Networking Courtesy of HBSUThis evening is the first of the holiday parties on my calendar.

I will meet and greet old friends with whom I am already connected on LinkedIn.

But let’s face it, we also go to these events to meet new people. I relish the ability to meet business-people wherever I go, in business contexts or not.

But that does NOT mean I connect with “anyone” on LinkedIn after a  few minutes of banter over a drink and then the exchange of business cards. That’s just the first step in the ritual for me.

I write “LI” on the back of their card if I think there is some way I can help them.

I email the next day. I use that contact to remind them where and how we met, perhaps with the name of a person who introduced us for context. I will arrange a subsequent face-to-face coffee meeting in a quieter more businesslike setting, or offer a phone call, to get to know why they do what they do.

Then at the end of this second encounter I may ask them to connect on LinkedIn.

From my upcoming book, an excerpt on the privilege of the LinkedIn connection:

Connector, beware, as you consider who to approach to connect with. Why? Principally, connections can see all your LinkedIn private profile information and that of your connections. So make connecting to you a privilege, and guard it that way.

Don’t be afraid to walk away from a connection request when it seems not meant to be.

By all means, do not connect to someone you do not know or cannot vet. Doing so dilutes the trust and privilege we have in connecting with each other.