Dear Sam: I have a LinkedIn account, and I wonder whether it is effective to send InMail messages to people I am not connected with to further my job search and build an improved network. Are there any rules or strategies I should know when sending people InMail messages? — Frank

Dear Frank: That’s wonderful that you are strategically expanding your network and reaching out to those open to accepting InMail messages. For my readers who are unfamiliar with InMail, LinkedIn’s premium messaging feature, InMail messages are akin to instant messages but sent from one LinkedIn user to another.

LinkedIn studied tens of millions of InMail messages sent between May 2021 and April 2022 to answer a few key questions: what day of the week is most likely to receive a response? Do personalized messages have an improved response? Are longer or shorter messages more effective? Not surprisingly, personalized and more concise messages received a stronger response. Messages with under 400 characters performed 22% better than longer messages, with messages of more than 1200 words performing poorly. Similarly unsurprising, messages sent on the weekend receive the lowest response rate. The weekdays of Monday through Thursday come in around the same response rate, with Monday being ever-so-slightly stronger. So, according to the data, send personalized, shorter messages on the earlier days of the week!

According to LinkedIn’s best practices for writing InMail messages, you should be brief and to the point, share your goal and common associations, use a conversational and enthusiastic tone, and give the recipient a reason to reply. Hence, identify connections or mutual experiences within your message by reviewing the recipient’s LinkedIn profile to recognize those opportunities. Be clear about what you hope to achieve from the conversation, and seek a reply by asking for advice or referrals. LinkedIn also mentions that you should express interest in helping the recipient achieve their goals, which brings me to my last point.

Beyond the data and best practices, I implore you to use these InMail messages to not only expand your network and support your objectives, but also learn from others and see what help you may be able to provide those you are connecting with. As you can imagine, I receive hundreds of InMail messages each week, and I have to say the most memorable are the very few that don’t just focus on what I can do for them but take the time to ask what they can do for me. While it is unlikely I will ask anyone to do anything, it shows a person’s understanding that networking is a two-way street and it is not always about what you need at present. Go into these opportunities with the mindset that you are connecting with someone with goals and needs and building what should be a mutually beneficial relationship.