- Before you send an InMail, see if the person is active daily on LinkedIn. If the prospective contact has a sparsely populated profile, no status update activity over a two week period, and very few connections (i.e. under 40 or 50 connections), that person is probably not a prolific user of LinkedIn. If the person is not a daily user, the person will unlikely to see your InMail until they log into LinkedIn — and who knows when that will be. Send your InMails to active users of LinkedIn to increase your chances of it getting read, as those users probably have the LinkedIn-generates emails (InMails being one form of those) forwarded to their regular email account to increase the likelihood of the email being read.
- When crafting your InMail content, use the same social norms that you would use in cold calling, in-person networking, emails, and many other forms of relationship development communication tools. Those same relationship etiquette rules apply to the use of InMails. Be polite–’Please’ and ‘thank you’ go a long way. Be specific—Don’t embark on your whole professional history in this initial email. Don’t be too forward too fast–but be direct. Keep it short and sweet. Show interest in the person you are speaking to/emailing by including why your request may be beneficial to them (if it truly will be).
- Be sure to ask for appropriate-level information (about their experience, advice, or opinion) in a short, actionable request. For example, if the person you are InMailing is someone you never met before and have no mutual connections, asking that if they know of any open jobs to refer to you may be too forward for some recipients. Most people receiving this type of email will ignore it (I would, anyway) and you will not receive a response. Use flattery in a modest manner.
- Think about how you would want to be approached as a general guide as to how to approach others. To drive this point home, would you ask someone to marry you upon meeting them for the first time? Would you want someone to ask to vouch for them in a professional setting, when you have not met them before? Again, use LinkedIn InMail as a relationship starter with new contacts and not as a transactional exchange or a deal closer.
- Keep your request short and sweet. Less is more. Long manifesto requests rarely get read (Think about it, how motivated are you to read lengthy emails from people you do not know?). Ask a short, actionable question that makes it easy for the person you are asking to say yes and help you. I suggest asking for an exploratory conversation, commenting on a post they made, suggesting a 10-15 minute call, in a short note.
- Optimize your profile, so when the recipient looks at your profile attached to your InMail, they are impressed with your background and your choices made to present yourself. When I am approached with an InMail request asking me for a favor or pro-bono assistance, if I look at the person’s profile and see that they are not the most professional in their LinkedIn presentation, it can make me wonder about their judgment and it can slow down my response. (Cleaning Up & Polishing Your Online Image.)
- Before sending the InMail, see if you can find other contact information on the person and reach out to them using that other means (Email, Twitter, Facebook, etc…). By reaching out to the person using another medium, maybe a medium the person tends to use more, you are preserving your InMails for times when you really need it and increasing the chance of you getting a response—which is what this game really is all about.
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