I received this question yesterday from an engineer who plans to start evangelizing LinkedIn to an engineering community who may not have the same view of Social Media like I do. As part of this person’s LinkedIn Objective, he wants to create his own brand of being the Pioneer of Connecting Engineers on LinkedIn. I think this is a great idea, as every professional should be on LinkedIn, and it brings up a good question as to how an open networking or LION tag can help in doing so. But what about the idea of a selective LinkedIn LION?
I have written extensively on the subject of LIONs, including my most recent revised LinkedIn LION definition, and to this day there are still lots of confused people. So let me state it as simple as possible: LION stands for a LinkedIn Open Networker, and anybody can become a LION or Open Networker by stating that they are so. In such declaration, a LION is saying that they welcome invitations from anyone and everyone, but there is never a guarantee and there is no promise that they will accept all of the invitations they receive. However, there is an unwritten law that LIONs never return an invitation that they requested with an “I Don’t Know” or IDK response that would punish the sender because it is the LION that requested the invitation in the first place!
Now, because anyone can declare themselves a LION, there are many different types that you will find out there on LinkedIn depending on how they see themselves and their own definition of the LION concept. There are many, like myself, who are simply digging their wells before they are thirsty and building out large networks by accepting all invitations. There are others who think, even though they are an open networker, they can send you an IDK in response to your invite (yes, I have received IDKs from a “LION” on multiple occassions). And in between there are many different shades of open networkers, each with their own rule as to what invitations they will accept.
So, to answer your question, a LION can be selective in what invitations they accept so long as they do not respond with an IDK and merely archive invitation requests that they receive. The strategy of promoting yourself as an open networker while actively inviting other engineers who are open networkers into your network is a sound strategy. That being said, I would add two things to note here:
- You should note in your Contact Settings that, although you are a LION, you are especially interested in receiving invites from those in an engineering-related field. All others you reserve the right not to accept. At least this way you have a disclaimer, as you should ALWAYS read Contact Settings before inviting someone, but it may make some open networkers question whether or not you are really “open”. I think it is a risk you have to take to be fair to those open networkers who are not engineers that may be “wasting” an invitation on you should you decide to archive their request.
- I understand that you want to be selective, and I started off as a selective LION as well. But the beauty of LinkedIn is that you can see and ask for introductions to 2nd and 3rd degree connections. There may be someone that themselves are not in an engineering-related industry but may be connected to many people that are engineers that you may want to connect with. That is the power of LinkedIn. That is why I slowly moved to accepting invites from different industries and geographies when I realized that I was missing out on a huge virtual network by archiving these invites. I avoided India for a long time, for instance, until I realized that there are so many recruiters and sourcers from India, it didn’t make sense to exclude them. Shortly thereafter I was interviewing with an Indian recruiter for a potential job in Japan! And this is the beauty of archiving invites, in that you can always come back to them at a later time and accept them should you change your mind or policy. Either way, in light of what I say, I do hope that you will rethink how selective you may want to be in accepting invitations if you want to label yourself as an open networker.
At the end of the day, a LION is a truly “open” networker, so as long as you do not send an IDK, you are really free to do as you wish. I do feel, though, to repeat myself in conclusion, that you should:
- Make sure you never respond with an IDK.
- Put your invite policy in your Contact Settings.
- Reconsider your selective approach and individually decide who’s invitation you want to accept outside of the engineers.
Best of luck to you and I welcome your further comments and questions!