What Being A Good Friend Looks Like Online

In General, Strategy on January 23, 2011 at 1:44 pm

My dad used to always say this one simple phrase:  “You can never communicate enough.”   And of course, as a kid I thought that meant telling my family where I was going to be and what time (and at least 3 times, haha).  Well, now I see how much wisdom that statement has – especially since my life is all about communication strategies and tools (okay, who are we kidding, your life is all about communication too).  :)

How well you communicate with someone (or with yourself – self talk), will determine the quality of your relationships (and your life).  That goes for both your professional and personal relationships.

Now, I’m going to take it a step further… The quality of your relationships offline will influence how well you communicate online.   NEWSFLASH:  The basic “being a good friend” principles that we learned in kindergarten, still work the same online too!

Here are a few tips to improve social media communication & build super relationships online: (via Lena West, xynoMedia)

  • Always be available. Ok, not always, but one of the chief complaints within friendships is when someone is cold, distant or hard to get in touch with. Your readers may feel the same way about your company if it takes weeks to approve and reply to comments. Business owners especially need to make sure they’re on point because a benefit of working with a smaller company is the expectation of high-touch interactions.
  • Think before you speak or write. How many friendships are damaged because one person makes a statement, the other responds, things escalate, and pretty soon the original issue is well overshadowed by the ensuing drama? The same thing can happen with social media. A blog visitor writes a negative comment and someone on your team writes a snarky reply, and the situation escalates. It’s easy to let emotion overtake reason, especially if your team feels like it’s under pressure to “get social media right”. Give your “first responders” permission to take the extra time to reconnect with your company’s brand promise and think before responding. If this is not possible, give them the latitude to reach out to another team member for support. Additionally, a Terms of Use section for your blog or podcast will go a long way in providing guidance for visitors and remove the personal element on how comments are handled.
  • Don’t allow things to fester. In a friendship, what often starts out as a small issue can quickly grow if left unaddressed. The more time that passes, the more likely the other person will fill in your side of the conversation with what they think you’ll say. If your company offers a blog or online community, do your best to address small issues, complaints, etc. in a measured but timely manner.
  • Know the line between friendly and too familiar. Nothing kills a friendship faster than one of the parties attempting to become too familiar too soon. The same is true with social media. While you may have some intellectually stimulating and insightful conversations as you build your relationship with your audience, it’s still important to maintain a degree of professionalism. While you do want your readers to feel good about your brand, they’re still clients and potential clients; not buddies.
  • When you’re at fault, apologize. The best thing for friendships is for all parties to “own their stuff.” If your company falls short in a way that may compromise how your audience interacts with or feels about your brand, the best thing you can do is own it, apologize and spell out a plan of action that decreases the likelihood of the transgression ever happening again. There’s little worse than tossing your reader’s trust aside by sweeping shortcomings under the virtual rug.

One final note:  If you ever do run into a questionable/sticky situation online – ask yourself how you would communicate with the person if they were a dear friend.   :)

Feel free to reach out through email, a phone call, or social media site if you would like to “communicate more.”  :)


  1. Good article Bethany. Communication is vital and today we have all these technologies that aren’t face to face and we need to remember the basics. Thanks for posting :)

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