To Thank or Not to Thank Online
"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others." - Marcus T. Cicero
"No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude." - Unknown
Saying thank you is common courtesy and today's technology enables us to show gratitude more easily than ever. But just because we can speedily tweet or otherwise post a one-liner thank you, does that mean that we ought to?
Some people feel that there is already too much noise online, and those who continuously post thank you notes for ReTweets, Likes, Recommendations, and new Followers are gridlocking the Internet and impeding more productive conversations
So the question is, How "valuable" are thank yous?
Here are some steps to help you decide how to handle the gratitude dilemma for your own online practice.
- Ask yourself how you feel when someone thanks you online? What if that someone has thousands of followers on one of the social media channels? Your name would be broadcast to huge numbers of people outside your own network.
And if you are the one with the scores of followers, you would be the person boosting someone else's influence. Actually, the whole idea of the "Like" feature is to rebroadcast someone else's content to a new community of possible viewers.
- Consider the implication of never acknowledging someone else. "Never acknowledging or thanking someone, especially for recommendations, may give off the impression that you're concerned only with yourself and your place in the social community," wrote Ashleigh Grange.* She believes that if someone goes out of his or her way for you, then you, too, should make the extra effort to thank them for their time, interest, and kindness.
Ashleigh follows this same philosophy of gratitude when it comes to her customers: "I think it's a key quality of being a social, involved member of social media channels," she wrote.
- Think about one of my favorite sayings: "If it's too easy, there must be a better way." If you simply post something like "Thanks @sharisax for the RT," you are not adding much to the conversation. Rather, write a personal insight with your thanks or go a step further - especially if you are trying to build a relationship - and share a comment posted by that person.
"If I take the time to do someone an actual, in-depth favor, and the response I get is a simple thanks, it doesn't seem sincere," wrote Bija Andrew Wrigh. He suggested gathering all of the people who have helped to promote you into one blog post, maybe even in a video blog "for the personal touch."
- Ask yourself exactly WHY would you want to thank someone online? What do you hope to gain? Perhaps there are more productive, ie, "valuable" ways to show gratitude than a simple tweet or post. Here are a few ideas:
Post a question on LinkedIn, Quora, Yahoo Answers or any of a number of Q&A online platforms. [See http://howto.performancesocialmedia.com/social-media-strategy/10-social-media-sites-to-find-answers-for-your-questions/ for more sites.] After you receive the answers, reply back to the sender and then email your personal thank you to each person who took the time to give you a helpful response.
Some social media experts suggest that you should focus on a select group of people who are particularly evangelical about your content. These people you want to make a point to publicly communicate with via @ replies or other praise on another site [from Anthony Lee].
More repeated retweets and promotions result from this strategy practiced by Thursday Bram: "My philosophy is not simply to thank for RTs or other promotion. Rather, I make a point of trying to do a similar turn for whomever I connect with. I'll comment on a blog post, answer a question or generally help with something that person is trying to promote,"
You can cut out some noise if you DM [Direct Message] your thanks on Twitter [as long as the two of you follow one another]; then only the recipient will see it. And when you begin a Tweet with the "mention" [ i.e., @sharisax], then only the people who follow both of you will see that particular Tweet.
Be wary of anything automatic or robotic like the DMs who thank you for following them on Twitter. They are a turn-off to many people who find the impersonal nature to be irritating and intrusive - especially when you simply followed them because they followed you first.
- Finally, determine how much time should be spent giving thanks. Most people agree that if you thanked everyone for doing you an online favor, you'd be doing little else. One suggestion is to designate a specific block of time one day a week to focus on your gratitude efforts.
The consensus appears to favor some kind of online display of gratitude. If you agree, you might want to consider how some of the ideas listed above will help you engage more effectively online. This thinking can produce either a formal or informal thank you policy that can bring you measureable results in the form of more customers, partners, and friends.
*All quotes are from the responses to a question posted on LinkedIn asking people if they had a Gratitude Philosophy when it came to posting thank yous online.
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