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Cartoon: Are we talking about me yet?

Image by Hugh MacLeod

As you listen into other people’s online conversations, pay attention to the difference in their communication styles. Chances are the people you find most engaging will be doing some or all of the following:

  • Sharing valuable information — useful links to websites (most of which won’t be their own website)
    Offering useful tips and advice
  • Asking stimulating questions
  • Responding to other people’s questions
  • Responding to appeals for help
  • Introducing people who could benefit from knowing each other
  • Sharing jokes, chitchat and friendly banter
  • Showing a human, personal side to themselves
  • Sharing occasional information about their own products, services and events
  • Talking about other people most of the time

In short, they will be doing all the things that no doubt make them engaging and popular in off-line conversations.

The annoying people, on the other hand, are likely to be:

  • Delivering pushy sales pitches
  • Repeating their pushy sales pitches
  • Name-dropping their ‘impressive’ clients and contacts
  • Talking in marketing-speak or corporate-speak
  • Constantly talking about the minutiae of their daily activities
  • Harping on about their favourite cause or obsession
  • Talking about themselves most of the time

In short, they come across as the kind of people you dread getting ‘stuck with’ at a party. And the sad thing is, they may well be perfectly nice people in real life. For some reason, when they get behind a keyboard they seem to think they have to be ‘selling themselves’ or (shudder) ‘building their personal brand’.

No prizes for guessing which route you should take.

It can be a tricky balancing act — on the one hand, you want to come across as human and approachable. On the other hand, you don’t want to come across as an egomaniac by talking about yourself too much.

If you value your privacy, remember it’s perfectly okay not to share every detail of your life online. Personally, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to know very much about my daily life, so I don’t say much about it online.

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