who could make you money, a referral for something, you name it.

      Lastly, keep in mind that what happens on LinkedIn doesn’t have to stay there. If someone writes a beautiful recommendation of you post it on your site, use it in a brochure, etc.

      • Thank you for this very thorough and helpful answer, Matt. If I had your real address, I’d probably have written you a thank you note! Looks as if I need to spend more time working on my network than reading blogs (or knitting, perhaps. . .)

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