Business networking site Spoke has launched ConnectUs, an email service that enables business professionals to connect with each other via email while protecting their privacy.

Spoke members can use ConnectUs to send a personalized email message to anyone in the Spoke network--which consists of 40 million professionals. Each message is delivered directly to the recipient's email inbox without revealing the recipient's email address, thus ensuring the individual's privacy.

This new feature really helps Spoke close the loop for its users. They can search the Spoke database for relevant business contacts via a variety of criteria--by title, company, industry and location. And now, by using ConnectUs, they can immediately reach out to people with whom they have identified as valuable contacts.

There is certainly a need for this, as most business professionals want to be able to connect with individuals outside of their personal network, but don't know how to make that happen. However, ConnectUs may not be as well received by the individuals who could potentially become bombarded by unsolicited emails. Yet, Spoke most likely offers a feature that can block the messages if a member prefers.

Still, this is a smart--and required--launch for Spoke, and necessary if the company wants to be considered a viable player in the business information and business networking space. Others, such as LinkedIn and Hoover's, have offered such functionality for quite some time. It's a service that business people now just expect to be offered. While it's great to provide them a robust database of contact names, that information isn't nearly as valuable if you can't help them actually connect to those names as well. This is another example of how combining content and tools really works.