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A look at evolving rules of online engagement

How can you become a revered thought leader? How can you grow your network of relevant connections even further? How can you add robust value to the pool of knowledge out there? There are several nuances to reaching this online “Shangri La”. And believe it or not, simply ‘commenting’ is a substantial step in this direction.

Building relationships online is as important for work, as building contacts at work itself - relationships that are mutually beneficial - while helping influence your growth. Building relationships, rather than just connections, is among the easiest ways to enhance your brand image online and that of your company’s. It becomes all the more important to tap online mediums when the charms of your personality may be rendered somewhat less useful in these current times of social distancing and home quarantining.

The challenges of virtual connect notwithstanding, the plethora of online mediums, including social media and blog hosting platforms, have made it easier to build meaningful relationships such that one doesn’t have to wait for the next live event to do so.

Content hosting or aggregator platforms such as Medium, LinkedIn, and Feedspot, leading media publications, and company websites hosting thought leadership articles, are all changing the way we build relationships online. A very experienced professor once read an article we had published and left a comment there. While we replied to his appreciation of our article, he went a step further, looked for our contacts, and connected with us personally to take the discussion further. The connection, since then, has advanced to be a personal relationship, with substantial knowledge sharing. Two important insights can be derived from this – how far our thoughts are reaching and influencing, and how connections can be formed by simply communicating views.

While there may be people with differing viewpoints who might question your perspective, it only enriches our own perspective. Putting your thoughts out there with an article or as a comment on others posts has several advantages:

  • It will help in enhancing your network of connections
  • It will help in promoting your views as an expert, and thus establish you as a thought leader
  • It will encourage the evolution of fresh ideas through healthy discussions and relationship building
  • It will help in gradually building your personal brand in the market

The Right Connections

Not all our connections online may be interested in engaging with the content we publish. According to well-known British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, an average person can maintain only about 150 social connections at a time, wherein they know who each person is. Effectively, people engage meaningfully with just a handful of their overall connections online.

So, how can you get past the clutter of the plethora of connections we make online, to reach out to the ones you genuinely like to read up about, the ones whose posts are interesting and in the realm of your interests – personal or professional? How do you ensure you have a balanced mix of connections online? On LinkedIn, for instance, you connect with your co-workers, but also with business honchos you wouldn’t probably ever meet in person. On Medium, there is a network of influential business personalities, whom you can appeal to with your articles, only if you make the right connections. If you want such personalities to notice you, posting engaging comments is often the fix.

The first step to mould online platforms for your specific purposes is to add connections by consciously building parameters. Don’t focus on the numbers, but the quality of connections. Connect with people from whom you can draw insights, or have longer-term fruitful interactions.

Request accepted. Network enhanced. Don’t stop there. A simple way to establish robust relations online is to communicate via likes and comments. A dormant connection is often lost in the crowd.

The Art of Communicating

Building relationships online is a two-way communication process. Don’t make it all about you. Help your connections by liking and commenting on their posts and articles, and by posting original content of your own, drawing people in to engage with you. Your connections will reciprocate with equal commitment. If you are only trumpeting your posts and not contributing to others’, your views and connections will reach only so far. Posting your articles and value-adding comments is also the simplest way to build your brand as an expert voice. Influential experts whom you aspire for will notice your posts if your views are well researched, balanced, and provide a balanced perspective.

A few platforms, for instance, push up the visibility of a profile that has a high activity of comments and likes. And all the better, if you are engaging with high ranking content or influential individuals.

But not everyone is comfortable with writing articles, much less posting them online. Even if you're not ready to create your own content, commenting can help you get more visibility initially and gain the attention of a potentially important connection. You will be surprised how strongly that can also help build your network. Connect with people who have left their two cents on your article or people who would have commented on an expert’s post, whom you happen to follow. Look for relevant groups online to join, engage in discussions, and connect with relevant people to enhance your learning along with theirs.

So, commenting online has some basic tenets:

  • Find relevant content through hashtags, top news sections, or feeds on your social channels.
  • Liking a post or an article isn’t enough. Leave a comment.
  • Make sure you have read through the article or the post content thoroughly.
  • Read the comments others have left on the article, and if any resembles yours. If yes, you could reply to that comment.
  • Think well before you post a comment. Frame it aptly first.
  • Take into consideration the position and popularity of the author, and the content itself, while framing a comment.
  • When you are ready, tag the author, and explain your point of view. Tag others too, whom you would like to participate in the discussion. Ask a question, maybe.
  • Add perspectives. Elaborate on your argument, but be precise. Add links to relevant resources, where applicable.

The aim of all this is to showcase your competence, knowledge, and ingenuity, in just a few words. These are but only second to the most common tenets of communication – be humble, respectful, confident, and articulate. Don’t hesitate to put across your point, if it is relevant. Trite comments like “nice” or “well-said”, never really helped anyone much. Add value to the topic being discussed.

So, the next time you find an interesting article to read, don’t just read it, or simply like it. Leave a comment. We will surely be awaiting your comments on this one.

This article was first published by Moneycontrol.