Whether you’re a seasoned networker or you’re just starting out trying to meet people in your industry, you’ve probably found that proper introductions are a power part of your overall networking strategy. While many people think networking is more about meeting strangers at cocktail parties or networking mixers, research shows that much more value is created both for you and for the community by focusing on connecting individuals inside the network. Making new friends is good, but connecting friends of friends is better.
But introductions need to be made properly.
Intro-bombing people by randomly showing up in their email inbox with a list of new people to talk to isn’t only inappropriate, but it will likely reduce the amount of social capital you’ve build with that person and that community. To make sure your introductions are always well-received and always build value, here are two simple rules to follow:
- Every introduction is also a recommendation
It may not feel like it, but any time you’re introducing two people to each other you are recommending them to each other. You are claiming that this new person will be a valuable new connection to both people involved. So, make sure it is exactly that before you start. Likewise, if there is a difference in status or power between the two people, make sure you’re aware that you are spending some of your social capital to make the introduction, and don’t make it unless you know there will be a return on that investment.
- Practice double opt-in introductions
You wouldn’t show up unannounced at the door of someone’s home with a total stranger and say, “I just wanted you to show him your house and have you meet him.” Likewise, it’s not only rude but also ineffective to hand out someone’s personal information (like email or phone number) without giving them the chance to “opt-in.” (Full Disclosure: I learned this the hard way.) To make sure both parties will find the connection valuable, check with both parties first. When you offer the introduction to Person A, make sure you state that you will check with Person B first and proceed with the introduction accordingly. Then, once both parties know the reason for connecting and agree to it, you will have a much easier time making the connection and they have a much easier time getting right to the point.
These aren’t the only two rules for introductions, but they speak to the mistakes people so often make. If you don’t know that you’re really recommending someone, and if you’re just blindly appearing in their inboxes, text messages, or door frames with new people to meet, you’re probably not getting the return on effort you expected.
But follow these two rules and you’ll create tremendous value for others, and for yourself.