@iamdiddyA while back, I complemented someone on Twitter. For reference, he has 27 followers as I write this. He’s unknown in his field and is just starting out. I happened across some work he did and sent some kind words his way, encouraging him to keep pursuing his craft.

He favorited the tweet. He retweeted the tweet. But he didn’t say anything to me. That made me feel kind of weird.

It’s not a big deal. I don’t want to make it about me. I don’t send people encouraging words because I want them to thank me. I do it because I want to support them. But it got me to thinking about building community online and how to most effectively make people feel appreciated.

Personally, I feel strange if I see that someone has praised me and I don’t thank them. I don’t feel compelled to answer every criticism that I read of me or my work, but I do feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to thank those who keep me going. It’s not the fact that he didn’t thank me that caught my attention, it’s the fact that he saw what I sent him and didn’t thank me.

For example, if I publish a tweet saying how big a fan of Diddy I am, I don’t expect Diddy to see it. He has nearly 10 million followers and if you search for his mentions, it is sheer insanity. So when I don’t hear back, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t expect to. But when the person I tweeted favorited and retweeted what I said, that means they saw it (let’s not get into automated favoriting and retweets, because that’s no excuse and is poor form). And if they saw it, and spent time favoriting and retweeting, they could have sent a quick thanks.

(Funny side note: Diddy actually did see my tweet saying how big a fan I am – and he thanked me. So there you go.)

Like I said, it’s not a big deal. I don’t feel any differently about the person I praised. It’s not about this individual. My point is that I feel like if you can thank people, you should. If a Justin Bieber fan tweets him and gets a retweet, they are most likely ecstatic that they even hit his radar. It makes their day. But that works for Justin Bieber, and for a select group of highly visible celebrities.

I believe that everyone else should be thanking people directly, if they can manage it, if they really care about building a supportive community.