Imagine this scenario. A kid is having a birthday party and it’s time to open the presents. Everything the kid asked for appears under beautifully colored wrapping paper. At the end of the present-opening extravaganza, under a mountain of everything cool, the kid looks around and lets out a big sigh. “This is just too much stuff,” the kid laments. “How can I possibly play with everything I ever wanted? I don’t have enough time, even!”
What thoughts would go through your head?
Well, in the world of Social Media, it’s easy to come across as a kid like that. It all comes down to one simple fact – a lot of what you receive in this online world is a gift, and if you don’t really make a point of remembering that, you can come across as ungrateful.
What are these gifts I speak of?
We all know that we’re busy, and if we’re all busy, then we know everyone’s busy. In that kind of environment, any investment of time is extremely valuable, and in this online world, any response that you get represents time someone took to respond to you.
So, for example, the fact that you are taking the time to read this post? That’s a great gift. If you take time to tweet out a post or comment on a post, those are great gifts. Taking the time to tweet with or to someone meaningfully is a gift.
It seems like sometimes people groan about gifts that are in the grey territory. For example, a lot of people tend to not appreciate it when people ask for free advice. To me, this is a great grey zone that needs to be considered individually. If a person wants you to do their work or thinking for them then yes, that is not something to get excited about. However, if someone is asking for your advice, or is asking you to review something, to me that is a great gift. It means they are willing to open something up to you, which can really be hard to do online. It also means they value your opinion and feel you know enough to be able to help others beyond yourself.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water
Just like all facets of Social Media, accepting gifts with grace is something you need to do consciously and conscientiously. Often, this involves a bit of censoring. For example, let’s say you’re getting really bombarded with blog comments (awwww). People are giving you all kinds of good insights for the most part, but it’s just a lot to respond to. If you say, in a moment of frustration, “Man, I just can’t keep up with these darned comments,” what message does that send to the people who took the time to comment on your post?
This logic carries on to all sorts of interactions. If you complain about people asking you for advice, you are making everyone who has asked you for advice wonder if they are more a burden to you. This can be especially damaging if you are making an effort to come across as helpful and engaging. If people asking for your opinion seems like something that drives you nuts, you will soon find that your key channels of communication will have disintegrated.
It all comes back to courtesy
You’ve seen me talk about this before if you’ve been here for awhile, but so much in Social Media revolves around basic manners and courtesy. What do you do when someone gives you a gift? You say thank you. Maybe you do something in return. So it is here. And if it is someone asking you to be a resource, take it as a compliment, not a burden. They are, in essence, calling you an expert in that particular area. Say thank you, and help as best you can, or direct them to someone else.
Bad News Bears versus the Good News Gnus
I know, I know. It’s easy to complain. You have a stage all to yourself, and few things are more dramatic than saying, “Oh, woe is me. So busy. Drowning. Ayeeee.” However, I will tell you a little secret I have learned. The Bad News Bears online may get attention for fleeting moments, but it’s the Good News Gnus who find themselves immersed in long-standing communities and relationships.
So how are you responding to your gifts?
Take a moment and look at your blog community, your Twitter community…take a look at your Facebook updates and your posts to LinkedIn groups. Are you whining in the face of wealth? Are you groaning under the weight of what you are working towards? Let me know what you find out in the comments section, and let’s talk about it, shall we?
Image by David Duncan. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/D-squared