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Send Messages to People You Don’t Know on LinkedIn

Send Messages to People You Don’t Know on LinkedIn

One of the most important benefits of LinkedIn is the ability it gives you to find people outside your existing professional network. But once you find them, how do you connect with them?

When you’re a first-degree connection with someone, LinkedIn provides you with that person’s email address and lets you send a message to them directly through the LinkedIn interface.

But since first-degree connections are usually someone you actually know in real life, you probably already have this information.

What most people really need is to be able to contact people who are second-degree or third-degree connections, meaning they’re connected directly to your contacts or to the people who are connected directly to your contacts. But when you get to one of those people’s profiles, this is what you see. So you have two options. (Actually, you can also use LinkedIn to ask a connection to introduce you to their connection, but the whole process is quite cumbersome so I would recommend you just do that via regular email.)

Invite the Person to Join Your Network

This is fine if you already know or have worked with the person. But when you click the Connect button, you’re asked how you know them.

If you choose Colleague, Classmate, or We’ve Done Business Together, you will be asked to pick from a dropdown list of jobs or schools you’ve listed on your own profile and that information will be used in the message that goes to the person you’re inviting.

NOTE: In 2015, LinkedIn changed the rules for sending 1-1 messages to fellow group members (I think there was too much spamming going on). You can only send 15 messages to group members a month (across all groups). So Groups no longer appears as an option on the Connect screen.

If you pick Friend, you won’t have to pick anything but, again, the email they receive will say that you have said they were a friend. If you’re not, that person may not really want to connect with you after you’ve lied about your relationship.

If you say Other (e.g. maybe you met at an event), you will be asked to provide that person’s email address to prove that you really have connected somehow with that person.

But if you’re just trying to send them a message and you already have their email address, then you don’t really need LinkedIn at this point.

And if you’re honest and admit you just don’t know this person, you’ll be greeted with this message if you try to Connect.

So none of these methods are really helpful for connecting with people you don’t already know.

Send an InMail

InMails are emails you can send to anyone on LinkedIn. The catch? You have to pay for them. Of course, depending on why you want to reach the person, this might be totally worth it to you. Unfortunately, if you click the option to send an email, LinkedIn immediately asks you to upgrade to another plan.

The different packages will include different number of InMails you’re allowed to send.

As you can see, the cheapest version that includes InMails is $29.95 a month, which includes 3 of them. This might be worth it if you currently want to contact three people you don’t know. The problem is, you can’t pay on a month-to-month basis. So the $240 you’ll be charged to upgrade is probably a little steep just to send one message.

UPDATE: LinkedIn has stopped allowing people with the free Basic service to send InMails at all. (Ugh.) However, they do now let you purchase a premium plan on a monthly basis (and they have a 30-day free trial option). And if you are a premium subscriber, you can purchase up to 10 additional individual InMails for $10 each. So this may be an option for you if you desperately need to contact people and can send them all within the same month. Also, as mentioned in another update below, they will now re-credit you with an InMail if you receive a response from the person you contacted so you could end up more. I’m not sure what happens if the person responds to you after your subscription is up.

If you do want to purchase additional InMails, here’s how you do it.

Roll over your picture at the top right and select Privacy & Settings.

You can also just go to when you’re logged into your account.

Click Purchase under the InMails section.

You’ll be taken to a page where you’ll need to click Purchase InMail again. (Bad UI, LinkedIn!)

A popup appears and you can purchase 1, 3, 5, or 10 InMails. There’s no discount for multiple purchases, so why you can’t by 2 or 4 or 6, etc. is unclear to me, but there it is.

Note: If you send an InMail and don’t get a response after 7 days, you’ll be able to use that one for another person. So if you have multiple people you want to contact and they don’t all have to be at once, you may just want to purchase one and wait to see if you hear back from the first person before purchasing one for the next person. In January 2015, LinkedIn is changing their policy. Now you won’t get a refund if the recipient doesn’t reply to you. Instead you’ll now get a refund if they DO reply (within 90 days). I think when they first offered refunds for InMails that weren’t responded to, they were thinking about the sender who might hesitate to pay if they thought nothing would come of it. But in practice, they probably received a lot of spam complaints from the recipients and the new policy rewards people for using the service responsibly. I think that makes sense.

Click the Continue button.

You’ll be taken to the screen to enter your payment information and then you can continue through to confirm the info and then get your receipt. When you return to your Settings page, the number of InMails you’ve purchased are now displayed.

Note: InMails expire in 90 days if you don’t use them.

Now when you click the Send InMail button on someone’s profile, you’ll be taken directly to a message form. Note that when they receive your message, it will give them access to your profile as well so make sure it’s up to date and gives them a reason to want to reply to you.

IMPORTANT: You’ll see on the message form that it lists what the person is interested in receiving communications about. Most people have accepted the default list. But if someone has taken the express action of removing something from the list (e.g. job inquiries), those options will not appear in the Category dropdown box. I strongly recommend you do NOT send them a message under another category as that could get you reported to LinkedIn (plus, as with the relationship situation mentioned above, it’s never a good business practice to lie to people you want something from).

Elizabeth Kricfalusi

View Comments

  • Hi,
    New to Linked in and joined Premium (trial) to reach out to someone through InMail. I don't think this person checks their account very often, does LinkedIn also send the message to their actual email address, or a notification that they have a message? When my trail period is over, will that person still be able to see my message?
    Wendell Calton

    • Hi Wendall.

      It depends on whether the recipient has set their account to send them notifications when they get an email. I believe the default option is to send them, so they would have to deliberately turn them off if they don't want them.

      I'm pretty sure the message will still be in their Inbox once your trial period is over; however I can't find definitive confirmation of that.

      - Elizabeth

  • I get the feeling a new LinkdIn needs to emerge... the idea was for professionals to network, but they've monetized the very core of networking (meeting new people)... which in my mind stinks. I get it that they need $'s for server upkeep and all that... but there are other ways.

    Take a typical professional networking meet-up at a pub/bar... the venue will cover it's costs by the fact we'll buy beer/drink etc. So the pub/bar becomes an enabler of networking...

    LinkdIn used to be that enabler... but it's now put paywalls up at the critical part... like the bar not allowing you to talk to people. Oh you can buy "Chat Points" , 1 Point = 5 minutes conversation...

    • Those are good points about LinkedIn making it harder for people to do what the service exists for. I haven't checked out chat points before... Adding to my to-do list!

  • I'm losing my marbles over here. I have a specific targeted market locally that I've been introducing myself under the Free Basic Membership. I search title, location and receive the list. Then I click Connect and send a very specific, personalized message to the person introducing myself and asking to connect. Two days ago, when i searched title, location - I only received the option to Send Inmail. There was absolutely no Connect option. It's been 2 days and I thought maybe I needed to upgrade. So I am on the 30 day trial for Pro Business. But this is even worse. This is allowing me to ask someone to connect through a personal message only 15 times A MONTH (or I can pay more). This seems crazy. Why in the world have I lost my Connect button and ability to send a custom note asking to connect? Please, Please help if you can!

    • Hi Nikki.

      I just tried this myself -- searching on a location and title. I got a list of people, some of whom had an InMail button beside them and some of whom had a Connect button. The ones that had the InMail button all say 3rd (degree connection) beside them and the ones with the Connect button don't say anything, even though if I click through to their profile it says they are a 3rd-degree connection as well. So I'm not sure why they appear differently -- perhaps it has something to do with their own settings.

      However, the important thing to note is that if I click through to any of their profiles, including the ones that say InMail only, it gives me both options: InMail and Connect. Have you tried clicking through to the profiles of the people kn your search results? If not, you should probably contact LinkedIn Help directly ( I have had success getting help from them in the past, unlike most social media companies.

      It's definitely very confusing. Good luck!

      - Elizabeth

      • Oops, I misunderstood your question. For purchasing those individual InMails, the most you can buy in a month is 10, but you can send them all on one day if you want.

  • Will Linkedin penalize you in any way if you say you're a friend and then they find out that you're really not?

    • Hi Jon.

      The person you try to connect to can report you as "not a friend." I don't know what LinkedIn does, though, when they get those reports although I assume if you made a habit of it, they would cancel your account. I don't know if they'll do it on a first offense, but honestly I would recommend you never do it anyway.

      - Elizabeth

  • Hello,
    I sent an can I be sure it was received? Would I have gotten a message if it was not delivered? Just trying to figure out how this works.
    Thank you in advance.

  • InMails are probably the best (and worst) feature of LinkedIn. It used to be that you could send unlimited InMails if you had a premium membership. However, it has gotten to the point where it costs more to send an InMail than a letter you send via snail mail.

    I sincerely hope that Microsoft will remove this absurd limitation and allow people to contact one another. Otherwise we will have a situation where we are forced to pay $30-$50/month. I suppose when that happens another social network will rise and overtake it.

    • Yes, LinkedIn is much more designed for professional recruiters and business people than individuals who aren't going to shell out the kind of money they charge for premium plans.

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