5 Steps To Connect With People Outside Your Network On LinkedIn

5 Steps To Connect With People Outside Your Network On LinkedIn

5 Steps To Connect With People Outside Your Network On LinkedIn

Once you move beyond the generic “add connections” option that LinkedIn has, you might want to specifically search for and increase your connections with people aligned with whatever connection policy you might have.  The challenge is that restrictions exist within LinkedIn that may prevent you from inviting others you don’t personally know.  You are entitled to try to connect with people without knowing their email address, but once five people respond to your invitation to connect by nothing that they don’t know you, your ability to connect will be restricted. So how to network on LinkedIn?

This is especially important because it is very difficult to message 2nd and 3rd degree connections.

Once you’ve decided to connect with professionals that aren’t part of your network, chances are you will initially find them by doing advanced people searches.  If you are already an experienced user, you’ll likely encounter people you might want to connect with everywhere on LinkedIn.  These people often appear on the “people you may know” widget that is featured prominently in the top right-hand corner of your LinkedIn home page and in group discussions.  So, once you find someone with whom you’d like to connect, follow these guidelines to complete the connection:

[Note: If you are a college student looking for how to network on LinkedIn advice, check out my post on how college students can leverage LinkedIn.]

Read the contact settings:  There are many people on LinkedIn who aren’t engaged on the platform.  They signed up and forgot about their profiles, or they just simply “checked out” for some reason.  Some may indicate in their contact settings that they are not open to receiving connections, but, if they include their contact details here, or anywhere else on their profile, you have implicit permission to contact them.  If you want to be cautious, first contact them and let them know why you want to connect.  Also mention how you can help them.  Then ask if you can connect on LinkedIn for a mutually beneficial  – and connected – relationship.

“Read” the profile:  A LinkedIn profile says a thousand things about someone’s attitude toward online professional networking, and by thoroughly reading the profile, you can determine how active a particular user is on the website.  In general, the more active people are on LinkedIn, the more they will understand the value of business networking and thus the more willing they will be to connect if you send a personalized invite. This is especially the case if they are a LinkedIn LION or Open Networker.

Warm leads are always the best:  As in real life, how to network on LinkedIn is all about introductions through a “warm” lead, someone your target connection actually knows who can make a personal introduction on your behalf, often leads to the greatest success.  Rather than relying on a cold call or email, get in touch with the person who connects the two of you and ask him or her for a formal introduction.  If your targeted user is a third-degree connection, find someone who could facilitate an introduction between you and a person who is actually connected to your targeted user.  Your eventual goal is to be introduced to your second-degree connection who can then facilitate the introduction with your third-degree connection.

Join the same LinkedIn Group:  A simple tactic you can use to contact someone on LinkedIn is to join one of his or her LinkedIn Groups.  Of course, this only works if your desired contact has the default settings on, which allows group members to send messages to each other.  At present, the option to send a message to a group member does not appear as an option when you find a common group member on an advanced people search result; instead, you will be prompted to send an InMail. No worries: Simply navigate to the same Group that you a member of, do a member search, and you will have the option to send a message from that user interface.

Send the “Hail Mary” InMail: When all else fails in how to network on LinkedIn we have the InMail. InMail is a paid LinkedIn service to contact people who are not first-degree connections, which I consider to be the equivalent of a “Hail Mary” toss in a football game.  LinkedIn promotes the use of InMail as being a very effective way to communicate.  Currently, only paid accounts to get access to the InMail.  Though some people might shirk at the idea of paying for such a service, consider it a business investment that may have lucrative potential. Everyone’s experience will be different, so you should at least experiment with the InMail and determine your own ROI.

One final note before reaching out: Don’t forget your manners.  Just as you should continue to foster warm leads in the “real” world, you need to do the same online.  Don’t forget that, behind every online persona, there is a real person.  Whenever you communicate with someone online, you should personalize your communication and give him or her a reason to connect to you. Always remember that manners apply online just as they do offline, and LinkedIn (as well as all social media sites such as Twitter etiquette) is simply an example of new tools, old rules.

What have your experiences been in reaching out to new people and learning how to network on LinkedIn?

The above is a summary of selected content from my critically acclaimed LinkedIn for business book “Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing.

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

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How to network on LinkedIn and add contacts to your LinkedIn network when they are outside of your network, or 2nd and 3rd degree connections.

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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  1. Hi Dante: I think, in professional networking, it comes down to “What’s In It for Them?” Why should they go out of their way to make the connection? That’s why I always think it is best to use your 1st degree connection to facilitate any introduction to a 2nd degree connection: Warm leads will always be the most successful. However, it can be more difficult when it goes out to a 3rd degree…

  2. Can you suggest some ‘incentives’ to offer people (2nd or 3rd degree removed “cold calls”) to connect you with a prospect, whether for new business or career development (i.e. hiring managers).

  3. Thanks for your comment! LinkedIn InMails are only to be used strategically. Sure you can build connections and send messages for free, but you won’t be able to do that for all LinkedIn users, especially business decision makers who might have small, closed networks or aren’t members of Groups. For these people, InMails can be efficient.

  4. is that $10 per person you contact?
    Better off building connections and sendng messages for free…

    We were looking to use LinkedIn InMail feature to advertise our new UK business / Ecommerce forum (link deleted by admin) but at that price just to tell them about it we could never afford it.

  5. Fantastic points, many thanks

  6. “Don’t forget your manners!” Classic and relevant. Being personal with communication is always the key to ensuring people remember your name and face.

  7. Nice post ! In final: The more people you know the more you can connect to.

  8. Thanks for the post Neal. It’s a nice high level summary for a question I probably get at least twice a week.

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