1. I have to have met you in person. I have to know you are real and that you aren't an avatar representation of someone else (or some corporation).
2. I have to be willing to help you. It would be nice if you were willing to help me too. I like to use Linked In to see how I can help people. If I don't feel comfortable helping you (with information, support, tips, leads, or referrals), then we probably won't have a useful linked-in relationship.
3. I have to have visibility with you. Do I know your first name, your last name, your business name, and your profession? Do you know my profession and business name? Until we have a visibility relationship, in real life, we don't have much of a connection online either. I don't make connections - real or virtual - if there's nothing behind the connection.
4. Do you have 10 connections? I don't ask to be Linked-In to someone that has less that 10 connections. For whatever reason they don't want to use Linked-In, they don't understand the value, they don't want to use online networking, they don't have the time, they don't like to ask people that they know in real life to be connected - - for whatever reason they have less than 10 connections - - we probably wouldn't be able to help each other through Linked-In anyways.
5. Making the first move. If someone asks to Link to me and they follow guidelines 1, 2, and 3 - - then I'll more than likely link to them. (I only use rule 4 when I'm interested in making the first move - usually because we met somewhere in person and I'm interested in getting linked.)
6. Members Together: If we are a member of an organization or hobby group that has a good chance of us meeting in person as some point in the future - I might link to you so we can get to know each other better in advance of a real life meeting. It is unlikely that I would refer anyone to you or ask you for help until we meet in person. That's just the way I am.
7. I don't use connections as a scorecard to measure my life worth. As I tell all of my clients - I'd rather have 10 strong relationships with people I trusted, than 100 weak relationships with people I didn't know.
How do you decide who to link to on Linked-In? Do you accept all invitations? Do you connect with people you don't know, haven't met, don't trust, don't want to help, or have nothing in common?
My company - the Referral Institute of Ithaca - helps business owners work less, play more, and make more by helping them create referrals for life. Linking to hundreds of strangers and reading their updates - well that doesn't sound like working less - so I'll probably skip that activity. For other activities and solutions about working less, making more, and creating Referrals for Life - - check out one of my upcoming Referral Success 101 classes.