Tips For Approaching A Group
Ever tried to move a couch all on your own? Goes much better when you have someone else helping you. In fact, it’s essential to have more than one helper, if you want to complete a house move quickly and safely, without injuring yourself, heavy-lifting alone, or paying through the nose to hire professionals.
While professionals have their place, groups of people committed to a common goal can help each other in a much more enjoyable, organic, passionate and rewarding way.
Whether you join a social networking group or a forum, there are universal conventions and factors it helps to know in advance, in order to get the most out of your experience.
Step 1. Recognize the Benefit of Groups
In a focused group, you can:
- Share information with like-minded people
- Problem-solve together
- Fill gaps the others are missing, and vice versa
- Give and receive tips
- Keep on top of news – and buzz
- Brainstorm and toss around ideas
- Get and give feedback
But there’s one other major benefit belonging to a niche, social or topic based group can give.
And that’s helping you grow an audience, a fan base; a following.
In some ways, there is nothing easier than being a member of a group. But you will get a lot more out of the experience if:
- You are aware of conventions, tips, do’s and don’ts – both specific to certain groups, and in general
- You are committed to being part of, and building, your group community
- Your group is active and alive
Step 2. Be Aware of Online Social Dynamics
In an online group, you don’t have the luxury of observing people’s body language, hearing nuances in their tones of voice, watching facial expressions and having them imprint visually on you, the way you would in an offline, physical-location group.
Instead, you get to know group members through:
- Post types
- Online habits (e.g. “Mary Ellen’s playing devil’s advocate again”; “Rosita always posts inspiring quotes”)
- How they speak. Are they respectful? Argumentative? Touchy? Positive? Chatty? To the point?
Those members who do meet offline as well as on, often report getting “quite a different picture” of a person, when meeting them offline for the first time. Observed fellow group member K. K., after our first offline meet-up: “Everybody was way older and fatter than their profile photos.”
If you are a member of a social networking group, you may never actually meet fellow members in person, but it’s a good rule of thumb to assume that you will.
- How would you want to represent yourself?
- Would you like them to hear your “real” voice?
- Would you like them to meet you and think: “She’s exactly the way I imagined her”?
- Would you like them to see what they are expecting to see… or someone far different?
- What are you trying to portray? Focus on?
There is nothing wrong with keeping parts of your personality and life not relevant to the group’s main focus and goal under wraps. In fact, it’s a good thing. If you habitually side-track group discussions with your house-hunting woes when you’re supposed to all be focusing on photography, people are going to start dropping out in droves.
And if you’re ever planning to hold in-person or online seminars, or make videos… if your offline and online personae radically don’t match your profile photos… trust may be lost.
Image is important – but not as important as being yourself – and being relevant to the group focus. In online groups, you need to pay attention to the impression you are creating – particularly if your group focus is business-slanted.