Ask anyone who’s been to a cocktail party: sometimes the hardest part of networking is knowing how to stop. And in the realm of social media, this is just as true. How do you end a conversation gracefully when someone you started following is bombarding your feed with annoying updates; the health care blog you used to comment on has totally changed its focus; you just don’t have the time or resources to keep up with all the sites in your Reader; or on those occasional situations when you get trapped in a constant back-and-forth of responses that just won’t end?
If this is you—and you’re doing a lot of thanking someone for thanking you for thanking them for a retweet—then, listen up, it’s time to thank us for this post about the art of ending a conversation, and move on. Because whether it’s on your blog or on Twitter, in a Facebook conversation or a LinkedIn group, there are some key things to keep in mind when you’re hoping to end a social media conversation gracefully.
Don’t be afraid to unfriend
Remember that, according to the laws of social media etiquette, it’s OK to unfriend or unfollow someone, as long as you don’t make a big deal about it. If there’s someone on Facebook who’s always oversharing or bombarding your feed with annoying updates, for example, it’s perfectly fine to wean your friends list or at least hide their updates from your feed. (To hide updates: simply click on the drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner of a post and hit unsubscribe.)
Realize you can’t follow everyone
Just because someone follows you on Twitter doesn’t mean you have to follow him in response. True, following users tends to improve your community and thus, the value of your social media use, but it’s up to you whom you follow. When you’re no longer interested in what someone is tweeting, it’s OK to unfollow them—and if they call you out on it later, just be honest and say you didn’t feel like you were connecting.
Pause when appropriate
In social media conversations as anywhere else, it takes two to tango, so if you want to slow a conversation down, slow your responses. Take longer to write back and explain that you’re caught up with other responsibilities. In most cases, this alone will be enough to help things taper off.
Make it about them
You know how when you’re on the phone, and the other person says, “Well, I guess I should let you get back to your work now?” The same principle works online. So say you’re Skyping or Google-chatting, and you’re ready to end it: simply tell the other person you’re going to let him or her go and wish them a pleasant afternoon.
Respond without words
Facebook is a good place for this technique, where by “liking” a user’s last comment, you effectively respond, but without extending the conversation. So next time you want to exit an ongoing discussion on a link to some medical news, like the last response and get out of there. Many times, this is the best possible way to end a dialogue gracefully and without seeming rude.
Know when to say goodbye
In the case of direct one-on-one dialogue, it’s not enough to quietly exit the conversation; you’ll want to clearly say goodbye. How do you know when it’s time? Ask yourself: Are your interactions getting shorter? Are you each taking longer to reply? These are good clues that it’s time to cut things short. Say something along the lines of, “Glad we got to connect! I’ll be watching for next week’s post.” or “Looking forward to keeping touch on Twitter!” to let the other person know you’re leaving, but do it in a nice way.
What do you think? Could these techniques help you ease out of online conversations more easily? What other strategies have you found successful?
Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, a Chicago Web design firm providing specialized SEO, Web development and other online marketing services. Shanna writes for diverse B2B clients, from a podiatry website creator to the makers of leather welding gloves.