A woman I know just got a Facebook friend request from an old co-worker and friend whom she hadn’t seen in years. Excited to catch up, my friend accepted the request and sent an email asking how she was, what she was up to, etc. The ladies exchanged a couple of catch-up messages, but the reunited friend quickly got down to business: She was now working in marketing and wanted to know if my friend could help promote her latest product, or put her in touch with someone who would be willing to write about it.
Obviously, my friend felt a bit disappointed. She hadn’t seen this person in years and she was already asking for business favors. The product is not something she is particularly interested in, so it’s kind of a hassle for her to spend time on it. Mostly, however, she’s annoyed that this old friend would ask for this favor immediately after getting in touch. It seemed clear that she had only made the effort to reconnect in order to get something out of it.
Here’s what I would have done: When catching up, briefly explain what I do and what I’m working on. You can say something like, “I really love what I do and I’ve really found my calling,” or “I love my clients, especially X.” Unless the other person asks for more information, keep the Facebook chat to personal topics. You might then add the person on LinkedIn, which will allow them to learn more about what you do.
Basically, lay the groundwork before making a pitch or asking for any special favors. Keep it simple: Instead of asking the friend to take on a project, ask if they have a contact for someone who might be interested. Think: “Do you have an email for the acquisitions editor at your work?” or “Let me know if you or your friends would be interested in this.” Usually, people are happy to help if it’s a simple request, but you never want them to feel like you are taking advantage.