ecosystemSo you tweet into a Tweet chat, a Facebook LinkedIn group or page, Quora stream, Empire Avenue  community or blog comment discussion with good intentions.

You try to engage in the discussion but something just isn't working. You may even feel a bit anxious. You feel as if you don't belong. You feel as if everyone is stupid, or that they just don't get it. You may even spout off a few sarcastic tweets , posts or comments. You threaten to leave the group, tribe, chat or whatever it may be. You don't care what they think because they all drive you nuts anyway.

So what is it? Why do you have difficulties “gelling” with these online groups? Your offline relationships are “just fine.”  You simply wish people would spend more time “offline” living “real life.” For many who take the time for online relationships, it is real life!

Note: Heads up this post is my personal opinion. It includes experiences I have had, people I have watched struggle to fit in with communities that are already “gelled” without success.

We all know social media has evolved over the past few years. It was different when we were all new. When Twitter was new to everyone and we were all building the ecosystem together. Not all of that has really changed. There are still newbies joining by the thousands daily. There are many opportunities to start up new groups of your own or join, engage and deep dive with existing communities.

What happens to the new person who tries to connect with the existing communites? What happens when you tweet into a tweet chat with rude or sarcastic tweets spouting off how you don't like social media or the special guest that night?  Have you thought that maybe the majority of other folks in the community do? Maybe the other community members asked to have them on the chat line to share what they do?

I am seeing many new to social media get frustrated before they get started. They try to dive into a social media conversation or group without taking the time to understand the ecosystem they are joining. They often do such without respect for the community as a whole and as individual members.

Bottom line: If you don't like the community, conversation, or people in it, then leave!

The best thing about social media, social networking, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora and the list goes on is that there are numerous communities for you to engage in. Don't waste your time, waste your breath or risk ruining your own online reputation with a community that gets the best of your integrity.

You may be better off taking a break from the group and coming back when you can have an open mind. Or try joining a different group. Even better maybe try going into listen mode for a week or two to see what you can discover about the ecosystem & the people within it. You might be surprised what you learn about not only the ecosystem and people in it, but also yourself!

The power of community.

I love to see new people who join social media achieve success. There is nothing better than seeing people grow via the power of community. For every grump that I see join an existing group I see five that join with an open mind and open heart who immediately feel connected.

@JanetCallaway and  @SteveCassady are both great examples. I can remember several months back when they both tweeted into our #GetRealChat , @DabneyPorte's #SMManners and @LinkedInExpert's #LinkedInChat as a newbie. Steve could hardly do a retweet in a tweet chat window. Both of them entered with a kind heart, with a open mind to learn, to engage and help others.

Now both of them help lead & cover for each community leader when we need their help. They are not only an active member of all three of these communities but they are both active leaders. They didn't enter each existing community with an intention to be a leader. They entered with a heart to connect, learn and help others.  The group helped them become leaders organically as they made them feel good.

I can't write a post with a rant and not give you some ideas to make it right. Check out these 11 tips to success in joining new communities. There are many others but these are the ones that I think are easiest to understand and a newbie can take to action right away!

11 Tips to Success in the Social Ecosystem

1. Take the time to learn the ecosystem. Do a double click on the broader ecosystem, the community and individuals.

2. Take time to listen. Read the community pages, blogs of members, active discussions and tweet streams. Read with an intent to learn and understand. Pay close attention to the tone, language and topics of conversation. If the community's main conversations are about how to use social media or become a leader, don't bash leadership and social media for an hour during a tweet chat.

3. Have an open mind and an open heart. Enter the community with a thirst to connect, learn and grow. You'll be amazed what you can learn if you take the time to truly listen with your ears and heart to the opinions of others. Feel free to share your opinion, let people know if you disagree. However, do it with an open ear to listen and learn from the response of the community to your opinion.

4. Connect with individuals, not just the community at whole. Take time for the people within in the tweet chat, group or network. Learn their names, what makes them tick. The more you can learn about the individuals the higher the chance you have with seeing success and return on your investment in time with the community.

5. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Humble yourself. Just because you don't know something doesn't make you a “dum dum”.  Asking questions is a good way to learn who the leaders are in the community.

6. Add value. Focus on what it is you can do for the community versus what they can do for you? How can you help the member in the community? Who can you cheer up? Who needs help in a certain area? Are the leaders of the community feeling overwhelmed and unable to answer questions? How can you help other newbies feel welcome? Adding value in a genuine way is the best method to inspiring the community members to further connect with you.

7.  Respect the community and the people in it. Use your head and common sense. If it is an existing community remember that it existed before you joined and it's going to continue to exist even if you go away mad. Don't burn bridges if you decide to leave.

8. Don't purposely “start stuff”. Be positive. Similar to what granny always says “if you don't have nothin' nice to say, don't say anything at all.”

9. Tweets are public & forever. Remember, just because you may feel “safe” in a tweet chat, Facebook group or Facebook business page that everything is public. Tweets are public for all to see, not just those in the community. As you tweet your negative opinion on how terrible a certain product, business or group is remember you may have potential clients watching who like those things you just criticized. You never know who is watching your tweet stream!

10.  If you are not feeling connected, look in the mirror. How is your tone making others feel. Are you sending signals that push people away versus organically attracting them to you ? If you are frustrated with a certain topic and feel that nobody gets it but you, maybe you should do a little soul searching to figure out why that might be. Maybe you could improve your tone, engage more deeply, listen more intently?

11. Have fun. It's not going to ruin your life if you don't get with one community. Move on, get over it and learn from it. Keep a good attitude and you will attract far more people than being the critical mean tweeter!


Your Turn

What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with connecting with existing communities? Have you seen people struggle and put their reputation on the line? Have you seen tweet chats, group discussions be de-railed by a negative Nancy? What do you do within your communities to make sure newbies feel welcome? What tips can you offer for new people that join the communities you are associated with or lead?