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November 18, 2010

How to Make Online Friends

Puppies

In my last post, I talked about the awesome and supportive writing community.  Based on the comments, a lot of people agree.  It’s great to have friends when you’re feeling up, down, or all alone.  But what if you’re not sure how to join that community?

Thanks to Laurie London, I found this: 9 Characteristics of Likeable People.  Now the funny thing is that the article talks about Jennifer Aniston being likeable, and I’ve actually never liked her.  Oops.  I think their points are still valid though.

Many writers are introverts and making friends can be difficult under the best circumstances.  So let’s take a look at how the characteristics in the article can translate to making online friends in the writing community, whether through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or forums.

9 Characteristics of Likeable People

1. Being kind and considerate of others

In an online community, this means (most importantly) no spamming.  Don’t talk only about yourself.  In Twitter, it’s fine to jump into conversations (imagine a big party where everyone mingles), but don’t try to change the focus onto you.  In Facebook or blog comments, don’t post just to point them to your website.  When someone re-tweets something of yours, thank them!

2. Having a good sense of humor, liking to laugh, and having a ready smile

Posts or tweets that are all-business-all-the-time are boring and not social.  Yes, branding is important, but a community is about interaction.  Share the funny, absurd, or otherwise entertaining stuff too.

3. Being warm, friendly and outgoing

As much as your time allows, reply to those who reach out to you and follow those who follow you (unless they’re spammers).  TwitterKarma will compare those who are following you with those you’re following.  Did you miss following someone?  Are you following everyone you thought you were?  Even if you have Twitter set up to email you for every new follower, sometimes things fall through the cracks.

4. Being authentic and unpretentious

Show your personality (to a point—just as much as in any social situation, watch out for hot-button issues, political, etc.).  A running joke among the writing community on Twitter is mocking the supposed glamorous life of an author by sharing the reality, cleaning toilets and cat boxes and all.

5. Being vivacious, perky and engaged in life

While it’s okay to have a bad day sometimes and look for support, no one wants to hear whining all the time.  People will react better (and be more supportive) if you’re able to find a silver lining.  Sometimes the more ridiculous, the better, along the lines of:  Got caught in the rain today with no umbrella.  On the plus side, I’ve been ogled more today than I have in years.

6. Having interests

Despite what some people think, Twitter isn’t about the mundane.  Yes, people will sometimes share what they ate or what they’re doing this very minute, but usually because they’re making a joke out of it.  In other words, be interesting.

7. Showing interest in others

Reply to others if you have something worthwhile to add, even when you’re not originally part of the conversation.  Retweet things you find interesting.  Like or comment on others’ blogs and Facebook statuses and links.  These are all ways to interact and make sure that it’s not just about you.

8. Being relaxed and easygoing

Watch out for hypersensitivity.  Things can easily be misunderstood in the written form.  Add in the 140 character limit of Twitter, and whoo boy, is there potential for misunderstanding.  Try to give others the benefit of the doubt, or just decide to not get offended.

9. Being easy to talk to and nonjudgmental

Unless it’s something you’re willing to lose potential readers over, try not to get embroiled in real controversy (where there’s definitely two or more sides to the issue).  No matter where you are on the political fence, remember that half of your potential readers might be on the other half.  A political rant might not be the best idea unless that’s part of your brand.

If you’d like to learn more about the right way for writers to do social media, check out Kristen Lamb’s blog and her book, We Are Not Alone.

What type of people do you like to follow and friend online?  What’s the hardest part of reaching out to others?  What’s the easiest?

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Comments — What do you think?

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Regina Linton

Thanks for the ideas. I am still working on getting to know my new friends and am excited about the things that they have going on. It is really nice to have them there for encouragement and to keep me going when I feel like I am failing. Great post.

Janet B Taylor

Hi Jami.
Are you SURE you didn’t write that for me?? lol. No, I know there are a ton of writers out there just like me who are afraid to jump in. And if you guys do it, Jami is super at helping.
I took Kristen Lamb’s class a couple of months ago, and it was wonderful, too. She gave me all the tools I needed to put myself out there.. I was a chicken poop…I just could never really get my nerve up. I am going to try to do better, so now any of you wallflowers out there have to come on with me..
Thanks, Jami! 🙂

Joanna St. James

I am still getting out there in twitterverse, treading carefully and all.

Murphy

Great reminders, Jami. I’m hanging in there on twitter — trying, at any rate. It’s just that 140 characters for someone like me is killer. That’s all I’m saying. 🙂

Murphy

Elisa

Oooh, what a great post, one I most definitely need, lol. Especially being more social on twitter, I have never been the initiator of conversation and find it difficult, even online.

Elisa

Thanks these are some great suggestions, and I really the @ reply along with the link. What a great idea! If you do think of more I would like to read a post, I think many people would benefit from it. ;p

Debbie Lee
Debbie Lee

I really enjoyed your post! I’m slowly finding my way on Twitter. I’m an introvert also and it’s hard to put myself out there. Your ideas are very helpful! Thanks! 🙂

Roni Loren

These are great tips. I think the point about being positive and upbeat is so important. I’ve tried to stick to that on my blog–being an optimist even on days I really just want to rant and I think that has helped me. And you’re right about the controversial topics. I usually steer clear, but apparently picked one today. I lost a few followers, but gained more, so I guess it wasn’t too much of an issue, lol.

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[…] the comments of my last post about how to make online friends, several people mentioned they had trouble jumping into conversations on Twitter, so I promised a […]

Tamara

Great post! I couldn’t agree more.

Have you seen this great Facebook etiquette post by the lovely Ru Freeman? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ru-freeman/facebook-etiquette-for-au_b_398318.html

Everything we need to know, they did tell us in kindergarten! hehe

Tamara

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[…] started with Twitter, check out this by @MarianSchembari and this by @mashable, as well as my posts here, here, and […]

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[…] if anyone wonders if I’m sincere when I talk about the awesome writing community, if I really care about the people I reach out to, if I mean it when I tweet my Yay‘s or *hugs*—or if I’m just faking it—believe.  […]

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