Social Media and Group Psychology
How can you get the most from a group experience when using social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Youtube, etc.? The norms of social networking sites are somewhat different from the norms of different social situations. Your behavior online should be similar to what is appropriate in the "real world" if you want to build long lasting relationships.
1. Become an active group member. In order to fully appreciate any social networking site, you have to join. You can't contribute anything without first joining and you wont be able to learn about what each site has to offer without trying it for yourself. Your experience with one group (or site) will help you when trying out another one. In these groups, your willingness to seek input from others and to give feedback to others can start a pattern that will allow you to give quality and value to the groups that you are in. If you start this process with reluctance, then the connections that you make may sense your insecurity and have trouble connecting to you.
2. Join a group with the goal of learning. If you find a way to be successful in a social networking medium, you can share this experience with others that are just starting out. It is true that humans perform better at new tasks when they are given instructions. The great thing about social networking sites is the freedom to use them as you wish. By joining a group and learning how it suits you best and then sharing this knowledge with others makes you a leader to new comers.
3. Commit yourself to a goal. If you join a certain social network, why did you join that one and what do you want to accomplish there. Your goals could be different for each site or the same. These decisions affect everything from your identity to your bio. Figure out your goals before you join and commit to a strategy that will help you achieve your goal. If your goal is to get as many friends to join you as possible, then stick to it. If your goal is to only find people that you know personally, then go for it. You may even be one of those individuals who don't want to follow anyone else, but feels like everyone wants to know what is going on with you. Make your plan and stick to it.
4. Remember that trust is not something that automatically happens. You have to earn trust from others in social networking just like everywhere else. Don't expect people to add you as a friend and then automatically answer personal questions or tell you their personal information. This is a fast way to lose friends. In return, do not trust people in an online group like you would in your local church group. Do not give out your personal information without first establishing a rapport and being selective with what you are willing to share. Everything that you publish online is available for public use, even if you think that you have all of your settings made private. Decide for yourself (not based on what others do) what, how much and when you will disclose personal facets of yourself. Higher levels of trust within a group allows members to take more risks which leads to sharing more personal information.
5. Be interactive. Don't wait for people to notice you. Go out there and introduce yourself, talk about yourself and let others know why you are there. Fill out your profile and bio and add all the information that you want people to automatically know about you. That way they don't have to ask you what you are about or wait for you to respond. They can decide right away if you have something of value to offer them. This will allow people to be flexible when making their opinions about you from their first impression. Others will not have a basis for knowing you unless you tell them something about yourself. Don't go to the opposite extreme and overwhelm people with too much information about yourself.
6. Thank others for their contributions to you. If someone offers insight into something that you find interesting, let them know. If someones posting makes your day better, share that with them and others. By appreciating others you are helping yourself and everyone in your group. This is a good way to introduce yourself to people if you have a hard time doing so. Realize that others may not find you while searching through the other thousands of profiles if you do not speak up about issues that are important to you. People like it when others identify with them and this helps them feel closer to you.
7. Listen more than you speak. In a group with many people, there are many thoughts. Understand that your thoughts are not the only ones that matter or the best. If you are joining a group to be part of something, then you have to listen to what is going on in the group. By giving others the gift of your presence you are showing them compassion and understanding.
8. Experiment with new things. Allow yourself to try different things to see how the group responds. If you have some followers or friends and you have a question, don't give up if no responds. Keep asking in different ways or move on to something else. If you do something that works, then that may be a good thing for you to do again. Share what you are learning and new things that you are trying with your group.
9. Do not impose values. In social networking the boundaries that once existed between cultures, demographics, religions, etc. are gone. Anyone with a computer has access to the websites that they find. It is common for people to have different norms from you and befriend you. If this happens, remember you are not there to coerce people to change or judge them for their personal beliefs. You can expose your beliefs and values if doing so will help you and the other members reach their goals. You should never use social networking sites to pressure others about your beliefs. Be sensitive to culture, sex, race, religious preference, lifestyle, age, disability and knowledge of the social networking environment.
10. Be someone worth following. People want to follow other people that offer something of value. There are different ways to offer value. Here are some examples: Listening, Providing Support, Providing Empathy, Providing Validation, Teaching, Providing Tutorials, Entertainment, Providing Knowledge. If you can't get followers or keep losing them, ask yourself what you are offering of value.
If you try to use some of these things, you will see greater success in your goals. You may not be comfortable with all of them. That is ok, try one or two and go from there. To get the most out of the time and energy you have invested into building your online social networks, go through each tip and modify your online behavior and you will be more confident in what you are providing to the members of your groups.