THE BLOG
11/30/2015 02:48 pm ET Updated Nov 30, 2016

How to be Likeable Online, and Get More Leads While at It

Most of us have read an article or three on the modern epidemic of narcissism. Whether or not social media has intensified our narcissism may be debated until we grow old and are buried under narcissistic tombstones.

Yet narcissism has taught us a few things. Social media -- the narcissist's playground -- is a powerful form of self expression and visibility. One's presence on social media affects how we perceive ourselves, how others perceive us, and how likeable we are.

You may well be cautious of appearing narcissistic, but don't neglect the need to be active on social media. Executed appropriately, personal brand management on social media allows us to become likeable, gain respect, and even become successful in business.

Let me explain the simple process for achieving likeability and business success.

And, no, you don't have to be narcissistic.

Social media is the medium of likeability.

The scope of my article is on social media. It's the area in which I have the most experience and in which anyone can make a difference.

You don't have to be some gregarious back-slapping extrovert to be likeable online. Online interactions are much different from in-person interactions, but you can still achieve a high degree of likeability.

Not everyone is going to like you. Choose the people that will.

Here's the straight fact about likeability. Not everyone will like you. That's okay. That is to be expected.

Some people, for whatever reason, don't click with certain other people. Admit that you won't achieve 100% likeability. Instead, focus on cultivating a group of people who do like you.

Choose your tribe, and then work to get to know them.

Your profile pic should be your face, smiling.

Don't underestimate the power of a smile. As Ron Gutman explains in his brilliant TED talk,

"Smiling is one of the most basic, biologically uniform expressions of all humans."

The human brain is equipped with a powerful set of neurons known as mirror neurons. These neurons, found in both humans and primates, are what allow us to imitate other people's actions and emotions.

When we look at another person smiling it triggers the brain's mirror neurons, thus activating our own smile synapses. Whether or not we respond with an actual smile is inconsequential. What is important is the neurological impact that the other person's smile has upon us.

This -- the mental message of a smile -- is why your online likeability begins with the profile picture you feature on social media. You must be smiling.

A good headshot photographer can make this happen. He will make you laugh spontaneously, or will ask you to force a laugh (which usually produces spontaneous laughter).

As you guffaw, he will be snapping pictures. The results are incredible. There you are with a natural, bright, emotion-inducing smile.

That's likeable.

All your other pictures matter, too.

Visual content is the most powerful form of content on social media. Images earn more clickthroughs, more attention, more shares, more likes, and more visibility than any other content form.

It goes without saying that the pictures you post are an important aspect of your online identity. On Facebook alone, photos comprise 75% of all content posted. Photos also boast an 87% interaction rate compared with links which get a paltry 4% interaction rate.

People are checking out your pictures, and what they see will influence whether or not they like you.

So, what kind of pictures should you show?

People pictures. You with kids. You with animals. You with family. You with your peeps. You and your friends.

If you portray yourself as regularly surrounded by people or animals, it communicates to people that you are a likeable person.

Humans have an innate need to be sociable. When you are seen as sociable, you are also seen as likeable.

Be a sharer.

Different people have different online personalities. If you are someone who shares helpful information, then you are viewed as a more likeable person.

There are a variety of ways to engage social media. For example, you can post updates about your life -- what you're doing, eating, thinking, etc. This approach can be engaging if you are, say, a celebrity or the leader of a sovereign nation.

It doesn't work so well if you're an ordinary human being with a rather ordinary life. Instead, you'll gain engagement by sharing helpful, interesting, and engaging content with your followers.

Use words that are proven to have a positive impact.

Some words are proven to have a positive psychological impact.

Mark Waldman and Andrew Newberg have demonstrated that words actually change one's brain. Their masterful treatment of the subject, Words Can Change Your Brain, demonstrates how powerful positive words can be.

Here are ten "happy words" that you can use in your online communication.
  • Easier
  • Interesting
  • Honest
  • Comfortable
  • Gently
  • Useful
  • Welcome
  • Better
  • Agree
  • Safe

Sprinkle these in your status updates, your blog posts, and your comments. The result? You'll improve your likeability.

Be a liker.

Social media isn't merely for you to trumpet your own tunes.

Social media is for liking other people. Here's a simple law of human behavior: if you like other people, they will like you back.

What better way to do this without awkwardness or regret than Facebook? Click "like" on every status you see. Go to Twitter. Favorite a bunch of Tweets. Cruise over to LinkedIn. Like all the status updates. Congratulate your connections on their job anniversaries. Retweet your followers. Like photos on Instagram.

Social media is designed to facilitate mass liking. The more you like, the more you'll be liked. It's just that simple.

Make real connections with real people.

You can and should stay active on social media, but don't limit your interaction to a stream of broadcasts, tweets, status updates, and shares.

Engage with people individually. These are real people tapping the like button, retweeting your content, and double-tapping your Instagram pictures.

Make it a point to reach out to people individually. Maybe you can send a DM to a Twitter friend you haven't seen in person for a while, or shoot a quick LinkedIn greeting to a former colleague.

Creating persistent and personal touches is the most sure form of cultivating likeability.

Conclusion

When people like you, good things happen.

People connect with you, follow you, tag you, endorse you, recommend you, greet you, buy from you, become loyal to you, read your material, subscribe to your email list, help you, volunteer for you, contribute to your cause, talk about you, refer others to you, and passionately support you.

It all depends on your likeability.

You don't have to be an extrovert. You don't even need a particularly pleasant personality. You simply have to present yourself as a person who likes people, and those people will like you back.

Do you think online likeability matters? How do you achieve it?