Asking Help from Online Strangers? Better Fix Your Footprint

Like many people I have no problem with helping strangers who reach out through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora and other social media provided that the request is reasonable and polite. But I realize that there is another factor people consider: your online footprint.

Since I don’t know you all I have to go on is your online reputation, and most of the time I am not going to Google someone just to see who they are. The first place I will look is the profile on the site where they tried to contact me. Quite often people contact me on Twitter, Facebook or Quora who have no biographical information, no links to other profiles and sometimes even no photo. This is a deal breaker. Why should I make an effort to help someone I don’t know if that person doesn’t even identify themselves? This is the digital equivalent to approaching me in real life with a paper bag over your head, asking for a favor without revealing who you are. Not many people feel the urge to help in these circumstances.

What this means is that if you want to approach people you don’t know and you want these people to take time to help you it is vitally important to make sure that your online profile is well defined. You will also need to formulate the request in the right way – that’s probably a good topic for a future post – but your online footprint is equally important. There are some spaces online where people use pseudonyms and anonymity, but in the professional space this doesn’t work. Nobody hires anons, nobody works with anonymous freelancers. At least not in legit business.

To maximize your chances of getting help your first priority is to make sure that you have a helpful profile on LinkedIn, Twitter, Quora and so on. For Facebook you might find it useful to have a public profile with your real name with real biographical information. At the very least people want to know who you are, what you do and where you are. Ideally there should be a link to your landing page where there is more information and it helps to link together your social profiles so that people can find easily the others if they want to.

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For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about communication contact Andrew Hennigan at or by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81.


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