LinkedIn Connections – How to Connect with Your Contact and Email List

Now that LinkedIn is implementing a 100 invitation to connect weekly limit, we need to be creative when building your connections.

Since the beginning of the company, LinkedIn’s stance has always been that you should connect with people with whom you have an existing relationship. Knowing the person’s email address is the proof they want to claim an existing relationship.

Of course, we all know that you can buy lists. This is not a strategy that should be used for bought lists. While you can bypass the 100 invite per week limit with this tactic, you an still get your own account restricted if too many of the people report “I don’t know xxx” or if you get a very low acceptance rate. You don’t want to risk getting your account restricted.

However, if you have an opt-in email list or a contacts directory of people you’ve met in some way, you do want to make sure that you connect with them.

It is important that these people know who you are and why you want to connect. You CANNOT add any type of a note to the invitation to connect to explain why you want to connect. LinkedIn only sends the default invite when using the bulk connect function.

Not only does connecting with them help you further cultivate your relationship with them, but the connection with people who already know you can result in more leads and greater visibility because they will be more likely to engage with your posts and their connections now become your 2nd Degree connections.

Oddly, the bulk contact importer is the feature that resulted in LinkedIn’s first ever class action lawsuit, but it’s still here. Why? Because it’s a powerful feature that helps people quickly build their connections with those they already know when they start their LinkedIn account. Back in the day, it wasn’t clear what LinkedIn was doing and many people let LinkedIn log into their webmail account and invite their contacts to connect or join LinkedIn. The instructions were on the screen, people just kept following to prompts complete the fields and didn’t bother reading about what they were being asked to do.

Importing and connecting with those in your contact directory is often skipped and most people don’t even think about trying to connect with those on their email list because they may not have full names. BUT the email address is the most important data point to connect with people when you use the bulk importer.

So…. How do you do it?

Step #1: Decide if you are going to use a contact directory in a webmail program or upload a CSV file.

LinkedIn has built in functionality with all of the major webmail programs – Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and oddly still AOL – where you give the program permission by logging in, and it pulls in your contact list for you. This, obviously, is the easiest and quickest way.

Because this is easier and less fraught with potential errors, I have chosen to create a Gmail account and use Zapier to sync the people who sign up for my email list into a Gmail account to more easily find their LinkedIn accounts and connect with them.

However, if you have a big list, it is easier to manage chunks of it the first time and import the email addresses in stages. This saves time and also decreases the likelihood that LinkedIn thinks you’re involved in any funny business.

If you’re going to import a CSV and have more data in the CSV than just the email, there can be some upload errors. LinkedIn likes the column headers and order of a Microsoft Outlook Contact Export (even before Microsoft bought them). If you are exporting from something other than Outlook and you see an option to format that export for Microsoft Outlook, choose that option, and don’t touch the formatting of the data in that sheet. Even though you have many empty columns, leave them in the sheet.

Make sure you have your CSV file ready to go before going to the next step.

Step #2: Importing your Contacts via Webmail

In the main navigation, click on My Network. In the left column under “Manage My Network,” click on Connections.

In the right column, look for, “Add Personal Contacts.” If you’re using the webmail import, add your email address and click on the Continue button. It will walk you through logging into your webmail account and giving LinkedIn authorization to access and sync your contact list with LinkedIn.

If you plan to import a CSV, click on “More Options.”

Step #3: Importing Your Contacts with a File

If your list is more than a few hundred people, you want to break the list up into segments of about 300 or fewer. You’ll see why below. Click on the last icon to Upload a file.

This option will open the file manager on your computer to find the location of the file to upload into LinkedIn.

Once uploaded or synced, LinkedIn will attempt to match the email addresses with existing LinkedIn accounts. It will first present you with a page of matched LinkedIn accounts. You will need to click on each of the people you want to invite to connect. Because of past issues, LinkedIn no longer has a “Select All” function for this. You MUST click on each person individually. This is the reason why you don’t want to import too many people at a time. Do you want to click 1,000+ times? Click on those you want to add and then click on the blue “Add Connections” button.

Step 2 of LinkedIn’s process addresses the email addresses it could not match up. If you use this option, LinkedIn will send these people an email message saying that you’re inviting them to join LinkedIn.


You’re Done! If you have an email list, I highly recommend using this process once a month with all of your new subscribers. Simply export the newest members on your email list since your last contact import and upload them as a new import.

One Caveat…

There is one issue with this process. If the email address you have is different than the email address they use for their LinkedIn account, LinkedIn won’t be able to make a match. It’s not perfect, but it will get you connected to a large percentage of your email list.

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