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The Etiquette of An Ask

It’s really ok to ask for a favor, a few minutes of one’s time, or maybe just some friendly advice.

What’s not OK is to assume that you deserve an immediate response or you have the right to message me on Facebook or Twitter with your “ask.”

Photo of Ostridge by me.

Last week I received an email from a university student in London who wanted to interview me for a research paper she was working on.  Her email was short, concise and to the point as to what she was looking for and how she found me.   She got bonus points for doing her homework, and we wound up having a great conversation / interview on Skype the next day.

Yesterday, I received a message on Facebook from a startup entrepreneur that I had met in Israel who was getting ready to make his pitch for TechStars and asked me to follow their startup on AngleList.  I was thrilled to see their progress and gladly complied.

This morning I received a message on Facebook from a 15 year old startup entrepreneur who wanted to “show me” his startup.  There was no agenda, and somehow in the context of a message on Facebook (or it could have been Twitter)  I see a message as being implied as asking for an immediate call to action.

Maybe I am old fashioned, but I see Twitter and Facebook direct messaging / messaging as being reserved for friends and family.  If I know you, have a relationship with you, or we are just friends having nothing to do with business, it’s a great way to engage and yes, help.

A message from a stranger bothers me.  It implies you have the right to ask me for something and get an immediate response.  I did respond to the 15 year old, and asked him to email me and be more specific about what he was looking for.  I also told him I schedule these types of calls 45 days out:)

Here’s a few big no-no’s….

1.  Don’t ask me to introduce or pitch journalists or bloggers for you as a favor.

There’s more to doing this than just making a phone call or sending an email.  And just because I may know someone does not mean they will cover you and it does mean that you have the right to ask me to use any contacts I may have.

2.  Don’t ask me to write about your company or your startup in your blog, unless it has something to do with PR or strategic communications.  It also helps to build a relationship.

3.  Don’t ask me to see your startup and ask my opinion about it.  Call your doctor instead.  Or a lawyer.  If they’ll do it and invest 30 for 45 minutes to help a random stranger out, I’ll be happy to do likewise.

4.  Don’t pitch me with a DM on Twitter or a message on Facebook.  It implies you are asking for a direct and immediate response to something or someone I have no clue about it.

5.  Don’t ask to me to like, endorse, or re-Tweet your stuff.   Per #3…  Call your doctor instead.  Or a lawyer.

 If You Are Going to Ask…

If you are going to to ask, consider the context in which you are asking.  And also understand that outside of work, we all have personal lives in which we just want to chill out, unplug or refresh.

If you are on deadline and need something and it’s really that valuable, offer to pay for advisory services.

Thanks for reading.

Now get busy and call your doctor, lawyer, accountant, etc. 🙂


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