Before social media, if you wanted to reach out to someone for whatever reason, there were only three ways: face-to-face, by phone, or by email. And that meant you had to find them, their phone number, or their email address.
Now you can tweet, link, like, post, or message your way into pretty much anyone's life. Anyone can do it. And therein lies the rub. Everyone does do it. And the competition for people's limited time and attention is enormous.
So, you've got to differentiate yourself from the pack. Stand out. Get noticed. That's the only way you're ever going to get a response. Sure, it's hard to do. Hard, but not impossible--if you follow these seven rules:
Make sure it makes sense. I get requests from people every day that I just can't make heads or tails of. I don't know what they want or why they think they can get it from me. They either don't make sense or they're not appropriate, at least not to me. It's a showstopper.
Make it personal. People respond to whatever it is that interests them. And most people are interested in themselves. That's why a long introduction about you isn't likely to get their attention. Hopefully, there's a good reason why you're reaching out to this person. Some sort of connection you have with their background or something they wrote. Use it. Just make sure it's appropriate. Use a little common sense.
Make sure there's a WIIFM. I get loads of requests from people. They spend paragraphs telling me what's in it for them. I know what's in it for them. I want to know What's In It For Me. Everyone does. If you can't do that, then don't bother. You might get a polite response, but that's all you'll get.
Be brief. Everyone's pressed for time these days. Time is their most valuable asset. Be brief. And whatever you do, don't waste a couple of sentences telling them that you know how valuable their time is. They already know that. Respect them by getting right to the point--after you've made that all important connection.
Don't be generic. If it begins with, "We're looking for help from people like you," you can pretty much forget about getting a response. If you think you're going to get anyone's attention or help from a generic request on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, you've definitely been out in the sun too long.
Ask for help. Don't ask me why, but people are generally suckers for someone who needs help. That said, it helps to ask for help in a way that somehow relates to them. How to do that is specific to the individual. Learn about them and try to figure it out.
Don't ignore the obvious. There are several obvious things to pay attention to here. One is the language. If you're not fluent in English or whatever language the person uses, get somebody to help you. I get tons of requests I truly can't understand. It also helps if you're in the same industry. People are generally willing to network with folks they can relate to in some way.