Many people are overwhelmed by the prospect of engaging in social media … and are then underwhelmed by the outcome. There are a number of mistakes or missteps that someone can make, but one of the biggest is the emotional approach you take. If you look at social media as a way to raise your profile and share your information, you’ve got a problem. Social media can do those things, but if you approach it as a constellation of free press release distribution systems, don’t be surprised if you don’t get much traction.
Instead, approach it as a number of venues where you can demonstrate your prowess at being a friend. And how do you do that?
- Start with the goals of understanding, supporting, and helping. Your friends “get” you, are there when you need them, and sincerely want to help you. Start asking yourself if you meet these criteria for the people you interact with on social media. If not …
- Listen more. It’s impossible to learn about someone else if you don’t shut up. So pay attention to the problems, questions, and concerns of the online community you’re trying to join.
- Ask questions. This can be intimidating. So imagine yourself trying to get to know a new friend. How would you pose a question? What kind of things would you want to know about them?
- Reflect back. When chatting with a friend, you probably say things like “Oh, I hate it when people cut me off, too. It makes me so mad!” This kind of validation is surprisingly helpful in both in-person and online communication. It conveys understanding and empathy, creating common emotional ground. And who doesn’t want to feel understood and supported?
- Be generous with your support. You probably don’t keep a scorecard of how much you’re giving or receiving from a friend. (At least, I hope not.) Your first instinct is to give help whenever you can. So search out opportunities to do the same online. Don’t worry about the ROI, worry about being a friend.
- Be ready to apologize if you say the wrong thing. Misunderstandings happen. And they happen even more online and with people you don’t know well (or at all). But a genuine apology will go far to addressing these communication gaps and to keep the friendship rolling along.
- Stay in touch. If you’re like me, you’ve lost a number of friends due to neglect. Imagine how much easier it is for your online friends to feel ignored.
Do you agree with this social media philosophy? What elements of being a friend am I missing?