LinkedIn offers a great many tools to connect businesses and professionals all over the world. Lots of great tools are even available on the free version. However, today, I’m talking about a premium tool (but it can still impact you even if you are on the free version). 

I’m referring to LinkedIn InMail.- the premium feature that allows you to send private, direct messages to anyone on LinkedIn, even if you’re not connected to them. This feature expands your networking reach beyond your immediate connections. 

You probably know by now that you have to be 1st Level connections to send direct messages. InMail removes that restriction. 

I’m sure you can already see how powerful a tool that is. In the wise words of Voltaire (and, popularly, Spiderman), "With great power comes great responsibility." In this context, InMail is a potent tool in your professional networking arsenal, but its effective use requires understanding, strategy, and, above all, responsibility. 

I went on a bit of a rant earlier this week when spam seemed to be littering my InMail more than usual. As such, I thought it might be a good idea to give it a decent discussion. 

Let’s talk about how and why to use the InMail feature on LinkedIn and the importance of honest, respectful communication. 

If you are on the free version of LinkedIn, you will occasionally notice that you are invited to message someone not in your 1st Level connections. This can be really handy, especially if you are reaching out to someone you met out in the real world and want to follow-up with them. 

You may also notice that you receive InMail from people outside of your network. Just because you can’t message them doesn’t mean they can’t message you.

Why Use InMail anyway?

There are some legit reasons to use InMail. For example, if you're a job seeker and came across a hiring manager from your dream company, you could use InMail to introduce yourself and express your interest, even if you're not connected. However, always do your homework so your message is timely and relevant. 

I’ve used it to reach out to folks I’ve connected with professionally but we aren’t yet connected on LinkedIn. 

My point is that if you are going to use InMail, have a genuine purpose that does not involve pitching your product or services. 

My advice: Do not pay for a premium plan in order to get access to InMail. If you have a paid account for another reason, great. InMail may come in handy now and then.

How does InMail work?

No plan will give you unlimited InMails. InMail works on a credit system. Depending on which of LinkedIn’s paid subscriptions you have, you will have a set number of credits that reload each month. You can see each plan with its allotted credits in this chart. (who knew there were so many different plans?)

To send an InMail, if you have any credits, you simply navigate to the recipient’s profile and click on “message”. You can also start a message by typing in their name just like with regular DMs. 

One nice thing about InMail is that you get a Subject Line. This is great because it lets you show the recipient you aren’t spamming them.

The default assumption for InMail is that is going to be spam. Make sure yours isn’t.

Understanding SPAM

In the context of LinkedIn, spam is characterized as unsolicited promotional messages, repeated messages to non-responsive recipients, and bulk messaging. For example, if you send the same message to a large number of users promoting your services, you are essentially spamming their inboxes. 

Put simply - Don’t pitch. Not in InMail and not in your Direct Messages.

Consequences of SPAM

Worst case scenario: You get booted off of LinkedIn, either temporarily or permanently. You don't want to find yourself in Linkedin "Jail".

Spamming violates LinkedIn’s policies. Spamming also harms your reputation and is just unprofessional.

As a thoughtful and authentic LinkedIn user, a valued member of the LinkedIn community, you can help cut down on SPAM by reporting it.

Remember what LinkedIn is all about. It is a professional networking platform. It is about building authentic relationships. It is NOT a transactional marketplace. 

Let’s work together to make LinkedIn better for everyone.