How to Get Noticed on the Social Web

Bob Leggitt | Tuesday, 27 November 2012 |

You signed up to a social networking site, and started to post – and guess what… No one cares.

Don’t worry, by the way – that’s quite normal, and you don’t have a problem. In order to make people care about you in a detached environment like the Internet, you need to do things differently from the way you do things in the offline world. You need to take some different factors into account. But above all, you need to appreciate what it is other people are looking for, in order to understand why they might take notice of you.

Some people cultivate a sense that they need to be highly entertaining in order to ‘succeed’ on the social web, but in fact, people who do well with social networking are not necessarily entertaining people, and some are actually pretty dull and repetitive. Why do relatively boring people often attract lots of virtual friends on the social networking sites?… Because what the average social networker seeks from their experience, is not entertainment, but ego massage and appreciation…

RULES 1, 2 and 3

The first rule of social networking is to recognise that other social networkers have a particular special interest that they care about more than anything else – the reason why they’re there. The second rule is that unless you’re famous, this particular special interest of theirs will not be you (so it’s no good simply saying: “Here I am!”, and expecting people to care). The third rule is that in the vast majority of cases, social networkers’ primary special interest will be themselves. In other words, they’re not bothered about how clever you are. They’re bothered about how clever you think they are.

If you want to give yourself some importance to other people on the social Web, you need to base virtually everything you do on these first three rules. So as a general policy, when you start to communicate with other people on the networking sites, talk about them, and don’t talk about yourself. Of course, you should be careful when doing this, not to ask personal questions or to in any way depict yourself as interrogative. You’ll just come across as a threat, a creep, or a predator if you bombard people with personal questions. Focus only on information which people have already given about themselves, and don’t be slow in handing out praise. Oh, and when handing out praise, don’t lie. Only praise what you genuinely think is good. The social web is built on ego-massage, and if you can master the art of massaging egos without sounding false or patronising, you’ve got it made.

If people think you’re interested in them, then unless they believe you have an ulterior motive, or they think you’re a bot, the majority will also be interested in you.

RULE 4

Don’t be negative. There’s a reason why Facebook, the blogs, the forums, etc, don’t have a Hate button sitting next to the Like. If you make a lot of comments about what you hate, and very few about what you like, you’ll portray yourself as a negative character. Not only does that categorise you as a moaner (and no one wants to be friends with a moaner) – it also threatens the reputations of people who associate with you. People who have lots of virtual friends will not want to risk being associated with someone who could potentially upset or annoy those friends by making negative comments about them or the things they like. The more positive, ‘safe’ and predictable you are in your outlook, the more people are likely to want to be associated with you. You can still be witty and amusing, but if you seem in any way volatile or confrontational, the majority of other networkers will be very wary of you.

RULE 5

Profile pics matter! Don’t be under any illusions about the power of image on the Internet (and in the offline world too, of course). If you upload a terrible picture of yourself taken in some grim, dim room, looking miserable, you do massive damage to your social networking potential. Equally, if you have no profile pic at all (perhaps you’re an ‘egg’ on Twitter), you’re wasting your time trying to make online friends. The first thing people will think when they look at your profile is: “Why hasn’t he/she uploaded a profile pic?” And you can be assured that the only reasons they’ll think of, will be negative ones.

As an example of how much difference this can make, I know of one Twitter user who had a very impressive fake profile pic on a former account. He then closed that account and opened a new one with a generic avatar (not featuring a person). Over approximately the same time period, the new account has amassed about one twentieth of the follower count of the old one. That's not a minor difference. I’m not advising people to use fake profile pics and pretend they’re someone they’re not here – I’m just illustrating the impact a profile pic can have in some social circles. I believe that well-lit, technically impressive profile pics in which the subject looks well groomed and happy, tend to perform dramatically better in attracting interest on the social networks than gloomy, miserable pics, or no pic at all. It’s a depressing indictment on just how shallow we all are, but this is the reality. Better profile pic equals more online friends.

RULE 6

Avoid losers. Don’t get involved with anyone prone to making snide comments, attacking people, displaying evidence of jealousy, or extolling the ‘merits’ of trolling. If you follow or befriend anyone who starts behaving in a manner you find questionable, ditch them immediately, and if they don’t go away of their own accord, use whatever means you have available to block them. You don’t have to explain anything to anyone. Just get rid, because if you don’t, they’re sure to drag you into their arguments and altercations, and they’ll think nothing of making your entire social networking experience as bad as theirs. In fact, that’s exactly what they want. Don’t oblige them. This, incidentally, is one of the biggest reasons why you should avoid indiscriminate ‘following’ or ‘liking’. You need to vet the accounts with which you’re associating yourself. Of course, we all make mistakes, and it’s incredibly difficult on the Internet to judge character, so don’t be too alarmed when people don’t turn out as you expected. Just be sure to take instant action when an association starts to threaten your reputation. You owe online losers nothing.

RULE 7

Do you know what the number one catalyst is for getting follows on Twitter?… Let’s see… Is it tweeting hilarious comments and getting them retweeted?… No. Is it replying to famous people and hoping they take a shine to you?… No. Is it tweeting 30 times an hour?… Definitely not! In fact, quite simply, the action which is most likely to prompt people to follow you, is you following them. That’s why auto-follow bots which are programmed to follow and unfollow accounts in a strategic manner build up bigger followings than the average human being. Rule 7, then, is to use every tool the social web provides to facilitate expressions of appreciation. The Follow buttons, the Like buttons, and all their derivatives. These tools are designed to massage people’s egos with a minimum of effort on your part. Using them will allow you to ego-massage larger numbers of people, in a smaller space of time.

The only recommendations are that you take great care to check the sites’ terms and advice regarding any potential overuse of the functions, and that you stick to ‘appreciating’ people you genuinely have something in common with. People might be egotistical beyond belief, but they’re not completely stupid, and the evidence shows that using Follow/Like functions indiscriminately gives poor results as compared with using them in what at least appears to be a genuine fashion. The most effective policy of all with Follow/Like functions is to use them in conjunction with actual communication. You don’t necessarily have to initiate a conversation with the person you’ve decided to Follow/Like, but in order for them to take you seriously, they do need to see some record of active communication within your account.

RULE 8

Be cool, keep your distance, take things slowly, and be careful not to appear over-enthusiastic or desperate. The most likely networkers to attract virtual friends are those who come across as the ‘safest’. By and large, those will be the ones who behave in the most balanced manner. Messaging someone ten times in five minutes when you've only just run into them is not balanced. Giving everyone plenty of breathing space and taking a longer term approach will still get you noticed, but for the right reasons - not the wrong ones.

RULE 9

Define yourself by the things you like – not by making self-assessments. Typing: “I’m a fun, positive guy!” or whatever on your profile says very little about you, because in all honesty, everyone thinks they’re loads of fun. You’re also going to look really stupid if another networker reads through your last three “God, I’m so depressed” messages after being told what great fun and how positive you are. However, in telling people what you like or love (not what or who you DON’T like!), you automatically make the statement that you’re a postive person without saying it. And you’re also making it easy for people who love the same things as you to recognise a potential virtual friend.

RULE 10

If all else fails, consider cheating. I do only say “consider”, and I don't like exploring this territory. However, it's a fact of life that people do cheat on the social web, and if everyone but you is cheating, then competing for attention becomes incredibly difficult, and you're at a disadvantage. Depending on your situation, you may feel compelled to fight fire with fire, as it were. BUT, it’s extremely important to draw a line between cheating and breaking the rules. Cheating which breaks no rules might be worth considering as a last resort. Cheating which does break rules is stupid and should never be considered.

For example, on most forums, opening multiple accounts is against the rules and is likely to get you banned. Therefore, it’s a stupid idea and I wouldn’t recommend anyone tries it. On Twitter, however, there’s no real advice against opening multiple accounts, and a lot of people do it. So if you were nervous about approaching strangers but you wanted to show a bit of interactivity within a Twitter account, you could perhaps create one or two extra ‘personalities’ and talk to yourself. Then when you follow real people, they can get a picture of who they might be following back.

It sounds a bit pathetic and as I say, it should be a very last resort, but it can serve as a 'convincer' and help in enticing other people to approach you. Remember, though, the purpose of something like this would be to show you’re approachable, so it wouldn't be a good idea to engineer arguments and slanging matches between your fake accounts. That might strike you as entertaining, but it’s not going to persuade anyone to start chatting to you – it’ll just frighten people off. Remember also that people WILL be able to see that you’ve opened multiple accounts and are talking to yourself. Not everyone, but some will recognise what you’re up to. They may confront you, and you need to be prepared for that. Same goes for any other form of 'cheating within the rules'. If you cheat and succeed, and people get jealous, they're almost inevitably going to try and expose you.

CONCLUSION

Don't forget that you don't have to use social networking if you just want to get your creative work found. I've never used social networking to market this blog, and I don't have any problems getting visitors. A lot of people use social networking sites because they feel they have to, or because they're told it's the only way to get traffic to a blog or whatever. It's not the only way, and I actually deemed it to be the hard way in my Networking vs. SEO article. It just depends on what type of person you are, and what you consider to be work. I consider writing blog posts fun, and social networking work. For others it's the other way around. So if you like the idea of having online friends but don't really know where to start, I hope the above will help. But if you're like me, and you're not interested in having online friends, just forget about social networking and look into other means of achieving your aims. If you have been reading this with a view to promoting a blog, you may be interested in some of the articles in the Blogging section on this site's Social Web page.

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