LinkedIn is one of the most popular professional social networking sites, with over 740 million members worldwide. One of LinkedIn’s key features is the ability to connect and communicate with other professionals through messaging. However, some users wonder if they can send messages to LinkedIn members who are not in their direct network or contacts.
The short answer is yes, you can message someone on LinkedIn who is not one of your 1st-degree connections. However, there are some limitations compared to messaging a direct contact. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about messaging non-contacts on LinkedIn, including:
- Can you message someone who is not a contact on LinkedIn?
- What limitations are there to messaging non-contacts?
- Who can see messages to non-contacts?
- How to customize your LinkedIn profile and settings for messaging
- Tips for messaging LinkedIn members outside your network
- Is messaging non-contacts worth it?
- Alternative ways to reach non-contacts on LinkedIn
Understanding the ins and outs of messaging non-connections will help you use LinkedIn messaging more effectively for networking, prospecting, and recruiting.
Can You Message Someone Who is Not a Contact on LinkedIn?
Yes, LinkedIn allows you to send messages to members who are not in your direct 1st-degree network. However, there are some restrictions compared to messaging your 1st-degree connections.
When you message a 1st-degree connection (someone you are directly connected with), the message will go to their LinkedIn inbox like a normal email. But when messaging a non-contact 2nd or 3rd-degree connection, or messaging someone you have no existing connection with, things work a bit differently.
Instead of the message going directly to their inbox, the recipient will receive a notification that you want to message them. They can then choose to accept your message, at which point it will go to their inbox, or ignore it.
So in summary:
- You can message any LinkedIn member, whether they are in your network or not.
- Messages to 1st-degree connections go directly to their inbox.
- Messages to non-contacts provide the recipient with the option to accept or ignore.
This means you can attempt to initiate contact and messaging threads with any LinkedIn member, but the recipient ultimately has control over whether they want to engage with you or not.
Limitations to Messaging Non-Contacts
While you can message any LinkedIn member, there are some key limitations and differences when messaging someone who is not already in your 1st-degree network:
Recipient Must Accept Message
As mentioned, the recipient will need to actively accept a message from a non-contact before it shows up in their inbox. Many people ignore or delete connection requests and messages from strangers. So there is a good chance your message could simply be ignored or rejected, especially if you have no shared connections or context with the recipient.
When messaging a non-contact, your initial message has a 300 character limit. This restricts how much context and personalization you can include compared to an unlimited message to an existing contact.
When you message a non-contact, the interaction is one-sided. You can send them an initial 300-character message, but they cannot reply or view your full profile unless they first accept the message request. This makes it harder to have an interactive two-way conversation.
No Shared Connections Displayed
When messaging a 1st-degree connection, LinkedIn shows you any shared connections or companies you may have in common to provide context. But these details are not displayed when messaging non-contacts.
Cannot Share Media
When messaging existing 1st-degree connections, you can share photos, links, and other media within the message. But when messaging non-contacts, you can only send a text-based message.
Lower Priority Inbox Placement
Even if a non-contact accepts your message, inbox algorithms may still prioritize messages from existing connections over messages from non-contacts. So your message could be buried or overlooked.
Higher Risk of Being Flagged
Since you have no existing relationship with the recipient, messaging non-contacts comes with a higher risk of being flagged or reported for unwanted messaging. This is especially true when messaging strangers for prospecting without any context provided.
Who Can See Messages to Non-Contacts?
When considering messaging someone you are not already connected to, it’s important to understand who else may be able to see that you sent them a message. Here’s an overview:
The member you message will of course see that you’ve sent them a message. They can also see a short preview of the message (around 50 characters) in the message notification.
Your Shared Connections
Even though you can’t see your shared connections with a non-contact when messaging them, members you are both connected to will be able to see in their notifications that you messaged that person.
So for example, if you and the recipient are both connected to John Doe, John may see a notification like “Clara messaged Jane Smith, who you are both connected to.”
LinkedIn’s Trust & Safety teams can review messaging data and content to look for harassment, spam, or other policy violations. So assume LinkedIn employees may review messages to non-contacts.
Only You and the Recipient See Message Content
However, only you and the direct recipient will be able to see the actual content and details of the messages if they accept them. Your shared connections or other members will not be able to view the full conversation.
Customize Profile & Settings for Messaging
Making sure your LinkedIn profile and messaging settings are optimized can increase the chances of getting responses to non-contact messages:
Complete Your Profile
A fully completed profile with a photo, background summary, previous experience, education, skills, recommendations, and other details provides non-contacts more context about who you are. This builds credibility and trust to make them more willing to accept your message.
Make Your Profile Public
Non-contacts can only view limited profile information about you by default. But you can change settings to allow public access to your full profile even by members outside your network.
Display Open to Mentoring
If your goal is to provide value, display your interests like “Open to mentoring others in my industry.” This makes you seem more approachable for non-contact messages.
Show You Are Open to Opportunities
If looking for new opportunities, signaling you are open through settings like “Actively looking for a job” can encourage non-contacts to message you.
Expand Your Network
The more existing 2nd and 3rd-degree connections you have, the more credibility you’ll have messaging new non-contacts who may already be connected to people in your network. A robust network signals you are trusted.
Personalize Invite Settings
Under account settings, you can customize the invite permission levels required for non-contacts to message you. For example, choosing “Only people with shared connections can send you InMail” filters low-quality messages.
List Your Contact Info
Adding contact details like your email address or phone number makes it easier for non-contacts to follow up with you outside of LinkedIn if appropriate.
Optimizing these profile settings helps create more trust and credibility to increase the chances of receiving responses to your outreach messages.
Tips for Messaging Non-Contacts
When crafting your message to someone not already in your LinkedIn network, follow these best practices:
Personalize the Message
Taking the time to personalize your message based on the recipient’s profile and context is critical. This shows you took the time to understand who they are rather than just spamming.
Briefly explain who you are and why you want to get in touch in the first message. Quick professional context helps them understand why you are reaching out.
Explain Any Shared Context
If you went to the same school, worked at the same company, are in the same niche, or have any other relevant context, call that out to establish common ground.
Have a Clear and Relevant Purpose
Explain the specific reason you want to connect, like networking, mentoring, exploring job opportunities, or discussing an industry topic. A vague message is less compelling.
Keep it Succinct Within the Limit
You only have 300 characters, so avoid long-winded introductions. Get right to the point within the constraints.
Think about what useful information, insights, or opportunities you can share with the recipient to show you’re not just asking for something.
Use the Right Tone
Maintain a professional and respectful tone, especially since you have no existing rapport with the recipient. Avoid over-familiarity or sounding too aggressive.
Mention Next Steps
Guide the recipient on expected or desired next steps, like connecting on LinkedIn, scheduling a call, or continuing the discussions via email.
Follow Up Politely
If they do not respond after about a week, it’s reasonable to politely follow up expressing continued interest in connecting. But don’t over-message.
Using these best practices increases your rate of response while avoiding common messaging pitfalls.
Is Messaging Non-Contacts Worth It?
Messaging people outside your existing network on LinkedIn takes more effort and provides lower response rates. But it can still be a worthwhile outreach tactic in the right situations:
When You Lack Shared Connections
Messaging non-contacts may be your only option to reach someone you share no existing connections with but want to develop a relationship with.
To Expand Your Network
Meeting new people outside your existing circles allows you to expand the reach, diversity, and breadth of your professional network.
For Access to Senior Leaders
Senior leaders are more selective with their networks. Messaging may be the only way to engage them in conversation and build a relationship.
When You Have Limited Existing Contacts
If you are early in your career with few connections, messaging non-contacts becomes more important to broaden your opportunities.
To Connect with Prospects
Messaging is a way to engage relevant prospects and decision-makers you have no other way to contact.
To Initiate Potential Partnerships
Reaching out to non-contacts allows you to discover partnership opportunities with other organizations and professionals outside your own company.
So while messaging non-contacts has challenges, the payoff can be increased opportunities, an expanded network, and valuable new connections.
Alternatives to Messaging Non-Contacts
If you are concerned about low response rates or the limitations around messaging non-contacts on LinkedIn, here are a few alternative outreach approaches:
Request an Introduction
See if any of your existing 1st-degree connections can introduce you. An introduction adds credibility and increases response potential.
Join Targeted LinkedIn Groups
Participate in niche LinkedIn Groups related to the recipient’s interests where you can potentially interact.
Provide Value on Content First
Comment on the recipient’s posts or share their content to start helpful public interactions before direct messaging.
Connect at In-Person Events
Attend conferences, meetups, or other events where you may be able to connect with the person directly.
Connect on Additional Channels
Look for ways to message or email the recipient through channels outside of LinkedIn where appropriate.
Focus on Growing Your Network First
Build up your existing LinkedIn network and engagement before doing extensive outreach to strangers.
So instead of always resorting to messaging non-contacts, consider alternative networking strategies that could be more effective. But direct messaging still has its place in the right context.
While messaging non-contacts on LinkedIn has limitations compared to messaging existing connections, it can be a valuable networking and prospecting tactic if used properly.
To recap the key points:
- You can message anyone on LinkedIn, but non-contacts must opt-in first before seeing your message.
- Customize your profile and settings to appear more approachable.
- Personalize your short 300 character message and provide value.
- Focus on recipients where messaging could make sense, like senior leaders or prospects.
- Leverage options like introductions or in-person events where possible.
Using non-contact messaging strategically allows you to expand your opportunities beyond your existing circles. But it’s important to be respectful of other members’ time and networks.
With the right approach, messaging beyond your connections can lead to game-changing partnerships, clients, mentors, or collaborators you never would have met otherwise.