Ping. One new item in my inbox. My inbox doesn’t actually ping, but just run with it. ‘Mike, lets connect on LinkedIn’ reads the subject line. Could this be the next big connection in my life? The start of an incredible business relationship? The lead from heaven? I better not delay…

I jump from email to LinkedIn to take a deeper look at this ‘Tavish McTavish’ chap who wants to connect. He runs a chain of laundry stores across Scotland – this may well actually be a potential client for me. Okay, he looks genuine, has a profile photo, a well filled out history and at first look, is relevant to my business. Connection request accepted.

What happened next?

Not a damn thing my friends. Tavish left me hanging like a wet sports sock on the line. So Tavish wasn’t interested in my business or even just saying hello. It isn’t all about business leads after all. But he connected and ran. Turns out Tavish is a vanity connector. All he wants is a big fat ‘connections’ number.

What’s the point?

Seriously? Why bother? Does a huge connections number make you look awesome? I don’t think so, I think it can give off a terrible impression. Don’t get me wrong, if that person has a huge LinkedIn network that is valid, then fair play to them, but a huge collection of vanity connections does no good for anybody other than the ego of the collector.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the hollowest of them all?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the hollowest of them all? Image via alexliivet on Flickr (CC)

Did I say hello to Tavish?

Want to know what I do when I get a connection request out of the blue? I take a look at their profile for some kind of relevancy, and if there is, I accept it. From there, I then send them a message, say hello and ask why they wanted to connect. It’s good to talk. Want to know how often I get a response? No more than 10% of the time. If you do this and the person doesn’t get back to you, then I would place them in the vanity pile.

The vanity connection syndrome is widespread

Social media has made it very easy for us to connect to people from all across the globe and from many walks of life. But what is a true connection? To me, it isn’t just an increase in a pixelated counter. A connection is the coming together of two parties that have cause to do so. It can be as simple as mutual interests, but at least there is something there. Once that connection is made, ideally some form of dialogue is opened up, the connection is explored and then strengthened over time. Social media is the ultimate creator of hollow connections. Time to move away from vane, ego driven connections, and move towards the meaningful.

What do you think? Will the vanity ever slip? How do you handle hollow connection requests via LinkedIn?

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Image via alexliivet on Flickr and used under creative commons.

Mike McGrail

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