10 Simple Ways to Show Kindness Online

by Brett Borders on May 5, 2009

S

ome of the top social media “rockstars” come across as incredibly nice people. They’ve cultivated a conscious, polished online interaction style that makes other people feel included, welcome, important and appreciated. An “aura of awesomeness” is crowned upon them, in part, because their fans feel good after interacting with them.

DL says, “Showing kindness makes others feel good, while building up your personal brand equity.” image: Upaya

Being in front of a computer all day can feel quite isolating. People turn to social media for human connection and solace… so they respond exceptionally well to warm, personal, supportive signals. Being kind costs nothing, it’s easier to do online than in real life, and it’ll score you major bonus points:

1. Say it With a Smile :)

You can add a emoticon, or emotion icon, to almost any statement and make it seem more positive or expressive. You don’t have to start typing like a Japanese schoolgirl 8) who’s obsessed with Hello Kitty ;) , but if you find the occasional place where you can add some positive vibe your Tweet or IM with a smile, go for it. =)

2. Praise and Show Affection

Everyone responds well to sincere praise. Telling someone “Nice blog!” or “great question!” or “You rock!” usually creates a warm, fuzzy feeling on a cellular level. If you’re sure it’s appropriate, adding a cybernetic expression of physical affection like “*hugs*” “xoxo” or even a Borat-style “High five!” can make someone feel special.

3. Use Terms of Endearment

Using a term of endearment tells someone you consider them a member of your online ‘inner circle.’ “Bro,” “mate,” “dude,” “brother,” “buddy,” “bud” or “man” is what guys use. Girls call each other “sister,” “girlfriend,” “chica,” “hun,” and even “dude” (!), according to @KezzaMcDezza and @Linguna.

4. Respond to Everyone

Anytime someone reaches out to you by name, it shows they’re thinking about you and trying to make a connection. As the size of your network starts to grow, it becomes exponentially harder to respond to everyone who mails, comments or replies to you – but you should still try to respond. You can save time by talking to multiple people in @replies, and responding to comments & unsolicited e-mails very briefly… “Thanks for writing. Gosh, I have no idea how to fix that problem… Best of luck!”

5. Express Your Appreciation & Thanks

Thanking people for little things like e-mailing you, retweeting you, inquiring about business, or even asking a question — is an easy way to brand yourself as a gracious, approachable person. Power users like @cheth,@sharonhayes and @zaibatsu have built up large, responsive followings — in part — by thanking people.

6. Agree With People

When someone feels strongly enough to state their opinion in public, they are oftentimes looking for a little validation and support. Letting someone know when you agree with them is a thoughtful and effortless to strengthen your connection.

7. Make Other People Look Good

Everyone wants to be around someone who highlights the good works of others. You’ll create a strong bond with the person who is recognized and it makes you seem like a chivalrous ‘good guy’ to others. Win win.

8. Help Other People “Get It”

Want big points in my book? Be the person who helps a community of others get it, too,” says Chris Brogan. Offer to freely help other people figure out technical challenges or “learn the ropes” on a new site or service – and they will feel chock full of gratitude every time they see your name or avatar. They’ll be sure to help you next time you need it.

9. Avoid Negativity, Hostility, Criticism and Snark

It can be tempting to take a quick dig at someone you disagree with or slam something that seems wrong. You might score a few points from sympathizers, but others — who probably won’t speak up – will unconsciously associate you with negativity. They’ll begin to see you as crank or bad-mouther who isn’t safe to trust or connect with. Think before you hit “send” or “enter.”

I have a snappy wit and a tongue that can be razor sharp. But I never forget the venue and never forget that this is a public forum. So I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and I treat others as I’d want to be treated,” says @ShellyKramer.

10. Keep Your Promises

Be sincere. If you say you’re going to do something online, it’s a written contract. Do it. If you don’t you’ll score definite “negative points” to the people who were expecting you to come through. If you can’t follow through with something that will be (unfairly) implied or expected of you, say so upfront: “I’m releasing this free guide ‘as is’ and don’t have time to update it.”

Kindness Does Not Equal ‘Fakeness’

This isn’t to say that everyone must always be a cheerful Mr. Rogers with no personality or edge — you should be yourself. But be conscious of how you come across to others (who might not know you so well). I’ve noticed that a majority of people like to follow those who show friendly strength: intelligence, knowledge and authority + kindness, humility and tact.

Kindness isn’t fakeness. It’s a powerful, civilized way of showing consideration for others, first, in order to earn their respect. It’s easy to do: try it and see how far it will get you!

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  • http://thelostjacket.com Stuart Foster

    Great advice Brett. The key here is just being a solid citizen and not being a douche. Helping others=cool. Being a snarky asshole while occasionally fun=Kinda mean.

    Helping others does kick ass. I can personally attest to this fact.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Stuart,

    While good for all kinds of business and social things… it’s such a critical skill to have in PR and social media, especially. You don’t even really have to be a fuzzy, butterfly, cheery person at heart… it’s just an etiquette that can be learned, in my opinion.

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  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Brett, this is so nice to hear. I think a lot of Twitter and the blogging world can get a bit egotistical and snarky (not all the time, but it’s out there). It’s nice to hear these 10 rules and ways to be nice online. I especially like the part where you mentioned, help other people get it. Chances are, most of got to where we are (or where we’re going) with the kindness and help of others. It’s nice to give back…a full circle karmic kind of thing!

  • http://thepathofenlightenment.com annepartain

    Great Post, Thanks a lot!

  • http://www.asknancy.ca asknancyca

    I”m new to Twitter,but not to blogging and certainly not to sharing “random acts of kindness”. These tips are terrific and good reminders to live our lives by, each and every day. Living life well with style and grace are my words to live by – and always with a sense of humour! Thanks you for sharing these!

  • Renee

    Good luck with your surgery.

    :)
    Renee

  • http://zudfunck.com/ ZuDfunck

    Just recently discovered your great Blog
    Best of luck
    Will be awaiting your return!

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    ZuDfunck,

    Thanks for your well-wishes. Please subscribe because the internet moves fast and gets cluttered!

  • Anonymous

    Really nice post. Great to see someone writing about how to be positive. Keep up the good work!

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Jackholt,

    Being nice is super important. It’s key.

  • http://www.getmoneyenergy.com MoneyEnergy

    Great tips, these are definitely needed in the blogo-twittersphere…. I would also add thanking people in return when they retweet you, write back, or other wise help out with something. This can be obvious, but people appreciate it.

  • http://www.wvpmc.com Wendy Van Parys

    True kindness comes from a spirit of giving without expecting anything in return – in the transparent SM online community, ulterior motives are usually easy to spot. And the smile? It always comes through in the tone of your voice when you speak on the phone, and I think as well, in your choice of words when you write.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery, Brett! Been a long haul for you. :D
    @wvpmc

  • Stefanie Zucker

    Brett,
    thanks very much for sharing this :-)
    hoping you feel better soon!

  • http://positivelypresent.com Positively Present

    Wonderful post!! Such great ideas here. I think I do most of them already, but some I didn’t really think about and I should. Thank you!

  • http://ddavidn.net ddavidn

    Great article!

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Thanks for the well wishes, I’m SO READY to be over this and let the healing begin! 8 weeks of no talking and no going out in public has not been the funnest, but it’s been a valuable experience.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Positively Present,

    Awesome… I’m glad you came to many of the same conclusions. It’s not rocket science… it’s just noticing what makes you feel good and trying to be more conscious abut reflecting it to other people. ;)

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Stefanie,

    Thanks for your well wishes. Very stoked to get back to talking and “living life”

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    I covered thankfulness in #5 – but it wasn’t obvious in the headline so I changed the wording in the headline up. Thanks for bringing this up! It’s all about being GRATEFUL… and it’s not obvious.. it’s easy to forget sometimes when you’re busy.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Wendy…

    Yep… giving is what makes social media different than other media (where a lot of the signals are bought and solid, efficient and cold).

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your continued support while I went through this. While it’s not in my nature to “complain” about stuff I got really depressed for a while.. and I live alone.. so it made it so much better to be able to talk with someone who cared. I won’t ever forget!

  • http://www.wchingya.com wchingya

    Hi Brett, it’s great having to read this post and remind myself there are kindness to be shared everyday. Despite this morning I was a little upset over the lack of kindness from some publisher, I do feel it’s important for us to keep the kindness going, no matter what. Not worth crying over spilt milk or making rest of the day ill-fated. Decided to forget and continue the right virtue, it’s still a beautiful day ahead with great people and friends I could migle with. Thanks for this inspirational piece.

    @wchingya
    Social Media/Blogging

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Nancy,

    Social media makes it easy to express your generosity and good nature if you so choose. You can reach out with your style and sense of humor to not just a handful.. but hundreds of people!

    Thanks for your comment.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Ching Ya,

    There’s always a downside to interacting on social media… a broken
    promise, a rude comment, an avalanche of spam… Just stay on the
    course and keep making good content
    and being nice to people and it’ll always get better and brighter in
    the long run.

    p.s. I checked out your blog and you have really good, valuable
    content on there. Subscribed!

  • http://www.joselise.com/wp/2009/05/06/links-for-2009-05-05/ links for 2009-05-05 at DeStructUred Blog

    [...] 10 Simple Ways to Show Kindness Online (tags: twitter advice) [...]

  • http://ItStartsWith.Us Nate St. Pierre

    Brett, thanks for collecting all this stuff in one place for me. I knew there was a reason I liked all the people I like online. :)

    Good luck with the surgery, hope to see you back soon!

    Nate

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Nate,

    It feels good when people are nice and the recognize you. Spread the
    seed and let it grow!

    Thanks for your well wishes! I am recovering and I’ll be fin!

  • http://www.WouldntItBnice.com Carrie

    Love this! Thanks for all the great tips and reminders. I especially appreciated what you said about kindness being powerful. So often it is considered “soft”. But I agree with you: it shows real strength of character. Well done!

  • http://RhondaOliver.ning.com Rhonda Oliver

    I really enjoyed the comments above..they help the reader assess.

    ~Rhonda

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Seesmic video reply from Disqus.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    It’s REALLY amazing how much better I can talk in this video. For the first 6 weeks it was SCARY…It sounded like a voice-to-speech computer. I’m grateful there is modern technology that can help me get it back to 100% !

  • http://www.wchingya.com wchingya

    Thank you so much, Brett.

    You’ve made some perfect live examples on how kindness could be done. And I’ve learnt an important lesson this morning from this post. Although we shouldn’t be expecting any returns from people, but it’s really touching to see some very thoughtful and generous gestures.. it’s something that worth reminded constantly. Sure make an easy 140 characters space looks much prettier and brighter this morning. Will make that a habit. Take care always, and hope you’re recovering soon.

    You indeed, Rock! ^^ I’m a fan! Have subscribed for the first day I’m here, never failed my expectations.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Carrie,

    Kindness isn’t weakness… no way… it’s friendly strength… Being
    secure about yourself and what you have to offer and being extroverted
    enough to pay attention to others and their worlds.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Rhonda,

    I’ve been really impressed at the quality of contents I’ve been
    getting on here… so much more value in the collective conversation
    than just one person typing.
    Thank you for your comments… check out some older posts on here from
    the last month for some great threads!

    -Brett

  • Anonymous

    Great ideas – have added this to delicious so I can keep coming back to it.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    AndrewRead,

    Thanks for the bookmarks… please subscribe if you’re interested in this kind of stuff.

  • http://rllqph.wordpress.com foo

    wow! nice post! i learned alot from this. :) (that’s item number 5 for me!)

  • http://www.socializedpr.com Joel Postman

    This is an awesome post, Brett. This is what it’s all about. I launched the Social Media Love Manifesto wiki http://socialmediamanifesto.wetpaint.com/?t=anon earlier this year as my humble attempt to persuade people to be nicer online. Your post really brings this concept to life.

  • http://real-url.org/twitted.php?id=1709282184 Twitted by theweblady

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  • http://www.thegreenestdollar.com Heather@TheGreenestDollar

    Thanks for this wonderful post! I’m sending good, healthy thoughts your way.

  • http://www.travel-china.net Sanya

    Really nice ways to be friendly to your readers, some of them are quite creative. “Keeping promises” is neglected by some blogs, as I have just subscribed to read a password protected post in one blog it says “subscribe my email list and you will get the password immediately, but it did not arrived until now (after several hours), I believe he might reply me when he got time but “immediately” means immediately, isn’t it? , he can simply say “soon” which is more appropriate in this situation.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Foo,

    Glad you dug it, if you have any ideas for good content – let me know~!

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Heather,

    Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for the personal well-wishes!

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    J Postman,

    Great job on the Social Media Love Manifesto! It covers the same basic essence, broken down in a slightly different way.

    I would say that people have the right to be mean, attack, say whatever they want to… and there are always exceptions where esomething extreme needs to be dealt with harshly.

    but if there are interested in building popularity and making new connections… following the Social Media Love Manifesto is a as good of a set of guidelines as any I’ve seen.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Sanya,

    That must have been really annoying because you were eager to just get on with the site. And you felt sucks for hours. However, it sounds like it could have been a technical problem (slow mail server?) just as much as it could be someone flaking our or forgetting…

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Grace,

    Twitter can get really egotistical… so can blogs, video, etc… they’re a kind of mirror than some people really enjoy looking in. I definitely have a sense of pride about my own ideas and marketing … but I try and keep it in check by focusing on (helping) other people a proportional part of the time and creating value (for clients, readers, etc.) Remember that it’s just as much about giving (meaning, doing something that isn’t easy or natural for you – like talking about yourself or posting pictures of you) than taking.

    I think when people get too self-focused or interested in furthering their own agenda at all costs… then they start to get annoying and not energetically attractive to follow or listen to.

    Thanks for your insightful comments!

  • http://www.nobullselling.com Hank Trisler

    A really excellent article. Kindness and courtesy are essential in this age of increasing alienation. Thanks for the tips.

  • http://ad.vu/xx2p mg©o

    :-) great tips! thanks for this

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Hank,

    It’s the key to being success in social media, I am convinced! Thanks
    for your comments.

  • Danielle DeShaw

    Very “nice” advise :) thanks!

    @designerstweet

  • http://www.netwitsthinktank.com frank barry

    Brett –

    I love that you are so active in your comments!! Nice work and please continue. :) … thats one of the greatest ways a blogger can show kindness to his/her readers!!

    Being kind is key – key to life in general. Unless you are Simon from American Idol. People want to be around others that are kind, happy, smile, giving, and encouraging. It’s no different in the social media world.

    http://twitter.com/franswaa

  • http://www.debohobo.com Debo Hobo

    Gosh! these are awesome tips. I used to respond to everyone but that fluffed my comment stats so I stopped. I need to get back to doing that.

  • http://livingroom.ie Angela

    Another great post, Brett – hope all goes well with the op!

  • http://www.3talisman.com/ Barbara Talisman

    Brett,
    Thanks so much for putting this together. Somehow writing electronically we forget there is a real person on the other end or don’t remember common courtesy taught in kindegarten. These are fabulous examples I will share and share alike. Great post as usual.
    Have a great day! :-)
    Barbara

  • http://www.kayleighford.com.au Kayleigh

    Great reminders…especially about being yourself and being true – always works better on twitter than ulterior motives, I think. Thanks for a great post

  • http://www.alikelystory.blogs.com Kath

    So jazzed I happened across your blog tonite.

    Excellent post from start to finish and I’ll be re-tweeting it as soon as I hit ‘post’.

    It costs us nothing to be kind save for a few seconds out of our day. Found myself smiling (and agreeing) thruout your entire post.

    Thanks Brett – this is really awesome :-)

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Kath,

    I think that people are looking for humanity & warmth in social
    media… an organic human feeling in a largely synthetic environment –
    and they
    respond very well to it. There seems to be an emerging etiquette &
    digital shorthand for how to express it!

    Glad you enjoyed this post and thanks for sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/misternoodle MisterNoodle

    My first visit to your blog and I have already favorited it! Great, informative stuff here! I will definitely be a return reader!

  • http://www.tulipsinthewoods.com Sunday

    I like the way you look at online communications in a human light. Your point is well made: hype may get you connections immediately, but staying power requires something else.

  • http://www.tulipsinthewoods.com Sunday

    And I forgot to say: sending good thoughts for your surgery.

  • http://glennhilton.com Glenn Hilton

    Love this post Bret! This really resonates with me as kindness is one of the greatest things in the world! Some of the people I’ve observed who are kind to others on Twitter are Jesse Newhart & Chris Brogan. I’ve been impressed with their kindness even when someone may not be as kind to them. It’s easy to be kind to those who are kind to you, but not always that way when people are being unkind.

    Another way I’ve found you can be kind on Twitter is by RT things that mean a lot to your friends. Not things that will benefit you but things that really matter to someone else. Doing that can go a long way to show someone you care.

    I find a lot of kindness can be misunderstood. Unfortunately if you’re kind to others people may think you have an agenda. But I’ve found that in time if you persevere, people will see your heart and eventually accept your kindness. Thx again for this. Made my day. :)

  • http://www.MsFitUniverse.com L

    I fully agree! It is so much nicer to read and hear of folks doing good than being snarky. I know I respond better to positive online personalities, as most people certainly do. Thanks for a wonderful post! Will use and reuse.
    Lisa (@MsFitUniverse)

  • http://sulochanosho.wordpress.com sulochanosho

    Great points to ponder over there to be graceful online. Yes, we need to love people unconditionally, whether we agree with them or not. Everybody has a view and voice, and sense. Everybody is unique. We need to respect that, even though somtimes we tend to be aggressive with some one.

    But these qualities are to be flowered on a natural way, rather than cooking forcibly like a robot-repeat..
    Of course, initially we need to practise these a bit, to get into.

  • http://sem-group.net Gerald Weber

    Hey Brett. Great post as usual. I didn’t know you were going in for surgery. DM me on twitter when you can.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Frank Barry,

    I totally agree and I would say that kindness is even more necessary in the social media world… there are few other physical or visual cues to support what we say, so how we say it becomes very important.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    To me, a comment stat isn’t a scoreboard… a place where you get a single “hit” each time a unique visitor leaves a single opinion or statement. It might have once been, but as comment systems are rapidly evolving to encourage and facilitate threaded conversations.

    It definitely makes your blog seem more “lights” on and alive if there is a response whenever someone leaves a comment – but it takes a LOT of time.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Thanks Angela, I’m feeling better.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    BTalisman,

    Digital interaction is a relatively new kind of human communication. The standards and rules for it are being created now. We’re making it up as we go along!

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    sulochanosho,

    I agree that it’s really important to be yourself, and not spout out things like a robot. This post is my no means a list of “rules” you should always do… it’s just a list of options to choose from.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Lisa,

    Snarky can have its charm in certain contexts, but social media very much involves human relationships and people’s feelings- and their feelings can be pointed right back at ya. If you’re trying to grow an audience and do something professional with it – professional courtesy pays off. That includes kindness.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Glen,

    The feedback in social media is instant and word travels fast – so it pays to put a “nice” foor forward.

    Also, I think that if people think you have an agenda for being nice, they’re suspicious people…

    Glad you enjoyed the article, thanks for the RT and all your positive support and encouragement.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    MisterNoodle,

    Big thanks for your support and encouragement. Appreciate you spreading the word. Checked out your blog and left a comment, too.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Sunday,

    The competition for people’s attention is immense. Lots of other people to provide good communication and kind feedback if you won’t.

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    Kayleigh,

    Thanks for your comments and for validating my thoughts. I’m glad you have come to similar conculsions.

  • http://www.supreme-success.com Aislinn O’Connor

    Great advice – you eventually get back what you give, so it’s a good idea to give out what you want to get!

    Best of luck with the surgery – hope all goes well and you’re back to peak health soon.

  • http://dbalink.wordpress.com/ MarlonRibunal

    Hey, Thanks!

    I am #8!

    @MarlonRibunal

  • http://beverlydru.blogspot.com/ Beverlydru

    Found you on twitter and enjoyed this post.

  • Sherry

    Wishing you a speedy recovery! Thank you for the tips on keeping the internet a more civilized place. — Sherry

  • Anonymous

    I really enjoyed your advice. I am new to twitter and working on the correct etiquette. Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/JeromeShaw Jerome Shaw

    Nice post Brett. I have been sharing this for a couple of months and just noticed it was written by you.

  • http://bradleyaharmon.com Brad Harmon

    Brett,

    I love a witty, and often sarcastic, comment so #9 is the hardest for me on this list. We have to remember that not everyone gets our sense of humor and it may come across as rude, petty, and negative. I don’t think I have let a zinger slip online yet, but there have been a few times where I caught it right before my finger pressed enter.

    Great advice. I enjoyed your post.

    Brad

  • Anonymous

    Very helpful, Thanks

  • Anonymous

    What a great post! I love connecting with thought leaders who are also approachable and amiable. Thanks for sharing :-)

  • http://www.wakeupandstartliving.com/ Bart

    Awesome list. That’s all I can say!

  • http://techtickle.com/ Mr. Tickle

    Nice Post Bret! (-:
    Can’t imagine a better ending for it.. –> “Kindness Does Not Equal ‘Fakeness’ “

  • http://www.tariqwest.com/ Tariq West

    I’d add to this list: “Champion causes that matter – lend your voice and your time” and “Engage the ignorant and the mislead – don’t do them the disservice of leaving their delusions intact”.

  • http://www.mnirashid.com/blog/ mnirashid

    Yeah, I can’t agree more…most of the time, I used to agree people, praise them, give them help, yeah, it really work..but also sometime, we need to calm down when met someone criticize you…

  • http://socialmediarockstar.com Brett Borders

    yup.. being able to take criticism is a huge skill… most people freak out… or bite back… and it takes a lot of courage to just listen!

    -Brett

  • Becca

    This is great info – simple yet very effective. We should all exploit the power of “nice.”
    becca

  • jane binnion

    This is a nice little reminder :)

  • Tricia Moran

    Love this list!  Will be sure to share : )

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_23AZSXGTNQYVPSYN7F7KL3VEDI Dr. Jorge

    An interesting article in which shows how important the relationship online, and that is beginning a new era of communication!Un interesante articulo en el cual expone lo importante que es la relación online, ya que esta empezando una nueva era de comunicación!!

  • http://www.360tips.org/ Zac

    I personally Thanks you from my heart for this Article
    Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/eileenquilts Eileen Thomas

    Very nice article. Still trying to figure out how to use @ and # -not sure what they do. But you are right on. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/eileenquilts Eileen Thomas

     Very nice article. Still trying to figure out how to use @ and # -not
    sure what they do. But you are right on. Thanks for sharing.