Chris Fralic is a partner at First Round Capital in New York and a master of email introductions. While most people get bogged down in their inboxes, Chris has a nifty trick to make communication more shareable. He’s called it the self contained forwardable email.
Say you’ve met Chris and he mentioned a friend of his named Joe who invests in blockchain startups. Since you’re currently working on a blockchain based identity system, you’d love to meet Chris’ friend. Instead of asking Chris for a traditional introduction where he has to send two additional emails, you should send him an email that he can easily forward to Joe without having to write anything new.
Your email might sound a little something like:
Great to meet you on Tuesday. I appreciate you taking the time to provide some feedback on my startup. You mentioned your friend Joe has made some investments in the blockchain space. My company is growing quickly and recently landed a contract with Liberty Mutual. We are looking for potential investors and I would love to speak with Joe.
If you’re Chris and you’re receiving hundreds of emails each day, the traditional introduction model is a lot to ask for. Sending an email to Joe, waiting for a response, then sending a generic email introducing the two parties takes a while. Imagine instead that you receive the above email and all you need to do is forward it to Joe. It’s simpler. It’s more efficient.
This is the essence of virality. It’s easy to share. Your self contained forwardable email will never be viral in the way that Kony 2012 was, but it’s powerful in its own arena.
This is just a micro example of how all ideas spread. The easier you make it for someone to tell your story, the more they will tell it. So what’s your story and how easy is it for people to retell? Digging deeper, when someone tells a friend your story, what is it signaling to their peers?
There’s a bizarre and beautiful art display in Pittsburgh called Randyland. It started by one guy, Randy, who had a passion for public restoration. He started cleaning up a rough neighborhood garden by garden and sculpture by sculpture. One day there was a big brick building with a yard behind it that was going to be torn down unless someone bought it. Randy gathered up the money and bought the plot that became Randyland.
With a lot of paint and even more enthusiasm, Randy transformed that lot into a public art garden worth talking about.
First of all, if you go to Randyland, you’re going to take pictures. So when you tell someone about your trip to Pittsburgh and how you stumbled upon this eclectic art show in some guy’s backyard, you will inevitably show them the pictures. Oh, and if you’re lucky, Randy will come out and tell his story first hand. Then, he’ll start offering to take pictures and you’ll end up with a few selfies featuring Randy himself, just like this one:
After all is said in done, you have a story worth telling to your friends. Not only is it a neat story, it also says something positive about you as a person. It says you’re the type of person who likes obscure places and values public art displays. You’re the type of person who goes off the beaten path and doesn’t spend their whole day in a stuffy museum. You’re the type of person who truly explores new places and meets people like Randy.
The Randyland story is a self contained forwardable story. It’s a story on platter that you can’t resist telling someone.
How are you crafting a story that’s so easy to share, it’d be foolish for someone not to?