I like LinkedIn. It’s a great tool with many practical purposes.
However, there is one thing I don’t like about LinkedIn. It’s this question it asks me when I try to connect to others.
“How do you know XYZ?”
Under my own policy, I only connect with people that I met in person at least once (except very few cases). I don’t invite strangers, nor do I accept the invitation from someone I never met. The most of new contacts I add to LinkedIn are the people I met during the course of my daily work — it could be an entrepreneur who pitched the business to me, or a corporate customer who provided the reference, or some other investor I just had lunch with. It helps to keep them in my contacts because there is always a good chance that our paths will cross at some point in the future. After all, VC is a networking business.
Whenever I am prompted for the “How do you know XYZ?” question, I find it difficult to answer. There is simply no good answer choice.
- Colleague? Nope
- Classmate? Nope
- We’ve done business together? Nah — if I answer “yes” here, it might give someone a wrong impression that I am committed to investing in his/her company
- Friend? Nah — they are business acquaintances, not personal friends
- Other? This is probably the most accurate answer, but then LinkedIn forces me to enter the person’s email address, which is very annoying
- I don’t know XYZ? Why do they even have this choice??
So, what do I do? I usually end up choosing “Friend” for those business contacts. At least “Friend” doesn’t sound so bad, and I don’t have to dig up that person’s email address. The minor issue with the “Friend” choice is that LinkedIn may send an email to XYZ, saying “Dear XYZ, Phil Yoon indicated that you are a friend… blah blah blah.” Some people may find it funny or odd to call them “friend” after I met them only once.
Interestingly, the LinkedIn iPhone app does not ask this question when I add a new contact; it shoots the invitation with one touch. So, LinkedIn, why do you keep asking me this question only in the browser?