Written by
Giuseppe Gurrieri

The Difference Between Following and Connecting on LinkedIn

Publisched on
12th June 2024
The Difference Between Following and Connecting on LinkedIn

Navigating the professional landscape of LinkedIn can feel like walking a tightrope. One wrong step, and you might find yourself in an awkward situation. To ensure you're making the right moves, it’s essential to understand the nuances of LinkedIn etiquette, particularly when it comes to the difference between following and connecting.

In the professional world, LinkedIn has become an essential platform for networking, sharing insights, and building your personal brand. But as you navigate this digital landscape, you might encounter a common dilemma: Is it considered disrespectful to not accept a follow request on LinkedIn after someone has accepted your connection request? To answer this, it’s crucial to understand the distinct functions of following and connecting on LinkedIn and how to handle such situations gracefully.

The Basics: Connecting vs. Following on LinkedIn

Connecting on LinkedIn is akin to forming a mutual professional relationship. When you send a connection request and it’s accepted, you both gain access to each other's posts, updates, and have the ability to message each other directly. This type of interaction is typically reserved for individuals you know, have worked with, or have a clear professional reason to connect with.

Following on LinkedIn, on the other hand, is more like subscribing to someone’s updates. When you follow someone, you see their public updates and posts in your feed, but they do not automatically see yours. This is a great option if you want to stay updated on someone’s professional activities without forming a direct connection.

Following: Staying Informed from a Distance

When you follow someone on LinkedIn, you’re choosing to see their updates and posts without necessarily engaging with them directly. This is a subtle yet powerful way to stay informed about industry leaders, influencers, or companies that interest you. Following allows you to:

  • Stay Updated: Keep abreast of the latest trends, insights, and updates from professionals and organizations in your field.
  • Learn and Grow: Absorb knowledge and best practices without the immediate pressure to engage or reciprocate.
  • Maintain Privacy: Follow without revealing too much about your interests or activities.

Connecting: Building Relationships

On the other hand, connecting on LinkedIn is about building a professional relationship. When you connect with someone, you both gain access to each other’s networks and can engage in more personalized interactions. Connecting enables you to:

  • Network Actively: Expand your professional circle and open doors to new opportunities.
  • Engage Directly: Exchange messages, insights, and ideas more freely.
  • Foster Relationships: Develop deeper, mutually beneficial professional relationships.

When to Follow vs. When to Connect

Knowing when to follow and when to connect can enhance your LinkedIn experience:

  • Follow When:
    • You're interested in their content but haven't met personally.
    • You want to learn from their expertise without the immediate need for interaction.
    • The person is a high-profile professional who might not accept all connection requests.
  • Connect When:
    • You’ve met them in person, attended the same event, or have a mutual connection.
    • You want to engage in direct conversations and collaborate.
    • The relationship could lead to potential business opportunities or collaborations.

Is It Disrespectful to Not Accept a Follow Request?

No, it is not inherently disrespectful to not accept a follow request after someone has accepted your connection request. The dynamics of LinkedIn allow for different levels of engagement and interaction, which can be tailored to your personal networking preferences.

How to Handle the Situation

Connecting vs Following
  1. Clarify Your Intentions:
    • Mutual Relationship: When you connect with someone, your primary goal is to establish a mutual professional relationship.
    • Content and Updates: Following someone means you’re interested in keeping up with their professional updates without necessitating a direct connection.
  2. Communicate Clearly:
    • If someone questions why you didn’t accept their follow request, respond politely and explain that following and connecting serve different purposes on LinkedIn.
    • Mention that following allows you to stay engaged with their content and vice versa, without the need for a direct connection.
  3. Encourage Mutual Following:
    • Suggest that both parties follow each other to stay updated on posts and activities. This way, there’s no pressure to connect if either party feels it’s unnecessary at the moment.

Practical Steps for Addressing the Situation

Here’s a practical way to address this scenario if it arises:

  • Polite Response: If someone brings up the issue, respond politely and explain the difference between following and connecting. You might say something like, “Thanks for reaching out! I wanted to clarify that following and connecting on LinkedIn serve different purposes. By following, we can still stay updated on each other’s activities without the need for a direct connection.”
  • Mutual Interests: Highlight that following allows both parties to stay updated on their activities and engage with their content. For example, "By following you, I can stay updated on your insightful posts, and you can do the same with mine. It’s a great way to stay connected and engaged without the formality of a direct connection.”
  • No Obligation: Reassure them that not accepting a follow request is not a sign of disrespect. You can say, “I hope you understand that this is not a sign of disrespect. It’s simply a preference for managing professional interactions on LinkedIn.”

By understanding and clearly communicating the distinction between following and connecting on LinkedIn, you can navigate LinkedIn etiquette smoothly and maintain professional relationships without unnecessary complications. This approach ensures that your interactions on LinkedIn are respectful, intentional, and aligned with your networking goals.


Mastering LinkedIn etiquette by understanding the difference between following and connecting on LinkedIn can significantly enhance your networking strategy. By making mindful choices about how you engage with others, you’ll build a more robust and effective professional network. So, whether you choose to follow or connect, do it with intention and watch your LinkedIn presence flourish.

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for professional growth, but it’s essential to use it thoughtfully. By recognizing the difference between following and connecting, and by handling follow requests with clarity and politeness, you can enhance your networking experience and build stronger professional relationships. Happy networking!



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