Six Outreach Methods On LinkedIn. Which Is Best?

Some doors are easier to open than others.

You have found someone on LinkedIn that you would like to engage with. But how do you get in touch with that person? Well, there are six possible ways to do so on LinkedIn, and I thought it would be a good idea to cover what they are and the upside/downside to using each one.

Note that with respect to all of these, you need to be careful who you are reaching out to – if you are reaching out to someone who rarely uses LinkedIn your chances of getting a response deteriorates pretty quickly.

Use InMail  (requires a premium subscription)

If you have a LinkedIn Premium Subscription you get an allotment of these every month. With InMail you can send a message to any second or third degree connection on LinkedIn.

InMail gets a bad rap but that is because most LinkedIn users are inept at using it. They send messages that they wouldn’t dream of sending to someone via email. InMail messages written well get outstanding response rates.

Interacting with other people’s content 

The idea being that you will wind up starting a conversation with them and that will kindle your relationship.


I say “maybe” because you need the following to happen. The other person needs to:

a) notice your comment


b) appreciate what you said


c) think it is interesting enough to respond back


d) not having someone else respond and have your target pass on

responding to you


e) be willing to respond to your overtures to go beyond talking about a post

This method does work, but you’re asking for a lot to go right for it to do so. For my thinking, this idea just relies on too many good things happening.

Use the free LinkedIn In-Group message system

You can send messages to fellow LinkedIn group members and these messages are free.

If there are people you would like to develop a relationship with in a group you both share, send them a message.

If you share a group, you share an interest. Capitalize on it.

Use Open Profile Messaging (Free InMail)

Open Profile messages are free messages you can send to LinkedIn users who have Premium Subscriptions. Note that Premium users can turn this feature on or off, but my experience shows that most of them don’t even realize they can turn it off. I conducted a study of COO’s in the Chicago area and found that 75% of the ones who had Premium Subscriptions had them set to receive Open Profile messages.

Cold connection requests

This one’s a wild card.

There are two problems with this, one that used to be bad and is now trivial, and another that was trivial and is now bad!

The old bad result was being rejected. Collecting enough rejections could result in LinkedIn restricting your account.

Having your account restricted means having to know and provide the email address as part of any connection requests you make from now on. I had this happen to me early in my time on LinkedIn when I sent invitations to connect to customers of a company I used to work with. Apparently I remembered them a lot better than they remembered me! It took a lot of fast talking with LinkedIn to get my privileges restored.

But these days, we are in a time when people accept almost any invitation to connect. And this has created the second problem.

Connecting is now easy. Starting conversations with your connections is now hard.

This has become really tough. I can’t tell you the number of people who I have connected with, where they accepted my request and I could not start a conversation with them, or even get a response from them. Even worse, I can’t tell you the number of people who asked me to connect and then I never heard from them again.

I have actually found it better to start a conversation with a non-connection that turns into a connection, than to connect and try to start a conversation.

Get introduced to a 2nd level connection via a mutual connection

This is the absolute best way to contact a stranger on LinkedIn. And as you might expect, it can be the most difficult to pull off. 

Getting an introduction reduces the prospect’s perceived risk in talking with you.

Let’s say I want to meet Alice, who has come up in a LinkedIn search. I can see from the search results page that she is a second degree connection. I can also see that I am connected to Alice through five of my direct first degree connections (this shows in the search results too. Try it). What I do now is choose the best one and contact him or her and ask for an introduction to Alice.

This is by far the best way to meet someone new on LinkedIn as long as your introducer has credibility with the person they are introducing you to. Their introduction bestows credibility upon you. But that credibility only gets you the first call or message though, then it’s up to you.  This is the only method where you start with some credibility and stand a good chance of getting your foot in the door.

The bottom line? There is a variety of Outreach methods at your disposal. Making use of the right one in the right place takes a bit of practice, but is well worth it.

Want more like this? I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. 

The 7 Uses For LinkedIn

(just pretend there’s a seventh candle. Thanks)


(…and how useful it actually is for each one)

Profile Reference Check

People typically come to your profile to answer these questions:

  • Just who is this person?
  • Are they who they say they are?

What it amounts to is people are looking at your profile as a kind of reference check. They are curious about you and they want to know more.

When someone comes to your profile the implied question they have is “What can this person do to help me?”

And there you go. Those are the questions your profile needs to answer:

  • What can you do for your ideal reader?
  • What benefits can you provide?
  • What questions are you uniquely qualified to answer?

LinkedIn works really well for this, but most LinkedIn users don’t work their profiles really well. They have skinny one line descriptions of current and past job descriptions. They don’t bother with the “About section” at all. They have no articles or featured content in their profiles. They neglect especially the Skills and Recommendations sections. A LinkedIn  profile can be a personal showcase that is open 24/7. It takes some effort to set up, but then it just takes a little maintenance to keep it up to date.

Increased Reach

You can use LinkedIn for increasing your Reach, that is the number of people who are aware of you, but it is not easy. You have two things working against you when you want to use LinkedIn to increase your reach:

  • The first is the LinkedIn algorithm. Most people see the algorithm putting their content in front of new people and think that is good. And it is. But the quality of those people is suspect. Your connections and followers may for the most part fit nicely with your ideal reader or prospect demographic, but their connections and followers will likely start wandering away from being a good fit. And oddly, the more LinkedIn spreads your post out there, the less likely those new people fit.
  • The second fact is that you are competing with millions of other people and companies vying for attention on LinkedIn. A search on Sales Navigator reveals that 24 million people posted on LinkedIn in the past thirty days. That’s a million people every day, and that does not count any of those people posting more than twice in the past 30 days, and that does not count company page posts, of which there are something like 60 million company pages.

Using LinkedIn for reach gets tougher all the time. I am starting to work with some of my clients on using LinkedIn advertising if they want increased reach, because it is the only way of ensuring their message gets put in front of exactly who they want to get it in front of.

Increased Credibility

On the other hand, LinkedIn is awesome for increasing credibility. You can call it thought leadership, which is trendy, or consideration, which is what LinkedIn calls it in their advertising context, but regardless of the label, LinkedIn is really good for it.

However, some ways are better than others. I recommend writing articles or newsletters if you want credibility. There are three reasons for this:

  • They can be inserted as feature articles and prominently displayed on your profile
  • They are saved long term by LinkedIn. I have articles that are over six years old that are still on LinkedIn
  • They get indexed by Google. People searching Google can be directed to your article. I know this happens because it has happened to me tens of thousands of times.

These days, prospective customers do a lot of research. They identify who the players are for their requirements, and they set about doing the preliminary parsing by themselves. They will often come up with a small group of finalists before they ever contact any of those finalists. LinkedIn is a great way of establishing your credibility and making the list of people or companies that should be considered.

Finding People and Companies

LinkedIn is outstanding for searching and there are two reasons for this. The first is because LinkedIn is a database that updates itself. When someone gets promoted, they change their LinkedIn profile. When someone changes jobs, they change their LinkedIn profile. Heck, when someone loses their job, they change their LinkedIn profile.

So LinkedIn is the most up to date database of info there is.

Secondly, LinkedIn has the tools to search that database. You can look for specific companies, or within industries, or at different company sizes. You can search by geography. You can look for people via those parameters plus function (like purchasing for example), seniority and specific job titles. And you can search using any combination of these filters that you want.

I used to say to one client that with LinkedIn search you can have “total market knowledge”. You can find everyone. All it takes is a little imagination.

However, to get maximum utility out of using LinkedIn Search, I suggest you consider getting Sales Navigator. The additional filters, search results, and saving abilities make it worth the money.

You Can Be Found

This is another aspect of LinkedIn that needs a big asterisk. Yes, you can be found on LinkedIn. And every week LinkedIn sends us a notification for how many searches we appeared in that week. But there is a world of difference between being “found” in a  LinkedIn search and having LinkedIn display your name prominently in those search results.

If you are an American, and I perform a LinkedIn search and specify the United States, one hundred and eighty-nine million people show up in the results. You are one of them. But what are the odds of me actually “finding” you in those results?

The biggest factor in where you appear in search results is your relevance to the searcher, that is how connected to them on LinkedIn you are. When you get a lot of results in a search, LinkedIn will usually list them in rough order of how connected you are – first level connections first, second level second and so on. The bigger your LinkedIn network, the more likely you are a first level connection, or more likely, a second level connection to the searcher.

The bottom line though is that appearing in search results if a pretty hit and miss proposition.

Research For Both People And Companies

There is a wealth of information available to us on LinkedIn. We just need to find it, and in some cases interpret it.

For example, on a linkedIn profile we can find:

  • Current experience section for responsibilities and accomplishments
  • Previous experience to get an idea of their career path
  • Their “About” section can show how they see their career progression themselves
  • Recommendations given and received.
  • What their skills reflect (sometimes the order someone puts their skills in can tell you a lot)
  • The companies and people they are following and the groups they belong to.
  • Their recent activity (if they have any) on LinkedIn. Is he or she  posting? How often? What topics? Are they interacting with other people’s or company’s posts?

Now if I we are looking at a company:

  • Examine the company insights LinkedIn provides very carefully (you do need a premium subscription for this). Hiring trends, headcount, and turnover by department all give clues as to how the company is doing. A company growing at 20% a year is very different from one that has had headcount go down by 20% in the past year.
  • This is an opportunity to pull a list of company employees and look for active users in all parts of the company. You can often find people who are active LinkedIn users where you normally wouldn’t expect them (this will be important when we want to contact people at the company in question).
  • Lastly I will look to see if we have any connections who might know people at this company. I look to see if there are any company employees with a “2nd” beside their name.

Using LinkedIn For Direct First Contact

LinkedIn can be the absolute best method to contact prospects in preliminary outreach. Sometimes…

That’s because at its core, LinkedIn is a database, not “the social network for professionals”. Out of 900 million members, maybe ten percent of them log in to LinkedIn at once a week or more often. So if we send an outreach message or connection request to a prospect, odds are roughly one in ten that that person will have an opportunity to see it in the next week. The odds of us getting a response from users who come around less often are pretty low for two reasons:

  • when they finally do show up, say three months from now, they will have a pile of messages waiting for them. Good luck with yours getting any quality time with your traget.
  • The less often someone shows up, the less value they attach to LinkedIn and the less likely they are enthusiastic – and amenable – to receiving messages from strangers.

Now there are people who tend to use LinkedIn a lot – salespeople, marketers, human resources people, consultants and solo practitioners of all kinds. If these people are in your target demographic, you will likely do a lot better using LinkedIn to send outreach messages. And you can also use LinkedIn to make offers on your profile and generate sales leads.

But other professions will be worse than ten percent. I ran an ad for a client where the targets were engineers last summer and the results suggested that only a couple percent were showing up at least once a week.


LinkedIn is an excellent tool for search and research. It is outstanding for establishing or improving your credibility, and for providing an avenue to establish you have the answers to your ideal target’s questions via your profile.

LinkedIn is more hit and miss for increasing reach, being found, and for first outreach.

Set your expectations accordingly.

(* the two Sales Navigator Searches I mention were conducted Tuesday morning, May 16th, 2023.)

I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains one or two articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month. 

The Other Branding On LinkedIn: Your LinkedIn Actions

Most people think of branding on LinkedIn in terms of their LinkedIn Profile, but the other way you can showcase yourself on LinkedIn is through your actions. So let’s talk about what actions you can take on LinkedIn, which ones are worthwhile and which ones are perhaps not worth your time.

There are two broad types of actions we want to talk about here: Publishing and Engaging with others.


By publishing I mean publishing content in any form on LinkedIn, whether it be written, audio, video or events. While these vary in terms of how good they are for branding yourself, publishing is the primary proactive way in which you can express yourself on LinkedIn. It is the method which gives you complete control. The benefits are numerous:

  • Your content shows you understand your ideal reader’s problems
  • Your content shows that you have a track record helping people like your ideal reader with their problems
  • Ideally, your content shows the way you think
  • Some content – featured content, articles, and LinkedIn newsletters are examples – remain “attached” to your profile where people can find them. This represents an archive people can review
  • Content is searchable on LinkedIn
  • Some content – again, articles and LinkedIn newsletters are examples – are indexed and searchable on Google

If you are not publishing on LinkedIn – even just a little – you are missing out on a huge opportunity. I remember a prospective client proudly telling me years ago, “Our company is the best kept secret in the industry.” I replied, “Why would you want to be a secret?”

Engaging with others on LinkedIn

This comes in multiple forms, some of which are worthwhile, others that I think should be avoided.

Responding to people who engage with your content

Green light. Go. This is huge for multiple reasons. You want to show the people who comment on your posts or other content that you appreciate them. And it represents an opportunity to expand the discussion past your original content. It is also an opportunity to develop relationships with the people who comment. Some may become followers or connections. There is evidence that LinkedIn’s algorithms “see” such back and forth in the comment thread as proof of the relevance of your content, which results in LinkedIn showing it to more people.

Every one of these is a good reason to engage with the people who engage with you.

Commenting on other people’s content

For all the reasons I listed above, this is a good idea, but only under two circumstances. The first is if the person (or company) in question is one that you wish to develop a relationship with. The second is the case where you want to support a person or company for whatever reason.

The bottom line here? Get involved where you want a deeper business relationship with the other person. Don’t get involved with a stranger who you would be happy to remain a stranger.

Reacting to other people’s content

This includes Likes and all the LinkedIn emoji’s. Use them rarely – such as when you don’t have time to leave a comment – but avoid them where you can. Reactions are confetti, they are too easily thrown around. People don’t pay much attention to them. I know that when I post, I sometimes register how many Likes and other reactions I have received, but pretty well all of my effort is going into responding to the comments I have received.

Sharing other people’s content

Don’t bother. I have mentioned this in the past, but there is evidence that LinkedIn does not reward us for sharing other people’s content. LinkedIn might see this as a sign that the content is relevant and boost its distribution, but that is a nice bonus for the person who wrote the content; it does nothing for the person who shared it. LinkedIn says we should be sharing content, but their actions seem to indicate that sharing helps the writer, not the sharer.

Participation In LinkedIn Groups

Ha-ha. No. Don’t. With very rare – and I mean one in a hundred, maybe one in a thousand – exceptions, LinkedIn Groups have been a wasteland of spam and devoid of meaningful discussion for over five years now. LinkedIn Groups were once vibrant areas but now are places where people just “post and run.” Until we see positive steps from LinkedIn to fix Groups, this will likely remain the case.


A lot of your “active branding” on LinkedIn comes down to comments and publishing. Add value in both. Ideally you want to spur people to go to your profile and check you out. LinkedIn is largely not a social network, so you want to have content that people can review on their own time, whether they show up later today or four months from now.

I publish a weekly email newsletter on using LinkedIn Effectively for Sales and Marketing. Each newsletter typically contains two articles like the one above, it’s free, and you can unsubscribe anytime. Here’s a link to the sign up page:

Obligatory boilerplate: I do not work for or have any association with LinkedIn, other than being a user who pays them for his Sales Navigator subscription every month.