04/26/2013 06:10 EDT | Updated 06/26/2013 05:12 EDT

When Should You Reject A LinkedIn Invite?

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Two businessmen working together at workplace

Over the past few years I've been blessed to teach about digital to senior executives and their leadership teams. (Full disclosure: I occasionally speak on behalf of LinkedIn Canada but receive no financial remuneration, do not own any of its stock and pay for my own premium account.)

As my seven year anniversary of joining LinkedIn just recently passed, a question that comes up without fail every time I speak about LinkedIn is a big one: Who do I accept LinkedIn connection invites from?

As LinkedIn has skyrocketed to 200-million global members (74 million in the USA and 7 million in Canada) my personal philosophy since I joined is as follows:

"I have to meet you, and like you, in order to connect with you."

Why? It allows me to ensure the integrity of my network and confidently introduce connections to each other when asked or when I feel two great people should connect with each other.

What is the point to connect with someone you can't comfortably vouch for or state you had a meaningful interaction with? Quality always trumps quantity. One should be judicious with who they connect with and continue to stay connected to.

Some take a different approach, where they accept LinkedIn invites from anyone located anywhere. For them, size and scale matters and they even have a self-appointed acronym: LIONS (LinkedIn Open Networkers). I'll admit it right now: I'll never be a LION, and don't ever plan to have over 2,000 LinkedIn connections. But why not be LinkedIn LION? It's a pretty fancy term isn't it?

Long before social media came to be, my father counselled me, saying "You are judged by the company they keep." That still holds true today both offline and online. The quality (not quantity) of our LinkedIn connections and our relationships with said connections say as much about us as our profiles do.

One could say "to each their own" in terms of decision-making criteria, but if you:

A) Are in a high-profile or executive position

B) Work in a highly regulated industry (i.e. financial services, legal, accounting, insurance, consulting and/or pharmaceutical)

C) Care about the integrity of your network,

My advice is to think twice before accepting invites from people you don't know or like. I've seen people burned and (trust me) you don't want that outcome.

Not only does this open you up to potential risk, but it also could create more work for you.

For example, a good friend recently noted more people search Google for keywords "remove connections in/on/from LinkedIn" than how to accept them. Although removing LinkedIn connections is simple, it can take lots of time based on how much 'network trimming' is required.

One final thought: the days of potential employers, employees, investors and/or clients simply contacting three references you provide are over. Should they do some due diligence and are connected to someone within your LinkedIn network and ask about you, what would that shared connection say?

Ask yourself what the answer might be as that may provide clarity whether to click "Accept" the next time you get a LinkedIn invitation to connect.

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