Making introductions online

Introducing two people virtually is significantly different than introducing them face to face. In person, they are a captive audience. If you are at an event, and introduce one person to another, simply their name is sufficient if you have just met them yourself. If they are a friend or colleague, one additional sentence telling what common interest or purpose make it compelling for one to meet another, is sufficient.

In general, the person to whom the introduction is made is mentioned first, followed by the name of the person being introduced. For example:

“Jim, I’d like to introduce you to Ed. Ed is a biotechnology professor, and Jim’s fund does a lot of work in that area.”

At that point, they are under a certain social obligation to talk to each other. You may stay and participate in the conversation, but you are likely to slip into more of an observer role.

Online, though, whether via email or in a social networking site, the situation is very different. Many people are so overloaded with email that they simply can not (or do not) reply to much of their email. Attention is a precious commodity. If you feel the introduction is worth the time and effort to make, it is certainly worth taking the time and effort to make effectively. While there is still some social obligation for them to strike up a conversation, it is quite easy and very common for them not to.

You will serve both people better by making an introduction that not only gives their names and some basic information, but also gives them both a convincing reason to follow up and some ideas on how to do so. The following outline will help you make this kind of introduction:

  • Who you are – If the person you are contacting may not recognize you immediately by name, you should start with a brief reminder as to who you are and how they know you. If it is someone with whom you have not spoken in a while, you may want to remind them of your last conversation. You can write: “As introduction, you can read my profile at ____________.” If that seems egotistical or inappropriate, you could simply say, “As you may recall, I work for Goldman Sachs.
  • Your reason for writing – Tell them that you are writing to make an introduction of interest to them.
  • Who you are introducing – The name of the person you are introducing.
  • Background on the person being introduced – Since this is a business introduction, it is appropriate to give a brief description of the person’s line of work. You do not have to go into great detail. It is best to give a link to their website or their profile page.
  • How the person being introduced can benefit the recipient – What is the benefit to the recipient? Why is this worth their time and effort to respond and follow up?
  • Encouragement to the parties to connect – While this may seem obvious, the encouragement clearly shifts the responsibility for follow-up to the other parties and helps create a stronger sense of social obligation.

If you are making an unrequested introduction, simply repeat this in the other direction.

Here is an example of this format in action:

Marco:

Hi! How are you?

You may remember that Michael Schecter is a common friend of ours. Since we last spoke, I’ve gotten out of the consulting business and have returned to my true calling, teaching. I saw the recent press release (Ed, see below) and was reminded of our earlier discussions – I think there’s still a good fit in your company, but not for me.

I’d like to introduce you to Ed Marx, a friend of mine here in New York. He and I have known each other through our professional association for many years and have collaborated on several projects. I think he’d be great at, and interested in, doing the kind of work you and I were discussing.

Ed, Marco works for a company called ACME Services. They sell software to the manufacturing industry. I was talking with him a few months ago about how our services were complementary. The timing wasn’t right, but in light of their recent venture capital funding, it seems to me to make even more sense now, and I thought of you.

I know there’s a match in ability and interest — I leave it to the two of you to figure out if it works with both of your priorities and timing.

Nadia Romanov

Making these introductions is one of the most important aspects of growing your social network online. By making win-win connections among the people in your network, you help them achieve their business goals. You also enhance your reputation in the process. It does not take much more time to do an effective introduction as opposed to a cursory one, and by doing so, you serve yourself and your connections well.