How many times did you get an invitation to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook from person with no connection whatsoever? Similar things happen on Twitter when you are followed by people appearing totally unrelated to either your profession or interests.
While social media gives you license to connect with anyone under the earth, I do not think it’s really good idea.
Here is why.
There is the term for such behaviour called ‘Carpet Bombing’. It is named after the warfare technique where hundreds of thousands of pounds of high-explosives are dropped in the hope of killing a small, mobile group of enemies.
Common mistake is assuming that it works as important tool in building your social network. Suppose that you are planning to switch a job, if your idea is to really mail across your resume to random list of people you never met or interacted, then you will most likely end up complaining why you dint get any response.
Any activity on social network is driven by ‘Three Degrees of Separation’ theory. While we can have a direct relationship with not more than 150 people, our social influence spreads to much larger circle. We influence our friends, who in their turn influence their friends, meaning that our actions can influence people we have never met. So, we can possibly have an impact on our friends (one degree), our friends’ friends (two degrees), and even our friends’ friends’ friends (three degrees). Our influence gradually dissipates and ceases to have a noticeable effect on people beyond the social frontier that lies at three degrees of separation.
So, if you are not within three degrees of separation for person you are trying to connect to, you have really feeble chance to seek any favour , like job switch in above case.
If you really get a ‘No’ in such a case, do not even try to seek any further referral. Since, you are basically asking to do some work for someone he doesn’t know. He can’t give a referral that has any credibility because he has not spent any real-time with you.
Same thing happens when you ask for the feedback from a person whom you do not have a relationship. Such feedback is not really useful since he does not know you as much to provide constructive feedback.
How to get around if you really need to solicit a total stranger and seek a favour ?
You start by building the relationship. Do the stuff that initiates and enhances the relationship. One of the idea is to follow blogs if that person maintains it on social media. Start by commenting on the blogs. Become part of the same community. Over time that will give you license to be able to have an interaction, even if you don’t have a relationship.
It is where I like Ben Franklin Story.
In his autobiography, Franklin explains how he dealt with the animosity of a rival legislator when he served in the Pennsylvania legislature in the 18th century:
Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I returned it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.
If you really need a favour from total stranger on social media, first start by building the relationship, no matter how small (like borrowing a book) it begins with.