How to Not Lose Friends on Social Media and Maybe Even Influence Them

Are you a Bernie supporter? Perhaps a vegan? How about an adamant pro-lifer? Anti-bad-cop activist? BLM? Pro-breastfeeding? Libertarian? Then anecdotal evidence (my newsfeed/timeline) tells me that you are more likely than others to post about how rational or moral your views are. Good for you. Or is it?

I strongly suspect that I get unfollowed quite a bit because my idea-to-kitten ratio is way too high. Should I change the ratio? Well I can’t bring myself to post about kittens (n.b. more baby pics coming in June), so I’ve had to be more intentional about not pissing people off with how I post about politics, economics, education, etc.

Warning: There’s no way to please everyone. Get comfortable with losing some friends/followers. It’s really okay.

But if I can help it, I’d like to have as many people stick around and think about alternative perspectives. (As an educator, I’m practically hardwired to offer food for thought.) So here’s what I’ve come up with as my formula for not failing at posting:

  1. Be positive. End your rant before you begin. Offer something valuable and resist focusing entirely on what’s wrong with the world.
  2. Post quality material. There’s a lot of sensational pieces out there. You know the sources. They preach to the choir and smear the opposing perspective using straw-man arguments, emotional appeals, and selective evidence. They don’t anticipate or acknowledge the best opposing arguments and therefore offer little to nothing in the way of a balanced or fair discussion. So, if you want to engage people who don’t already agree with you, share pieces that are logical, evidence-based, and balanced. At the same time, avoid material that’s way too complex, like peer-reviewed journal articles. Write your own review of the article or study and share that instead.
  3. Post at reasonable intervals. Don’t inundate your followers. I struggle with this the most. It’s famine for a while, and then it’s a gorge-fest of posts on the minimum wage. I’m not creating more value by flooding. I’m inducing fatigue, apathy, and, at worst, resentment for my beloved cause. Use a service like Buffer to space out your posts at pre-scheduled times throughout the day. If I come across five things I want to share, I throw them into Buffer, which portions them out one at a time. Even still, I probably need to tweak the number of posts per day, like maybe seven at most.
  4. Copy and paste the best snippet. While you want people to read your shares, assume they won’t. In fact, make it easier for people to NOT click the link. If it’s not your own content, you don’t really care if people take the clickbait. You (should) just want to pass along what’s important. Do that by sharing the pithiest, most summative excerpt (a few sentences ideally) in quotation marks as your text that appears above the link. I sometimes precede the quote with a short phrase to prime the reader or indicate where I’m coming from.
  5. Respond graciously to dissenting comments. There’s no winning people over without showing care for them. Care more about the relationship than your level of agreement. Agreement may follow. If it doesn’t, you still have a friend.

So, how does this work out for me? Well, my experience does not include high follower rates, tons of likes/comments/shares, or any other favorable measure. Not surprising since I’m okay with non-clicks. But being a better person always benefits oneself and others in ways that are hard to quantify. The metrics will come eventually in other ways. Have faith. Freely give.

If you landed here via my social media accounts, you haven’t written me off. At least not yet.

Help me be a better online participant by giving your feedback in the comments. 🙂

Questions: Did I miss any steps? What’s your approach to posting touchy subjects?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.