I get about one to three painful introductions a week and every time I want to cry a little bit. They're those shapeless, vague introductions that leave me drunk with confusion and heavy with pointless activity. They go something like this, "John please meet Ann marie. I just adore the both of you. You're so smart and both doing interesting things and I think you should meet. There's a lot of cross over and synergy." Is John a potential soul mate? Is John a prospective client, vendor or strategic partner? I don't know. Now I have to have an awkward e-mail exchange with John after doing some research to figure out why I should meet him other than you love him. You are not helping me. You are not helping John. You are making us both resent you a little bit. Then we hate ourselves for resenting you because you are in fact trying to be useful and of course you are well meaning. These introductions are work for both parties. If you want to be valuable and raise your social capital, make clear, thoughtful introductions with specific direction. Poorly executed introductions might actually compromise your social capital.
To be clear, quality introductions are valuable. I deeply appreciate when people connect me and my business would not be possible without all of the connections I've made through others. I also pride myself on my ability to conscientiously connect people because I want to meaningfully contribute to all of my relationships. That said, I would never waste anyone's time and I don't throw two people together because I happen to know them. I also happen to have a short black rain slicker as well as a kaftan - I wouldn't put these two things together either because I would look insane. And yes, I can rock a kaftan - don't judge. I think before I introduce two people and if I don't know if it would be a good match, I first ask one or both of the parties if it would make sense for them to meet. Otherwise I don't make the introduction. The last thing I want to do is give someone unnecessary work or lose my credibility by not fully appreciating the value of my network's time.
When you casually send useless introductions you are compromising your personal brand in a number of ways. At the very least a bad introduction wastes everyone's most precious asset, time. At worst, an ill-conceived introduction suggests you don't understand much about the professionals you're connecting. This means you haven't done your due diligence and this is a reflection of your professionalism. That may sound harsh but I cannot tell you how many professionals I work with that complain about these sorts of introductions. They would not hire or refer anyone who hasn't bothered to take the time to understand their business and connect them appropriately.
Providing real value requires a higher standard of care and consideration. Make every introduction count. A high quality introduction has several key components:
1. Provide specific background on each person, what do they do, how do you know them and what makes them so remarkable?
2. Why are you making the connection? Be specific!!! Don't connect people because you like them and think they would be pals. That's fine if it's for social purposes but for business purposes, this isn't a compelling reason for people to take time out of their schedule.
3. If you aren't sure why people should meet but think that a connection would be useful, contact one of the parties in advance and ask if you think the introduction would be valuable.
4. Make sure that the connection is mutually beneficial. If only one party is served by the connection the other party may not be interested. Be sensitive to the balance of the relationship.
5. Consider your audience. Very often I ask permission to connect people before I take any action even when I'm certain it's an excellent fit. There are lots of reasons people may not want an introduction. It may be a bad time or there may be some history you don't know about. All connections are not created equal for all people.
Thoughtful, well-executed introductions elevate your social capital and serve those in your network. The manner in which you introduce people is an extension of your brand. When you make quality connections you demonstrate your professionalism, generosity, and knowledge. By all means connect people. Just make sure that your introduction is a welcome gift and not an unwanted item you've thoughtlessly foisted on someone's very long to do list.