A few years ago, I tried a lifestyle experiment. I transferred from a traditional Master's program to an online Master's curriculum. I had started a new job that required me to travel more often, and had moved across town from my college campus so attending in-person classes wasn't as convenient for me as it had been in my undergrad program (which I had also done as a working adult). For some inconceiveable reason, I thought that an online format was going to be "easier".
The joke was on me.
Since we didn't meet in person like a traditional classroom environment, each of the classes I took required a minimum amount of online class participation in the form of commenting on my fellow classmates' postings. And you couldn't just post "Good job!". You had to provide at least one outside reference in your post, make sure it was "meaningful", AND you had to post to at least two classmates a week. That was in addition to your own homework post, and there was usually a paper of some kind thrown in there for good measure.
So the end result was that I worked my butt off in those classes to an extent that I never had in my traditional classes.
Looking back, this work created a solid foundation for the new world of online relationship building.
You can't slack on it. If you are looking to create new relationships, you have to put in the time. This means reading blogs in your niche and commenting on them. It means building a following on Twitter, getting fans on Facebook (or whatever your social media poison of choice is) and spending some of your time interacting with your tribe. This is how people get to know you, your ideas, and your personality. It can't be done any other way.
Be kind, and provide value. People who take the time to put their ideas and concepts out there are fairly obsessive about measuring the response on them. So that means every blogger is reading pretty much every comment on their blog. And if they aren't getting comments, you can bet they are beating themselves up trying to figure out why. So if you are going to take the time to comment, for the love of Pete give them something meaty. Something they can respond to, and something that tells them you actually gave 2 minutes of your time to process what they said.
Agree to disagree. Take a deep breath now and repeat after me: "Not everyone is going to like me and I am okay with that." Repeat several times. Online snarkiness is to be expected, and if you take a position on anything, there is going to be someone who holds the opposite position. Don't waste your time and energy getting into a drama filled battle. Respectfully agree to disagree, and move on.
I know this all seems like a lot of work to build and maintain online relationships. It is. But what you reap on the backend in terms of knowledge, skills, and friendships is well worth it.
What have you learned through your online homework?