It's important to make a connection first before asking for a referral. The same rules apply online that you would use in real life. Most of the time you aren't going to walk up to a stranger and ask for a referral. You usually get to know the individual, allow them to get to know you and your business before asking for a referral. Therefore when you make a connection online, nurture the connection until you feel it's appropriate to ask for a referral. Whenever possible provide value to your connections and offer your services. Give before you look to receive.
Make it Personal
When you are asking for a referral in person you can utilize body language and gauge the person's responses to guide the conversation. Email however is one sided so it's important to try to make the email personal all while effectively communicating your thoughts. You can follow up the online connection with a phone call if you are able.
A Thank You Goes a Long Way
Once you receive the referral remember to thank the individual online, over the phone or in person. You can write a handwritten note. Some companies create a referral incentive such as money or they provide a gift card as a thank you.
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