Come January, I’ll have been a member of LinkedIn for fifteen years. I’ve made over 13,000 connections during this time.

I don’t share this to impress you, but to impress upon you the impact of one simple habit of mine. That being to pen a personal note to the person to whom I asked to connect on LinkedIn and to the person whose request to connect I accepted.

Sure there may have been a few I misssed, but I am certain I hit 95% or more. That’s over 10,000 notes, brief as they were. 

Why did I do it? 

There sure wasn’t a LinkedIn protocol. No one was holding themselves out as an expert on how to use LinkedIn. Today’s new lawyers hadn’t any use for LinkeIn back then, they were in the sixth grade.

I sent the personal notes because I thought it the right thing to do. The polite thing to do.

How could I send out my first request to connect, something I was reluctant to do, without a note attached introducing myself and telling the person why I was asking to connect.

In that case it was a fellow Notre Dame grad, who I believe was general counsel of Coke. I told him I never sent out such a request, that I was a fellow alumnus and was curious how this LinkedIn thing worked.

He responded inside of twenty minutes, thanking me for my request to connect, asking me to visit sometime when I was in the area and wished me and my family a “Happy Easter Weekend.”

I would have felt like a stooge if I just hit the “connect” button and fired off to him a request to connect. Who was I? Why was I asking to connect?

Why not just knock on my office door and say, “My name is Dick Smith, here’s my Rolodex card and nice to shake your hand?” Or just call someone and say “This machine I have on my desk prompted me to call you unananouced and without introduction ask you to look at my Rolodex card.”

I get that there are cases when you just jumped out of a meeting or off a call when you each know each other that clicking the “connect” may be okay. But even then, what’s so hard about saying good meeting, good call etc.

LinkedIn has all the tools built in for a personal note to accompany your request to connect. Accepting a request connect even prompts you to drop them a note.

Minneapolis businessman and author, Harvey Mackay penned a book in 1999 entitled ‘Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.’ Billed as the only networking book that you’ll ever need, the book served as a reminder to me to build a network before I need it.

A network on LinkedIn means more than idle connections, such a network means people knowing, or at least maybe remembering, each other. Enough to cause engagement.

Engagement in the form of exchanges at the time of the connection. Engagement that comes as a result of LinkedIn’s social algorithms putting relevant news and information in front of each of us – causing mutual likes, comments and shares. And face to face engagement that’s the result of such earlier engagement.

Digging your well when you need it may be too late. Dig your well now by just being polite.