While I suppose there’s the possibility I’m preaching to the choir on this one, and that most of my blog readers are already LinkedIn fanatics, like myself, but I couldn’t resist sharing a few thoughts today about WHY I think LinkedIn has become a significantly more effective way to make introductions between people than most other methods.

Long story short, I typically make at least 5-10 referrals and connections on behalf of my clients throughout the average day, and when doing so, I almost always recommend that my clients initiate the contact in question through a LinkedIn “Get Introduced Through a Connection” request.  Why is this the case?  Why do I push this particular avenue of communication so strongly, versus simply doing things the old-fashioned way and handing my client the individual’s e-mail address or phone number?  Or contacting the person in question directly on my client’s behalf?

I’ll give you several reasons:

1) When contact is made through the LinkedIn interface, it gives both parties (if they’re members of the system, which is usually the case) the chance to learn about each others’ background, work history, and qualifications prior to the conversation — which not only helps verify that there are relevant grounds for discussion, but also speeds up the process and improves the caliber of the overall information exchange.

2) Going through LinkedIn ensures, beyond all doubt, that the referral in question is a legitimate one — since any LinkedIn introduction has to first go through and be approved by the referring intermediary in question, so the recipient can be 100% assured that somebody didn’t pull a fast one and just sneak a peek at somebody’s Rolodex.

3) Using the LinkedIn system also allows the intermediary party to “grease the skids” by adding some words of endorsement, when passing the note along, as well as to explain the reason(s) behind the introduction, in case it’s not perfectly clear why the two people in question might benefit from chatting together.

4) Asking somebody to initiate a referral via LinkedIn puts the ball in the hands of the actual beneficiary (e.g. my client) to take the first step, ensuring that they truly value the referral, are serious about it, and are willing to be proactive in making the introduction happen.  And while some might suggest that this is a selfish or uncooperative way to go about things, I’ll stick to my guns in saying that one shouldn’t have to “force” referrals on people and that anybody seeking networking assistance should be more than willing to invest an extra minute or two to bring a quality networking opportunity to life.

5) Last but not least, I find that by asking people to run various referrals through LinkedIn, the timing just works better for all concerned; my client can wait until they’re fully ready to request the introduction, it takes less time on my end to coordinate the referral, and the receiving party can let the LinkedIn note sit in their inbox for several days until they’ve got time to respond.

So these are my arguments, at least, for why it often makes sense to process referrals and introductions through the LinkedIn system as a first option, versus other possible channels.  Do any of you out there agree?  Disagree?  Obviously, a lot can depend on the specific context of the situation, and if both parties aren’t members of LinkedIn this route doesn’t work, but I find that 80% or more of the referrals I make this way tend to go quite smoothly — and a win/win connection ends up being made by all concerned!  This success rate strikes me as being significantly ahead of the referrals I’ve made using more traditional methods, where it doesn’t take much (e.g. a misplaced e-mail address, a miscommunication, a question about the legitimacy of the intro, etc.) to derail a perfectly well-intentioned networking effort!