With the debut of new social media sites (like Google+), just behind it comes the inevitable lists of leaderboards and connections, as you can quickly find out who the big fish are in the new pond, or if new names are rising to the top. In this frothy world of early adopters and Web tire kickers, it's common to see many of the same familiar names, and often in the same order, from site to site, at least until real-world celebrities from Hollywood and sports show up. Beyond this tier, there's a second layer of folks who are quite visible on the social sites, even if what you know about their real lives pales in what you see online. So what's the secret? I've finally caved and decided to spill it.
Some Quick Tips on Giving "Good Social".
1) Be Interesting - Duh.
There are some people I've met through social networking who I will follow everywhere they go because they have achieved something offline, because they spark my interest online, or they are in the process of constantly doing new things that catch my eye. That can be the company founders like Ev Williams and Dave Morin, trusted observers like Sarah Perez and Ryan Block, or pure technologists like Paul Buchheit and Chris Messina. In each of these examples, there is no question I can learn from their musings, comments, insights and discovery. For you, what is "interesting" may be other reasons, including shared hobbies, location or history. Being known just for being known isn't enough.
2) Find Interesting Stuff Fast
Others I follow because they have their eye on the streams from all different places, and know how to discern the intriguing from the mundane. These human curators know how to take 500 pieces of content and give me back the best 2 that I absolutely must read. It's part of why I've shared content from Google Reader, my6sense, OneTrueFan and other products to put a brighter light on that which needs it.
3) Interact With Everyone You Can
Great social users interact. They don't just broadcast. And they don't just talk to the mysterious elite class of peers who are geek household names. They respond to comments in threads, mentions on Twitter and Google+, and participate in the streams, whether their name comes up or not. There's no value lost by talking with strangers online who have good ideas, for they just might be your best friends in months or years to come.
4) Be Consistently Optimistic
I'm not saying you should be naive, but following someone who has enthusiasm about what they're doing, their community, connections and technology is a lot more fun than a sourpuss. Good early adopters and social networkers that see holes in a product expect they'll be filled in time, rather than complaining and making a list of open demands. Supporting the community's ideas, families, projects and interests is all good.
5) Don't Be a Jerk
The obvious corollary to point 4. Mean people suck. A little sarcastic humor now and then is funny. Ranting and raving alienates, and it sticks with you a lot longer than your positive activities. If you're a bipolar poster who loves things one day and hates them the next, it's dramatically abrasive, and is as viral as anything good you've done, earning you blocks, unfollows and ignores.
6) Prove You're A Human
Humans live outside their computer. Even me. Sharing one's pictures, family, travels, hobbies, interests, religion, politics, dating tips or whatever else helps to round out your persona so that people get a better knowledge of with whom they are engaging. Laugh when people tease, and tease back. Interact and don't let scripts take over your streams. A great example of streams being out of control was the night of the earthquake in Japan, when people's Twitter accounts were autoposting quotes of the day, or other such blather, while the rest of the Web weeped and watched.
7) Learn the Community
Even if you want to be a big fish in a small pond, you have to learn the community's behaviors, traditions and what everyone else is doing or saying. While you don't have to participate in every meme that springs up, you should quickly get an understanding of what content best fits where. Let the community's reaction to your content guide you, and constantly adjust. As communities go from elitist tech enclaves to more mainstream hangouts, so to should your approach change.
8) Don't Add to the Noise
Has that viral video been posted by 400 of your friends already? You know the one. Don't post it. Do you really need to be the 500th person to retweet Mashable or TechCrunch? Probably not. But if you're first to the scene and have some insight, go for it. Being unique is always a good thing.
9) Exercise Moderation
Don't overdo it. Even the most interesting people can tweet too much, share too many items on Google Reader/Buzz/+, or swamp Facebook. Even if your quantity is higher than the average, the quality should exceed it. The best content in the right place and time.
10) Be Flexible
Despite all the above, there's no secret for getting people to like you, your content or your attitude. Don't expect that the process that works for you today, on the sites you use today, is always going to be the one that gets you the response you're looking for - be it friendship, engagement, kudos or conversation. I've often said I have more fun in social networking than anybody else - not because it's true, but I've decided it's true. I really am often smiling big, like my avatar, because I've found great people and great stuff. I work hard to give good social and I find people both doing well and not so well all the time.
So there's the secret. I won't tell anyone if you won't. And I bet you know how to find me on most of these networks.