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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-

    So I've sent an InMail and the person replied saying let's connect on LinkedIn... so am I back at square one? I still don't have their contact info and trying to connect but get the same options listed for people I don't know... am I missing something?

    • Hi Paula.

      I think if the person suggested you connect, you can select one of the options like "friends" or "done business with" to send the invitation. Then in your invitation text, just say something like, "As per our previous discussion, I'd love to connect with you on LinkedIn."

      - Elizabeth

  • I have subscribed for premium and have 30 messages (inmail) according to my linkedin account. Unable to send even my first mail. It's rather long though. Is there a word restriction for inmail messages?

    • Hi Srini.

      I contacted LinkedIn's Customer Experience team and got this reply back:

      "The character limit for InMail messages is 2000, the subject line has a limit of 120 characters."

      Note that that limit would include spaces. In my experience, if you exceed a limit, you get an error message telling you that. So if you're not getting that error message, you may have a different problem. In that case, you can contact LinkedIn directly using this form:

      Hope that helps!

      - Elizabeth

      • Hello,

        I want to send a inmail to one of the business person whom I don't know, how can I do so. And for the first mail which I have sent its a free mail for which I dint get charged ,so if case the person whom I have sent the mail responses to me will I get an inmail directly or shall I have to pay for it.And what in case if want to resend the mail to other people

  • Hi Elizabeth
    My company works on a slightly larger scale but we are looking to progress our profile on LinkedIn
    to grow our audience further. In the articles I have seen so far and with my own account I have only
    seen ways to send a small amount of InMails I have been told about larger accounts for larger
    businesses I was wondering if you know how these work? Any information would be greatly
    Many thanks

  • If I want to invite people to connect from the same group I'm in I understand that I will see the drop-down asking how I know this person. I can then select the group and send the invitation. My question is does LI have a problem with people connecting with people in this way? IOW, what if the person in the group reported to LI that they do not know me personally-could that create a problem? Or is it copacetic to send people invitations to connect If I am in the same group as they are, even if they are a 2nd or 3rd degree connection?

    • Hi Kerry.

      It's totally fine to send a message to someone in the same group as long as the email is appropriate. A person wouldn't likely report somebody to say that they didn't know them, as when you join a group you're accepting that other group members can email you. But if someone kept sending numerous emails without getting a response or did something else the recipient found annoying, then they might report that.

      Note also that when you send an email to a group member, you will not see their actual email address. All communications will go through LinkedIn's messaging system until people share their personal addresses.

      - Elizabeth

  • I have a Premium account and sent an Inmail message to a 2nd degree contact to network. He responded but when I try to respond to his response, it does not record in my sent box. Did my message go t hrough? My account says I have 5 credits left.

    • Hi Michelle.

      Sorry, I'm not sure what happened there. As far as I know, all messages you send should end up in your Sent box. Did you try filtering on InMails just to see if it shows up there?

      I think your best bet is to wait a day or so to see if you get a response. If not, you can always send the person a follow-up saying what you said here -- that your message isn't showing up in your Sent box so you just want to double-check he got it.

      - Elizabeth

  • Is the option to buy InMail credits still available as when the settings are clicked as suggested to buy them you get directed to the LinkedIn Premium Free Trial offer and not given an option to bypass it?

    • Hi Patrick.

      Ugh. It looks like LinkedIn has taken away the option for purchasing individual InMails for people with the free Basic service. Bad decision on their part, in my opinion, but I don't know that there's much we can do about it. I'll update the post. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

      - Elizabeth

  • Hi Elizabeth,

    Thanks for your post. If you purchase a Business or Executive account and send your allotted inmails per month, is there a limit to how many more you can purchase?

  • Hi Elizabeth

    Thanks for this very helpful guide. When you send an inmail to someone you don't know, and they respond, does linked in then provide you the option to connect?


    • Hi Stephen.

      It's been a while since I've sent one so I don't remember if there's a special connect option attached to the InMail exchange. But if the person responds favorably, I think it would be perfectly appropriate to ask them if they would be interested in connecting with you and, if they say yes, you can send them a regular connection request.

      - Elizabeth

  • Hi Elizabeth,
    I sent a second-level InMail to someone I didn't know, and it went through. I checked my sent messages, and it was there as I wrote it. BUT..then it stopped. I clicked on another 2d-level the next day, and it showed exactly as you said. Was that first one a fluke? Or is Linkedin doing a game of a free taste, then pulling back?

  • Hi Elizabeth,

    thank you for this info!

    When you purchase the basic account and get 3 inmails per month, does it clock over on the 1st of every month or from you purchase date? Is there somewhere on Linked In where you can see when your credits will return?

    with thanks,

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