These norms are influenced by how we are raised, our friends, our culture, and our location.
From a global perspective, there are broad social norms such as respect, politeness, exclamation, and humor.
When face to face, expressing true feelings is one of the most difficult tasks for us. It should be natural, but things like confidence and doubt limit us.
However, swap out the faces with computers and we suddenly have all physical and sentimental limitations removed.
We’ll type to our heart’s content. We’ll eviscerate opinions, debating for hours, days, weeks, even months on end.
In fact, some forum discussions are stickied to last years.
We have no filter.
And we have no fear – we can delete or edit comments and shroud ourselves in anonymity.
We’re now connected to virtually everyone and anything by some level of degree. Niche communities have risen, and while anonymity does have it’s place, it severs the human connection. The bond that makes online social interactions feel more face to face.
Generally, a writer or webmaster will have to create some type of identity – at the very least, a close reflection of their physical self.
As we connect with others on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, related blogs, and forums, we sometimes omit the value of social interactions.
I’m going to show you how to increase your social skills online, extract more value from online social interactions, and boost your online image.
Increase Your Online Social Skills
The majority of online social interactions occur in the following two realms:
- comment sections/threads
For comment sections – the biggest missed opportunity I’ve witnessed (personally) and learned from fellow bloggers is leaving meaningful comments on sites you’d like to develop a relationship with.
This seems like common knowledge, but the plague of “nice post” “awesome” “very good job here” comments remains rampant. We understand there is an expectation for ‘brevity’ on the internet, but 3-word comments are not comments. They’re not complete thoughts nor are they adding value. They are just off-handed confirmations.
Ideally, we want every comment to demonstrate they have read or understand the topic at hand and evolve the topic by adding valuable thoughts based on their personal experiences. Or, they ask a meaningful question, point out vital problems with a thesis, or challenge us to view the subject in a new light.
Of course, time is a commodity and many people simply want to commend an author with off-handed confirmations. It’s an honest form of praise, but not one that demonstrates social skills.
If you want to level up your skills, try one the following models for your next blog comment:
- Pick out a point that really resonates with you and fortify it with an example from one of your own experiences. Top it off with 1 piece of value-added insight.
- Pick out a point that makes you feel skeptical and, in a respectable manner, explain why their conclusion may not be grounded on a strong foundation. Offer a new conclusion based on stronger sources.
- Tell a story that confirms the author’s thesis. It doesn’t have to be an epic monologue, but it should be engaging and relevant.
The goal of you comment should be to expand discussions.
More often that not, people will leave a great comment, someone will reply with another great comment, and the conversation ends there. Follow-up with your comments!
For emails – every email has a goal. But I’ll let you in on a little secret…good emails humanize goals.
Dear Mr. President,
I’m contacting you today in hopes that you will consider
guest bloggingbeing an honorary contributor on my website.
I know you’re very busy, but if you can manage to allocate some of your time, my 11 subscribers will very much appreciate your insights.
Thank you sir.
Hey Mr. President, long time no talk!
It’s Jesse from the homebrewing club! What’s new? You still owe me $27 for breaking my favorite stein, but I’ll let it slide this time.
Lookin’ forward to hearing back soon.
Clearly, me and the Prez go way back…
But in all seriousness, a good email focuses on the relationship, not the goal. Bloggers and webmasters have to deal with traffic just like you. They have favorite foods, some have children, others have cats. Some have a similar sense of humor, others find you appalling.
Whatever the case is, if you’re goal is to write for a website, ask for a microtask, or spark up a partnership, start off by separating yourself from spam.
Separate yourself from the next peg up as well; low quality emails.
If I get an email from someone and they’re not asking me to do anything – just some praise, proof they read my About page or Twitter bio, and a funny reference or suggestion for my site, I’m impressed.
I will respond.
And now, at this point, you have won.
Crazy right? Your goal hasn’t even been realized, but you’ve already won?
I now have you profiled as someone I will open emails from = TRUST
I now have you profiled as someone I like = PERSONABILITY
That’s all you need to ensure a simple goal is achieved.
Okay, so how do we actually execute our goals while maintaining strong social skills?
Did you notice I write about social media but have nothing on Pinterest? Well, now I’m floored. Oh, and you read my guest blogging guidelines? Well then, welcome!
Some key tips for email outreach with a goal (after the first personalized email):
- Be concise (try to keep it under 5 sentences)
- Stay personalized (keep referencing that proves you understand their site or life – maybe a recent tweet about their new fish – “OMG I HAVE THE SAME FISH AS YOU”)
- Make your goal beneficial (frame your goal as something that is beneficial; your followers really enjoy this topic, your site would rock with this kind of tutorial, etc.)
After achieving your goal, a new opportunity arises.
This is what separates mediocre social skills from remarkable.
Did a webmaster or power influencer just share something you made?
Thank them in more ways than one.
Start sharing more of their content, commenting on more of their comment, sending friendly emails for sake of developing a stronger relationship.
The stronger the relationship, the grander the opportunities.
Increase Your Online Image
As your online social skills improve, so does your image.
Social skills have a direct impact with those you engage with. So people you have discussions with develop an image of you.
There are tangibles, like our web properties and our social media profiles. We can boost our image by improving these tangibles.
For example, we may discover 20% of our readers speak Spanish. Once in a while it would be impressive to publish an exclusively translated post for them. Some may go the extra mile and offer paginated translation. Even if we don’t have the chops to translate, we can outsource an official translation service to take care of it.
Expanding Content Sources
Some businesses think all they need for a web property is a landing page, an ‘about’ page, and a contact page. That’s fine for a small business with restricted time and resources, but for a blogger, freelancer, or larger business, it’s outdated. It lessens the potential image.
For example, the popular New York law firm Olshan Law has a ‘News & Resources’ section packed with multiple forms of content.
This features custom press releases, articles, alters, webinars, events, media information and a subscription option. Most impressive is the creation of two blogs. One is for advertising law while the other focuses on real estate.
This dramatically increases their image as an authority in their niche. Thought leaders can emerge, giving the brand extended reach and influence.
Making a Forum Multi-Functional
Forums remain one of the ‘stickiest’ forms of customer/reader acquisition. They’re generally categorized into sub-areas of a niche to hone in on specific areas.
A strong example of using a forum with a multi-functional purpose is Matthew Woodward’s forum:
His most popular category is clearly link building and we can gauge popularity fairly easily. It seems like the forum functions like any other forum, but Matthew kicks it up a notch in two smart ways:
- His menu/navbar ‘Ask a Question’ drops down into a full listing of the forum categories, unlike a simple ‘Forum’ button.
- He will email subscribers inquiring for their ideas on future tutorials with a direct link to the Tutorial Requests category.
Both of these methods help promote forum engagement, which ultimately improves Matt’s overall image.
If a new visitor sees a highly engaged forum, it’s simply impressive.
Sites like Moz have gamified their communities by creating a point system. Essentially, every time we comment, submit a most, or get an upvote, we get points.
Quite simply, we are rewarded for engaging.
This is similar to the ‘karma’ system of reddit. Karma points are invisible and meaningless, just like your Klout score, or Fox News standards:
Gamification is a powerful way to retain users, no matter how trivial the points are.
Along the same vein, contests via social media are another effective way to gamify online communities. They’re linked to our image and goals.
Everything is linked
By now you’ve realized everything we do online is connected in some shape or form. People can dig up our tweets and posts that are years old.
The more we acknowledge and improve our social skills and image, the better and more unique our online experiences will be become; for us and our friends.