We get a lot of questions about the LinkedIn messaging feature – when is it ok to send a message, who is it worthwhile to message over LinkedIn, or why does no one respond to my messages? In our experience, to use the LinkedIn messaging feature effectively, you have to be strategic with your outreach -- and sometimes, that means not using the feature at all.
If you’ve recently received a connection request from an old friend or former colleague over LinkedIn, it’s fine to send a quick “Hi! Nice to hear from you!” note. This probably isn’t going to result in any further interaction, but there’s no harm in sending a friendly message to someone you know. However, if you are actually trying to conduct business with someone, it’s better to take the communication off-platform. The same goes for when you're initiating connections with people from your past -- if you like, you can swap out the generic message from LinkedIn for a custom one to be pleasant, but you may not get a response.
Unfortunately, a lot of LinkedIn messages get buried among a sea of messages from random people trying to connect or are lost in the social media tab of the recipient's gmail inbox, so you might get unintentionally ghosted, even by someone you know. Plenty of people have LinkedIn profiles but are not active on the site at all. If you're trying to initiate a conversation that leads to a call or meeting with someone you know, send an email, which will have a better chance of getting read.
If you are trying to connect with someone you don’t know, either to apply for a job, set up an informational interview, or establish a business partnership, LinkedIn is a great tool for identifying targets, but it's still better to get in touch via email, for the reasons outlined above. If possible, try to get someone you know who knows the person to refer you through an introductory email. You can also try a cold email -- it's pretty easy to find someone's work email address, as most companies have a standard format.
If LinkedIn messaging is the absolute only way you can find to get in touch with someone, you’ll want to craft a message carefully. Be really specific about who you are, why you are reaching out, and what you are hoping to get by connecting with this person. If there’s something you have in common with the person (i.e. you went to the same alma mater), call that out in your note. In an ideal world, the person will respond, and you will get a meeting. But don’t be offended or discouraged if you don’t hear back – many people won’t even see the message or are simply too busy to respond.
Also, keep in mind that having a completed profile (with a picture!) is going to encourage people to want to do business with you and may increase your chances of getting a response. So if you haven’t taken the time to build out your profile, now is a good opportunity
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan