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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 for this very informative material. Can a recipient respond to a Premium member's InMail when they don't know each other? Does Linkedin forces the recipient to upgrade to read the message?

    • Hi Bruce.

      The recipient can reply to any InMail without upgrading or paying for anything. It's only sending InMails that requires the upgrade or individual purchase.

      - Elizabeth

  • Hi Elizabeth

    Thank you for this info, however when I follow the instructions it takes me to a page where the only option is to sign up to one of their plans. Any way around this?


    • Hi Garnet.

      It's been a while since you posted this comment, but I wanted to follow up because I just discovered that LinkedIn no longer lets people with the free Basic plan purchase InMails. I've added information in the post above that provides some other options.

      - Elizabeth

  • Basically, if we pay we can spam people. I get tons of such email from random recruiters.
    Seems like a bad business model, i.e. paid plan to spam and circumvent what makes LinkedIn good to be on.

    • Hi Sam.

      I actually don't think it's that bad, especially now that they've changed the policy that they won't refund your money if recipients don't respond to your message. That's going to cost spammers a lot more. And we do have the ability to turn off reading InMails altogether, so we can avoid receiving them if we don't want them.

      Given that LinkedIn is meant to be a networking tool, I feel like they're doing a pretty good job of balancing the conflicting interests of their various members. It will never be perfect for everybody, though.

      Thanks for your comment!

      - Elizabeth

  • I just received a new inmail update from linkedin. Basically it's changing the inmail policy to not refund an unopened inmail, presumably to minimize spam and reaching out to strangers. Any comments?

    • Hi Harvey.

      Yes, I got that email as well and I've been meaning to update the post so thanks for the reminder.

      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 did receive a lot of spam complaints from the recipients and the new policy rewards people for using the service responsibly. I think that makes sense.

      - Elizabeth

  • Hi Elizabeth,

    In your article, one of the options to connect is the "Group" option. However, I have been finding that in the last month or two, this option *no longer* appears in the options to connect. I am not sure if this is the general case, or is this (as one reader mentioned) "LinkedIn prison" that I have been placed in (for reasons, as always, best known to LI, but never explained or never explainable by their customer service in the 10 years I've been on it). So, wondered if you or your readers have experienced the same change?


    • Hi Vishal.

      I just checked my own account and I do still have the ability to send messages to group members. But I can't do it from a member's profile page. The only way I can do it is to go to the list of all members in the group and each person has a Send Message option under their heading, or by clicking on their image in any discussion thread, which brings up another page with a dropdown option to send the message.

      Note that I didn't actually test sending the message, since I didn't want to use people I'm not connected to as guinea pigs. But the Send Message dialog box did come up in both those cases. And from what I understand in your comment, you didn't see the option at all... Is that right?

      - Elizabeth

  • I am unable to message any 2nd degree member in my groups. I was told this is because I once used people you may know as a vehicle to connect. Any thoughts. Thank you

    • Thanks for these info Elizabeth , i want to ask you : what is the best letter can i send via linkedin to anyone and will take his attention to my job request ??

      • Hi Wajih.

        I'm sorry, but that's a lot more complicated question than I can answer. It depends on too many factors and there's not going to be a single letter that will work with multiple recipients.

        Good luck with your job search!

        - Elizabeth

      • Hi Elizabeth. The problem exists when I try to message any 2nd degree connection in any of my groups. Linkedin told me it is a known problem, but they don't know how to fix it as of now. Should i get a protocol to fix it , i'll pass it along to you. Tom

        • Thanks for the update! And thanks for offering to let me know if/when they get it fixed.

          - Elizabeth

  • Dear Elizabeth,
    Many thanks for your all kind responses to us , what I needed lust to know! how some one can send a message or connect to the other one without payment because we usually received asking for payment before getting connection.


    • Hi Mehran.

      I'm sorry, I'm not clear on what you're trying to do. If you give me more details, I may be able to help you.

      - Elizabeth

  • Thank you for the article. I wanted to add that if both parties are members of the same LinkedIn group, using the "Group" options would allow you to send a connection request to the other person absolutely free. If you abuse this privilege and too many people flag you as spam or IDK (I don't know), your will be placed into LinkedIn prison. :)

    • Sorry I missed your comment when you submitted it. That's a great tip about the Group options, thanks for sharing!

  • If I see someone has viewed my profile on LinkedIn, then I see a send inmail next to the person's name, what does that mean? Is it just that they are viewing my profile only?

    • Hi Denise.

      LinkedIn is giving you the option to contact the person who viewed your profile when you're not connected to them. It's really an upsell on LinkedIn's part. They're thinking that you're going to want to contact a person who checked out your profile so you'll be willing to pay extra for InMail. However, if I got a message from someone whose profile I viewed but didn't contact myself, I might find that a little invasive, so I wouldn't recommend it.

      Hope that clarifies things!

  • Hey, I'm wishing to contact a man named Paul Handelman, a guy who has worked on the English scripts for various games for Enix back in the olden days, and if I'm reading this right, I have to pay $10 bucks for a convenient chance to talk to him. Would you happen to know of any other way to contact him that's free? Like maybe there's some other professional network he might be on that'll allow me to contact him without paying?

    • Well, you could see if he's on Facebook or Twitter, but sometimes it's hard to distinguish between people with the same name. I've had good luck in the past with Google searches, but otherwise I don't know of any other places you might track him down.

      • So what category should I send this message as? "Expertise Request"? I'm not sure what category an interview would fall under >_<...

        • I'm not sure what your purpose is in contacting him. Do you mean a job interview (job inquiries) or interviewing him for a publication (expertise request)?

          If you worked with him in the past, you could just use the Request to Reconnect category.

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