It's easy for people to hide behind their monitor and use their keyboard to pillage online. Pillage information from others. Hurt feelings--intentional or not. Make others feel 'less than' for whatever reason.
But being online is also an excellent way to make friends, network, find cheerleaders (the personal encouragement kind…although I'm sure it is possible to find other kinds), cross promote, learn from others, share information, and so much more.
If you've been online awhile you've likely run into people who only pop up to be friends when they want to drain your brain of info you've worked hard to accumulate. And as soon as you have a whiff of success they are going to appear--trust me. You will also run into people who like to take but not give and wig right out when you offer to do them a favour--no strings attached. It's a weird, weird world and people and their actions are so much more transparent online.
But really, this post is about how to make friends online. How to make those connections that result in getting you and your work out there. In being someone people want to know and interact with online--and not avoid. In becoming someone people want to help out. In other words: how not to be a douche.
How to Make Friends Online
1. Be Interesting and Chat
I know. Seems kind of basic, but take a peek around. How many people are 'friends' one week (often when they need something) and then vanish?
Chatting is basic. Check in. Say hi. Reply to their online content. Share their stuff.
And those annoying posts on Facebook where you mask bragging about how awesome/shitty/amazing/thrilling/envious/whiny your life it? Those have to go. Now. Show me, don't tell me. Make it something others can CHAT with you about. Would you walk up to your friend and say: I am so in love with my husband. [Full stop.] Uh, not likely. So why would you say that online? Try something that would engage your friend and allow her/him an opportunity to join the conversation. (That's right…conversation.) In real life you might say: My hubby rocks. He shovelled the driveway for me. What do you think I should get him as a way of saying I love you? Instant conversation.
2. Be Helpful
Want to make friends who can mentor you? Share info? Be helpful. Share what you know (even if it feels small beans)--if they are open to it. And don't start the conversation with "Do me a favour and fix your website." Be kind. Be gentle. See if they want help. People who give are happier and find others want to help them in return.
However, don't be doormat. Got it? It's an online world. Be smart. Be safe. Don't fall for sob stories unless you are okay with being 'taken.'
3. Don't Be a Taker
If you are going to waste someone's time asking for advice (remember you are taking time away from them earning a livelihood) acknowledge the advice. Don't brush it off. Don't be a bitch. Don't argue. You asked. Listen. And don't come to them in a panic when you haven't done your homework. When you have a deadline you ignored. When you didn't listen to their advice the first time and did something plain and simply DUMB.
And for eff's sake, don't email someone for advice so you can turn around and sell it to someone else. (True story.)
Say thank you. And mean it.
4. Cross Promote
Share the author love. Not only is it AMAZING when it works out, but it really shows you what other authors are made of when you promote their stuff. Yes, some will ignore you as they don't know how to take the generosity. Others will become your helpful friend. Others will return the favour with interest. Big lesson here: cross promotion, when done right, works. So make TRUE friends with people in your genre. Do it now. (Well, finish reading this post first.)
Yes, there are takers. Yes, some people will not value your knowledge--unless you charge them for it. (Crazy, but true.) But share. Share other good books with your readers. Share what you know--I'm not saying you have to give away your trade secrets to takers. And share the spotlight. Be kind. Pretend you are in kindergarten.
Now that you've looked at how to be an online friend from the write angle, tell me how you've been dazzled lately? And let us learn from what you've experienced as well. Thanks for reading.
Jean Oram is a formerly agented author who has gone the indie route with her Blueberry Springs romance series. Champagne and Lemon Drops is FREE and Whiskey and Gumdrops is her latest release. She's also traditionally published short stories, magazine and newspaper articles. You can find Jean dishing writing tips once a week at TheHelpfulWriter.com and having conversations with readers at Facebook.com/JeanOramAuthor. You can follow her on Twitter--she's @jeanoram.