Being that it is February, the commercials for the on-line dating sites have been in high rotation on both television and radio stations. We know in our modern, fast-paced society, on-line dating works. In addition to their own success rates which are loudly touted on their sites, a solid percentage of the wedding gifts I have purchased recently have been for couples who have met on-line. Now clearly, when someone posts a profile, whether it is on a dating site or on a professional networking site, they are willing to be contacted by strangers. However, sharing someone's professional or private contact information without their expressed permission can be fraught with peril. As with all things having to do with etiquette, there is a right way and a rude way to introduce two people via an e-mail introduction.
Proper Protocol for On-line Introductions
In this day and age, privacy is a high priority. We must be respectful of other people's contact information. Before connecting two people, you need to make sure both are willing to interact by following the guidelines below.
You and Jared were chatting and drinking coffee while discussing his latest project. You realize that your colleague Sadie has expertise to offer in this particular area, and you mention Sadie in your conversation. Jared says he does not know Sadie and requests an introduction (or you may have volunteered the introduction). You do NOT share Sadie's information with Jared on the spot.
When you are back in your office, you contact Sadie, briefly describe Jared and his project, and ask permission to facilitate an introduction.
Sadie has the option to decline the introduction. Sadie need not offer an explanation why.
If Sadie declines, you contact Jared and express regret for not being able to help.
If Sadie agrees, you contact Jared to share Sadie's contact information. If this is done by e-mail, Sadie should be cc'ed on the e-mail between you and Jared. You should also e-mail Sadie separately any contact information for Jared so that she is not caught off guard when Jared contacts her.
Once the e-mail has been received, it is then up to Jared, who requested the introduction, to contact Sadie with an introductory e-mail sometime over the next few days. In this first e-mail he can request a telephone conversation or introductory meeting.
Whether or not Sadie is helpful to Jared, Jared should be thanking you in some way shape or form for the introduction and thanking Sadie for being willing to try to help.
Need help with a thank you note? Check out Mannersmith's Thank You Note Wizard.
February is the month of interpersonal connections. Join in, take an active role. If you have two friends you think may fancy each other or two business buddies who should be in each other's contact database, do consider the proper and polite way to introduce them to each other by e-mail. Who knows, your "Jared & Sadie" may become life long friends or the best of business partners.
Happy Valentine's Day from your friends at Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting.