The most useful blog post ever

This is a blog post with a mission and shortly, you’ll see why.  I’m going to keep the link to use far into the future and maybe you will too. I think it will save you time and get you out of awkward situations for years to come.  Here we go:

Dear Twitter follower:

I enjoy connecting with people and am eager to help my social media friends in any way I can. However, it is a bit awkward when folks ask me to tweet a link, contribute to a charity, review a blog post, read your book, examine your website, review your business strategy, or like a Facebook page when I don’t really know you.

The social web is a weird place.  Perhaps you have been following me for some time and maybe you’re even reading my blog.  I can see why you might think that you know me.  But from my perspective, it is a little spooky to have people I have never heard of pop up and ask me to do them favors.  And all these requests add up!  If I answered every request from people who want to “pick my brain” I would not be able to feed my family. You see, as a consultant, my time is the only thing I have to sell.

How can we correct this situation?

For people who authentically try to connect with me on my social sphere — commenting on blogs, connecting with me on Twitter, conversing on Google Plus or Facebook — I will enthusiastically and tirelessly help them in any way I can.  In fact, I give my time to help somebody almost every single day.

Remember that the social web is about being SOCIAL.  It’s about giving. In fact, it’s about giving, giving, giving, giving, giving … and THEN asking.  So please get to know me before asking for a favor, OK?  I look forward to that because once we’re connected, you never know where it may lead.

Thanks for taking this first step.

Your friendly neighborhood blogger,

Mark Schaefer


A shortened link for your future enjoyment and use : )

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  • Bravo. While I am not a consultant, I do appreciate where you are coming from on this. I work in the multifamily space and I see behaviors shaped when we give away big concessions to get people to move in. And, when the market rebounds people still expect a deal not unlike that guy/gal who has enjoyed so much free stuff over the past few years.

    In my head, it’s a behavior we have all participated in creating. I agree with your letter and in the same respect, I think it will be a long bit of time before we are able to retrain the market to accept paying for information to include paying the price (time) in getting to know someone.

    Have a compelling week.

  • Great post.

    I think people forget that you don’t know them – it’s almost as if they imagine that you go through your mailing list on a daily basis to remind yourself of every single one of your readers, so that when they contact you you’ll think ‘oh, it’s greg, – [email protected], I know him, he’s been a reader for months, of course I’ll help him’!
    The great thing about social media is that it is built to be a two way communication method – and the more people interact, they more we will all get out of it.

  • Great perspective Mark and nicely put I’m ashamed to admit I was this way when I first started ‘social media’ the hype of it all got me soo flippin excited that I just went bonkers for a second…but I get it now (I think) so thanks for restating the now obvious 🙂 Have a good one

  • I agree with you totally if I visualize myself in your shoes. Since you are a marketing professional, asking for such favors without prior interaction is senseless.
    But the same attitude is being carried by friends too, may it be on any social networking site. Then comes the time to explicitly ask them for such favors…unethical in such cases as well?

  • Thanks for the PSA, Mark. I might have to start sending people here when I get those “brain picking” requests. 🙂 Hopefully, this will encourage people to do the work before making the ask!

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  • I would take it one step further and even if I *do know you, it’s not always appropriate to ask those things. I have a long time acquaintance who is forever dm-ing me to ask me to tweet things for her. I usually will but my “rub” with it is this … if I find your information worthy of pushing out to my followers, I’ll do it on my own – not because you ask me to do it.

  • LoyaltyOfDogs

    Only fair! We must deposit into the social media bank before we can withdraw. Just like life, it’s not what you get, it’s what you give.

  • The ability to influence must be protected at all cost in the social domain. The best way to do that is to be true to your principles. There are lot’s of opportunities to compromise and sell out for to the highest bidder (and some have made fortunes doing so) but ultimately that strategy will not survive over time. As you said, in social you must “give x 10” to “get x1” if what you want to “get” has any value, otherwise you might as well take out an ad in a newspaper. Mark, this approach will guarantee a lasting ROI …… it’s nice to see someone practicing what they preach.

  • Speaking of which…do you have some time this afternoon for a phone call so I can ask you some tips on social marketing?

  • rayli

    Well said. I was taught as a young boy to help whenever I can. Over time, it became a habit that I just can’t say no. I feel that I give so much and when the time comes to receive everyone just ducks away. Your blog and the replies from fellow posters here helped me to know that I’m not the only in this situation and that I could politely just say sorry. Thank you!

  • I could not have said it better but I can define it. It’s called making deposits! Make enough deposits and eventually you’ll have enough stored up in the bank of goodwill to make a withdrawal.

  • More than any other social medium, Twitter makes people feel like they’re personally connected with celebrities and other people they’ve never met. People don’t seem to run into this problem with Facebook or Pinterest. People will typically friend only people they’ve met, but they’ll follow everyone.

  • Spot on. And you’re gonna laugh when you read the message I just sent you. Hopefully I’m in the givegivegiveandgivesomemore category:) Cheers! Kaarina

  • from your side of the page it must look like an avalanche of requests. Ah well! No one who has met or been around you would ever think of you as stingy with your time or talents when it comes to helping others.
    Thanks for all the help I have received from you.

  • Mark, BRAVO. And all started with a myth that Social Media is Free and is not and never will be. And as well “experts” who like to sell theory be random & supportive and people will support you back. I do support many on Social web, but as you said if we would support everyone a) we would run out of time, day only have 24h and b) i might need to live under the tree 🙂
    I think you are very giving person Mark, your daily blog posts, business ideas and guidance are extremely valuable, what else do people think you should do. You are great example of someone who really is Social.
    Thank you for walking the line.

  • I “get it” (kind of) that people think that they know someone because they read their blog, follow them on Twitter, etc. But it’s pretty gutsy to have no interaction with someone and then ask for a favor. In my opinion, those aren’t the connections that I want to make. I want to make connections by talking and socializing first, and then seeing if there is a way I can help that connection and hope in return they might try to help me too. Social media should be treated like other aspects of life; you wouldn’t walk up to a stranger on the street and ask them to promote your business… or maybe you would (and there are people that do!) but is it effective? Probably not as much as it could be with a relationship in place first. Even after you have made a connection, though, it isn’t always appropriate to ask for a favor- which is why offering to help first might open some doors.

    I’m glad you published this article (“letter”) though. It’s real and authentic. Although I’m sure you would like to help everyone that asks, sometimes it’s not appropriate and sometimes you just simply can’t- and that’s okay! Sometimes our society frowns upon those who say “No” but the truth is a lot of us could afford to use it more often!

  • Brilliant…. ‘nough said.

  • Tammy Kahn Fennell

    Great post. Thanks @thisnanaknows for sharing 🙂

  • Christina

    This is a thought provoking post on a personal level for me. Like Rickina, I also get “flipping” excited over this “age of information” that we’re living in.
    The allure of conversing with a brilliant person, of whom you may never have the privilege of meeting offline is almost overwhelming.
    However, you are not our personal search engine & the word Google is not tattooed to your forehead.
    This is a reality check for me, and many others.
    Thank you for posting this, and THANK GOODNESS I read it first thing this morning. I’d planned on peppering you with questions all day. 🙂
    All the best!

  • Usually I’m pretty good at responding to each comment but I am at a conference today and am trying to focus on picking up some new ideas. I realize that every comment is a gift of your time and spirit and I never take that for granted. Thank you very much. I am enjoying your comments a lot!

  • Karey

    Excellent post. Social media etiquette is something we all have to learn.

  • Here, Hear – very well put.

    However, could be an interesting model to charge people , via online credits system, each time you respond with specific consultancy? Need to send you a note about the constructive build to your 6 layers diagram (following your excellent talk at Oxford Brookes University last month). We get it over tomorrow and will look forward to getting your thoughts when you get a moment.

    Until then, Keep well and doing what you’re doing.

    Regards, Simon

  • Thank you Mark for echoing my sentiments… After reading, and sharing => 8 Ways to Solve Prospects’ Problems Through Your Marketing via @HubSpot I to began re-think your position, and my sentiments… What if these strangers become prospects by being helped by us? Love to dialogue with you on this one Mark ~Rae

  • Love to see this “constructive build to [Mark’s] 6 layers diagram” as well Simon 😉 — thanks!

  • Thank you for posting this Mark. I started getting all venty and ranty and deleted it. I agree with you 100% and think this is actually the best blog post ever. Cheers.

  • I absolutely love the message in the shortened link “Grow By Giving” >>

  • Love this Mark, so well put.

    I feel guilty/selfish when I have to say ‘no’ sometimes and then I have to do a reality check, if a stranger came up to you in the street and asked you for money or to buy something for you or test something for them, you’d generally say no and be a bit freaked out. Online is no different and as you say, build a (genuine) relationship first, then ‘maybe’ ask a favour.

    As you put so well, our time is all we have sell and while being helpful is in our genes, please don’t take advantage of that.

  • Oh Mark! Yes! You are so right. With all the brain-picking requests… my brain would be in itty bitty pieces if I said “yes” to every one all the time. Like you, I give as I can, when I can and often more than I “should”, but I appreciate those who do the same for me. You’ve hit this nail right on the head.

  • I’ve opened up a page on my site where people can buy an hour of my time:

    It actually has worked pretty well. It gives people an option if they need more than a quick response, but I also do a tremendous amount of charity work.

    Really eager to hear your build on the six layers!!! I need to update that speech and look forward to learning from you! Let me know when you can talk.

  • You can always get ranty with me Barb : )

  • It’s hard to build a trusting relationship with strangers and generally people buy from those they know and trust. The real magic is when you can connect with these strangers through these wonderful channels and turn them into trusted friends. But there has to be some connection. So yes, I am the poster child for growing possibilities through the social web and yes, all of these people who I Iove started as strangers. But it’s hard, at least for me, to start a connection with a stranger who begins a relationship by asking for (or demanding!) something. : ) Thanks for adding to the discussion Dr. Rae!

  • Feel free to send me an email with your questions. Of course I would be happy to help if I can.

  • You make a very good point. Thanks for sharing, and bringing this to the attention of everyone.

    I work in the consulting business and many times I get request for things most people believe are really insignificant. (free reviews, speaking engagements, products for their auction, etc.) All of the little insignificant requests do add up, and subtracts from my time and energy for my true work and would cost me money. I have a set of criteria in place, to evaluate helping people I don’t know, and I set a yearly limit for myself and stick to that limit. But with your post I think I will reevaluate that criteria again.

  • Anonymous

    Mark, I almost wrote this exact post this week but you have said it much more eloquently than I ever would. Thanks! Your writing is truly a gift!

  • Well i’ll be honest and say i did not know you prior to this post being recommended to me and because of your honest approach i am now going to follow you on google + and Twitter. As i t happens I paid for a half hour of advice just recently and it totally worked for me.. I am bookmarking your site to try in the future.

  • I love this link! I’m sure I’ll cut and paste it in a reply or two regularly. Thanks for writing and setting up such as easy process to respond to some of those poorly planned communications from some out there.

  • The person on the other end of these requests needs to understand this Mark.

    Having recently read Never Eat Alone, Trust Agents and now this post, I will never ask something from someone I hardly know.

    But what if a stranger asks something from you but does so offering some value in exchange?

    To steal a line from Gary Vaynerchuk, too many people are acting like 17 year old dudes looking for a quick hook up and not focusing on building a relationship.

  • YES!! Agree with this mind wide open (which sounded better in my head).

    I work to keep the # I follow low-ish and same with the # of followers. Trying wading across the Missouri at it’s greatest width and density gets me nothing but battle weary. Admiring small brookes that I can take in for a bit without the perils of falling in – that I look for constantly. Eyes on the prize: what you can learn.

    I will tell you that even though I have never ‘sought’ followers, they come when I write good content. and they bring interesting ideas and the system comes alive then.
    By the way, I was going to reach out to you – not kidding! – but instead I’m going to download The Tao of Twitter tonight. Thanks for writing this artcle.

  • Keith I didn’t mean to scare anybody off. : ) I do enjoy helping people in the blog community. In fact, it’s the most fun I have. So please shoot me an email when the time is right!

  • Great post. I find myself in this situation right now — launching a new web service and trying to get feedback. I HATE asking favors and agree with your “rule” — it is OK to ask those you’re closely connected to.
    However, I want to give 10x in return to people who help out without taking anything in return.

  • I have become a real fan of you over the past two or so months. You’ve been prolific over that time span, and I’ve learned a great deal. The way I look at it – all bloggers like you do is give, and all we do is take – take the knowledge you pass on to us, take the inspiration to start that big project, and so on. I get asked to have my brain picked about once a day. And it’s funny how, almost every time, they actually use the phrase “pick your brain.” It’s a nice tipoff. I am not against having meaningful conversations where advice is exchanged. I’m wary about giving away free advice, but also wary of asking for too much advice from the people I learn from (like yourself).

  • Mark, spot on in many regards. I’m de-lurking because this is a topic I have difficulty explaining to people. Only, I have significant ethical considerations that go with picking my brain since I am a lawyer as well as a blogger. Like you, I’m happy to help and provide information to help raise the bar for business professionals. Like you, I write articles that would likely help many people (especially if it’s about a topic I get asked about a lot).

    It’s difficult to tell people I can’t give them answers. It does take time to respond to the emails. I’m sure you’ve had people get upset or offended because you aren’t able to address their inquiry specifically. This happens to me quite a bit, and despite being bound by very clear legal ethics there are some people who take it as a personal affront. I can’t imagine their response to you doing the same if you don’t even get to put the onus on a third party like I get to.

    I think we all are appreciative of others who blog and share their insight and expertise. But the definition of friend is getting very fuzzy (thank you, Facebook!) and it’s hard to know when it’s OK to ask for help.

    I’m not sure why common sense gets thrown out the window, though, with online requests for assistance. Few of us would ever just walk in to a consulting company and ask to see the managing partner to ask a few questions. But as long as we have twitter, email, google+ and other social platforms it’s OK.

    I appreciate that technology has lowered the barriers of engagement and has brought all of us access to expertise that years ago was unimaginable. I like to think our parents taught us better manners.

  • I’ve noticed you in the Twitter stream. Thanks for your support and welcome to the blog community!

  • In some ways, it must be a relief to be a lawyer — at least you have legal restrictions against dispensing advice! : ) Many thanks for the superb comment Sara!

  • AllyBrodeur

    Great blog article. Funny enough, one of my twitter followers tweeted this link. I’m glad I checked it out. I’m new to network marketing and I want to be successful. So, I joined a mentoring program so I could learn proper networking techniques and etiquette. The one topic that is focused on frequently is “building relationships” and “helping others”. I, personally, do not have an issue with this. The one thing I have noticed since entering this field is how many people “don’t” get it. I will continue to listen to my mentor and follow the mentoring program because i want to be successful. I don’t want my choice to enter this field to be a ‘fly by night’ decision. I’ve learned in my short time doing this if you want to be successful you have to surround yourself with successful people. That all begins with building relationships. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  • Raman Minhas

    What a great post, Mark. You share so many useful ideas that one feels like they can just reach out and “ask” you about whatever specific thing is currently a roadblock (myself included!). Just checked on twitter – given you have over 40k followers, I now understand for you to be effective, we as your community and readers need to respect YOUR time too. Will be booking an hour of time soon 🙂

  • Eloquently put Mark. Nice post

  • I have to shout out — the taking time for advice, emails and the way people try to pick our brains online, but they’d never act like that in our offices. As a lawyer or any kind of professional consultant, our emails and advise – even if it’s just helping someone w/ asking righter, smarter questions – that has great value and it’s worth more than our time and a Twitter TY. Great comment Sara.

  • Not sure if I’ve ever asked for a comment or tweet or favor, and know for a fact I’ve never closed a tweet with “please RT.” We give a lot, so it’s not much to ask that people give a little back before hitting us up for favors or valuable, worthwhile advice. That said Mark, wonder what you’d charge for a RT or LinkedIn recommendation? 😉 FWIW.

  • Corinne

    So well said. It is a kind and intelligent message.

  • Michelle Townsend

    As a teacher I can completely relate to this. Kudos for expressing it so well! Your kindness and honesty are appreciated.

  • Gareth_Sear1

    I’m guessing that you won’t do a free review fo my website then? Shame.
    Thanks for the blog post I was wondering what was going wrong with my Social Media Strategy and why I wasn’t getting liked and followed and retweeted.
    Put onto you by Ben Martin @Social_Ben:disqus who also recommended that I read that Tao of Twitter – If it is as good as the Tao of Pooh then it will be a winner for me. Will continue to devour your blog.
    Many thanks

  • Ernest Seagraves

    God has a favor I am asking on his behalf. Not per His instruction but I am asking for him. Or perhaps I am selfish in that he has made me responsible by giving me insight. I am just trying to spread the word. That our governments are out of control. Please pray and contact your representative that we cannot go on with the out of control actions caused by our government and Israel’s. We allow secrecy in our government that hides the actions of the few. The problem is that our activities are cursed by God in Deut 27, but they are hidden from view by classification. We cannot be humble with partial information. To be humble means you listen before you speak, but speak only when you fully understand. But when the truth is hidden this is not possible.

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