You wouldn’t approach a potential connection in person as informally as you do online, would you? If you were meeting prospective clients at a networking happy hour, you wouldn’t approach them with an automated greeting, would you? If you were pursuing a business lead and met them for lunch, you wouldn’t spit out automated messages throughout your meal, would you?

It’s the same online. If you were meeting someone in person, you would start with a warm greeting and build on valuable conversations that show your importance and your personality. Through LinkedIn’s personal messaging, you can build network connections, create new business relationships and increase sales.

If you’re connecting with someone, there should be an obvious rhyme or reason, such as a shared industry, shared connections or shared location. Sharing something simply means you have something in common, and if you have something in common, then you have something to write about in your personal message.

Personal messages don’t take a lot of time to create, but the return is huge in comparison. To save time, compile a bank of personalized scripted messages that can be used for different scenarios. That way you can use a specific message for someone when you want to connect. Create, build and manage your social network connections in the same fashion you do your offline connections.