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The Question That Helps You Build a Better LinkedIn Network

When should you send someone a request to connect on LinkedIn? As the recent case of Kelly Blazek makes clear, it's not always so clear cut. Blazek responded to a blind connection request with what many felt was an inappropriate amount of fury, finishing her message with "don't ever write me again." On the other hand, as anyone who's ever weeded through an overflowing inbox on LinkedIn can attest, the sheer volume of requests from strangers can be overwhelming -- and worse, defeat the purpose of joining the network in the first place.

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(Photo Credit: BAMCorp/Flickr)

"I think people are confused by it," Mark Williams, a U.K.-based consultant, tells Jena Macgregor at The Washington Post. "If I was going to a networking event and I only spoke to people I knew well, that wouldn't really be good networking."

So when should ask for a connection, or accept someone else's request? One good way, Macgregor says, is to go by the "favor test" outlined in Alexandra Samuel's HBR Blogs Network post last summer:

"The favor test is simple: Would you do a favor for this person, or ask a favor of them?" says Samuel. "If so, make the connection. If not, take a pass."

If you use this as a guideline, it's easier to know when you should never make a connection -- arguably, more important knowledge to have than when to connect. Don't send that message if:

1. You want a favor from the person, but wouldn't do one in return.

2. You've never met this person, and don't know much about them. At the very least, you should admire their work.

3. You don't have time -- or it isn't worth the time -- to write a personalized message. Generic requests look like you're ginning up your numbers, something experts tell us never to do anyway. Unlike on Twitter, where a lot of followers at least gives you a certain superficial cache, the sheer number of your LinkedIn connections doesn't do you any good. It's the real connections that count. And by that measure, the favor test is a good way to go.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you connect with people you don't know on LinkedIn? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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