linkedin shows you who in your network is connected to that person you really need to reach. it works the other way, too. the service maps out networks of business contacts, friends, acquaintances – and then goes on to show their networks too. but what about the next question – how do I make their contact my contact?
linked makes that easy, too, with linkedin introductions. on each profile page there is an area showing how you are connected to that person. if you have been diligent in connecting with people, odds are you will have a second degree connection (you know someone who knows the person) or a third (you know someone who is connected to a contact who is in turn connected to your target).
do they like me like me?
now for the hard part. “yeah, but I only met the person once – will they really forward this to one of their contacts?” good news on that front – it’s not junior high where an extended exchange of scribbled notes might get you a slow song at the school dance. back in the 70s, sociologist mark granovetter published the surprising results of his research into “strong” ties (friendships) and “weak” ties (acquaintances, met once at a conference, etc). what his research showed was that weak ties were more valuable for making new connections, especially those that were outside one’s norms. Clara Shih reiterated the message in her book the facebook era.
encouraging news for the shy types among us. that said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. I will show the start of the process and then show some examples.
requesting a linkedin introduction
first, find the introduction request link on the profile of your target contact (thanks to the named persons below!):
say I want a meeting with gail goodman at constant contact. beside ms. goodman’s name is a button indicating she is a 2nd degree connection. I can see in the sidebar (not shown here) who in my network connects me to her. clicking the “get introduced” link brings us to this screen:
six people in my network are also connected to gail. the goal here is to find the connection most likely to pass you along who is also most likely to be known to the target. I will break the weak tie rule somewhat in asking my friend bobby in this example; in most cases I would probably go with christine, who has more connections in common with gail.
note the highlighted items. first, make it easy for your contact to know what you’re asking for. you will see below why it is not necessarily obvious! the second point is a greyer area. despite academic and real-world findings regarding the power of weak ties, there are people who are uncomfortable passing your name along. they may have strong ties with the person you are trying to reach. they may be concerned that their introduction will be seen as an implied recommendation. my feeling is that linkedin provides an out by displaying a “decline” option along with the “forward,” so you shouldn’t feel obligated to point out reasons not to make the introduction.
getting the reply you want
on to the examples. I received this request from a former colleague. This is how it showed in gmail:
the only indication of who my colleague wants an introduction for is in his cover note, where he referred to her by first name only. if I was especially busy that day and didn’t know him that well, more than likely his request would get trashed with no further action on my part. if I bothered to click through, the page on the linkedin site offers more context:
the referral he requested is an old college friend, and I am happy to hook my work buddy up with her. but a few obstacles remain before a vocational love connection is likely to happen. but the subject line doesn’t move the conversation forward, even for me – and will do nothing for the target contact. similarly, he doesn’t include enough in the message itself to prompt action. if I did forward the message, this is how it would appear to my friend:
my colleague is asking me to do the heavy lifting in making the introduction. even if I had the inclination to write something, I don’t know anything about the topic. I clicked decline and asked him to send a revised request.
here’s a better way:
I open with a brief note to my contact to reconnect, perhaps remind him or her of where we met, and the purpose of the message. I tend toward a more informal tone – it’s kind of my thing. feel free to modify for your style 🙂
the message to the target contact can be similar to the cover letter you would send with your CV; a few points illustrating why taking action (connecting on linkedin, forwarding your CV to a hiring manager, scheduling a demo of your products, etc) is in his or her best interest.
linkedin introductions are an easy way to meet that special someone. but there are a few rules to follow!