There is a ongoing debate on LinkedIn on whether you should link to individuals who you have never met or had interaction. Even among my business colleagues and partners there is a difference of opinion. For myself, I fall into the camp that does not link to individuals that I do not know, have met, interacted, or have a common interest for connecting. I view my LinkedIn as my true network of people that I could interact or count on and do not view just adding connections for the sake of increasing the number of connections to be important.
My thoughts center around what social is and should be just as networks that you have off the internet. I would never connect someone or give out information about or to someone that I did not know just as I would not refer business to someone if I truly could not vouch for them. I view my network is sacred and is one that is "worth" something versus a link to everyone on the internet. Ask yourself, why is it in your interest or someone else's to connect to you if there is not some common interest or reason. Would you then introduce people that you value to them without knowing anything about them?
Now you ask yourself, what am I going to do when I am contacted by someone to connect? Are you just going to hit the add button because it is easy and now have an extraneous person in your network that now has access to your close network and can use your name because you connected to them? Have you considered sending those individuals back a note letting them know that you appreciate the contact, but since you normally do not connect to people you have not had some level of interaction, could they let you know why they would like to connect? What you will find is that a lot of those individuals have sent out a mass connection to everyone in a group and do not even have a reason. They may have just decided to increase their number of connections. For most, you will never hear back. For the "right connections" you will hear back with a valid reason and find out something more about the person and why they are a good connection.
Live Example of a Good Connection
I had a financial equity lender contact me blindly and sent him a similar note. A couple days later I received a nice note back from him saying he knew we were small business consultants and thought there might be a way that we could help each other out. Since then, we have met him in person and had the chance to work on a potential deal and we share links between each other's websites. The truth is if I just added him and didn't say anything, I may or may not understood what the value of the connection actually was. Instead, we are now connections that interact and can use each other's services to help our clients and have become friends.
There are definitely two camps for this debate and you have to decide how important LinkedIn is in your marketing and sales strategy and how pure you want your connections to be. Think about it, the people you link to that you just click the add button could be anyone. They now are connected to you and can tell people they are connected to you and there is the implied understanding that this is true. Do you then want perfect strangers contacting your true connections that you know and have mutual trust using your name because they are a "connection" on LinkedIn when you know nothing about them?
RK Fischer & Associates