The first step to growing your network is to meet new people on your own.
The second step is to ask for introductions via mutual connections.
The third is to connect people you know to each other.
Third-party introductions often happen through email. There are a few things to keep in mind and some tips for making the whole thing happen more smoothly—no matter which side of the introduction you're on. If you're introducing people to each other:
1. Get to the point about why you're making the introduction. Be up front about why you think the people should be connected, and why you think they need to know each other.
2. Give context for how you know each person. It's always courteous and helpful to be sure everyone knows how you're connected.
3. Make the intro, then step out of it. Offer to help if the two have trouble getting in touch, but once you've made the connection, your job is done. Let their relationship develop on its own.
If you're being introduced to someone else:
1. Respond in a timely fashion. Do your best to acknowledge the introduction within 12 hours if possible. Try not to wait longer than 24 hours.
2. Copy your mutual connection on your first note so that person knows you're moving forward after the introduction. Don't forget to say thank you.
3. Offer a suggestion for your next step. If you're looking to set up a phone call, meeting, or other type of discussion, say so in the first note.
4. At some point, talk with the person who introduced you so they know you've connected and fill them in about how things are going. They'll want to know.
Overall, think about an email introduction as a digital version of how you'd want to meet in real life. You'd want a bit of context from your mutual connection, you'd be courteous, and you would jump right into the conversation about how you can work together or help each other.
Keep the notes short, at least in the beginning. No one likes to meet a new contact who talks so much you can't get a word in. Use your face-to-face networking skills online, too.
Now go make some connections—and play nice.
This story first appeared on PR Daily in April 2011.