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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

  • Thanks, Elizabeth! For me, the feature returned and has been working reliably for the last several weeks. Glad this got ironed out... it really is a very useful feature.

  • This is what happens when Microsoft buys a company and promptly proceeds to take away any value it offered.

  • I had soome people on my connection but i tried sending them a message so they can know me more but it seems that message is not going through across to them, why?

    • Hi James.

      I'm sorry, I'd need a lot more information about what exactly you did to have any idea of what the problem might be. For example, how do you know your message isn't getting to them?

      - Elizabeth

  • I get requests to let them join me but if i dont know them i want to msg them how do i know them and why i need to add them. Now i cant so basically i dont add anyone if i dont know them.

    Great way to srew your own system linked in

    • Yes, it would be smart if they let you send messages to people who have invited you to join their network. - Elizabeth

      • Up until a week or so ago, you could actually do this, though the feature was somewhat hidden... there was a little speech bubble icon at the top right of their box on the Invitations page (if I'm remembering this right). If I was declining an invitation because I didn't know the sender, I would often send a short message thanking them anyway... as of this evening, I can no longer find the feature... meaning I've either gone stupid or they've removed it.

          • Thanks so much for the follow-up... greatly appreciated! Hopefully LI will get this feature fixed and more reliably available... it's definitely a handy tool.

          • Hey Michael.

            Believe it or not, I got this response from LinkedIn today:

            "We're happy to report that our engineering team has fixed the issue you reported."

            I went to my own account and I now see Reply icons at the top of the cards for all the people from whom I have pending invitations. Woo-hoo! :)

            I have to say, LinkedIn is one of the few tech companies I've found that actually does take action when users report problems.

            Have a great weekend!

            - Elizabeth

          • Yes, that's the page where I found it in the past... but for me it's no longer there. I only get the little "x" to dismiss the box... no speech bubble.

          • FYI, I sent LinkedIn a question about this through their Help Us pages. I got this answer back today:

            "Thanks for contacting LinkedIn, I am sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.

            I wish I had an immediate resolution for you. This particular issue has been escalated to our engineering team and a resolution is underway. At this time I do not have an estimate as to how long that might take. We'll do our best to keep you posted."

            FYI, I'm now seeing the speech bubbles on some people's cards but not on others'. I can't see what the difference is between them, so hopefully I will hear back from LI when they have an actual answer.

            - Elizabeth

  • I do not intend to involve LinkedIn but I wish to contact a person that I do not know. She left her bank card in the street and that I traced her name on Google hence her name appeared in LinkedIn.
    If so can you please provide how to contact this person directly?
    Geoffrey Eagling

    • Hi Geoffrey.

      If you don't want to use LinkedIn, probably your best bet is to contact the bank that the card is associated with and ask them to notify the owner that you have the card.

      - Elizabeth

  • Is there a way to send a LinkedIn InMail to multiple people simultaneously if they are all 1st connections?

      • Hi there,

        I want to send a message to some new people and connect with them along with sending an invitation on linkedln.

        Wonder if i am able to explain the issue well.

        I know their names, email id but they are not my connections - need to invite them along with a message.

        Please explain how,

        • Hi Shweta.

          You can add a brief message when you invite someone to join your network. You just want to make sure you don't click a link that bypasses the message box.

          These are older posts, so the interface has The Etiquette of LinkedIn Invitationschanged since I wrote them, but they should be able to get you started on the right track.

          The INs of LinkedIn

          I hope that helps!

          - Elizabeth

  • From the time you wrote this article, LinkedIn has removed "Groups" as a category on the Connect screen. What would you say is the best etiquette for connecting with a fellow group member when this category is no longer there?

    • Hi Matt.

      Thanks for pointing this out. LinkedIn changed the rules for sending messages to fellow group members a little while back (I think there was too much spamming going on). You can only send 15 messages to group members a month (across all groups). That must be why they took that option off the Connect screen.

      This LinkedIn support article explains the rules and mechanics of sending messages to group members:

      As for etiquette, I think the most important thing would be to start the message by saying why you're reaching out to that specific person from the group.

      Thanks again for pointing this out. I'll update the post.

      - Elizabeth

  • My problem isn't how technically contact people,but what to say to people I don't know in real life,and these people share the same proffession as I am.What can I say to them to make them answer me?

    • Hi Amit.

      That's actually a much harder question than "how" to contact them. I would recommend studying their profiles and see how they use LinkedIn and then give them a reason why connecting with you would be a benefit to them. Maybe you can include a link to an article that they might find interesting or explain how they might find value in being connected to the rest of your network. The important thing is to show them how a connection would be good for them, not for you.

      - Elizabeth

  • Hi,

    I had Linked In Premium back in October 2014 and I contacted someone and they responded. I now want to contact them again, but I have a basic account now. I have sent them an InMail and it seems to have sent, but will I be able to read their response if I have a basic account?

    • Hi Philippa.

      If someone you sent an InMail to responds to you, you will be able to read the reply even with a basic account. Which makes sense because otherwise, why would anyone pay to send an InMail if they couldn't read the reply?

      - Elizabeth

      • Hi,

        I have not paid to send the InMail, that's why I am unsure if I will be able to read the response.

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