Growing up, you may have been told that sharing is caring. When you go to school, it’s important that you share with your classmates. This helps to foster new friendships and develop the social skills in the little ones. However, moving forward, just sharing doesn’t really cut the mustard and this really becomes apparent in the world of social media.

I don’t recall exactly where I first heard the phrase, but I’ve been told that it is not enough to share; you have to engage with your fellow Internet brethren. Let’s take Twitter as a prime example. If you go ahead and share a series of links with your followers, that can be a good thing. You can guide them toward interesting content, great deals, and other stuff that they want to see. However, if that’s all you do, it’s not enough.

It’s very unlikely that people want to follow a Twitter account if it’s nothing more than a glorified RSS feed. If you are a real human being, it’s about developing a sense of online community. It’s about engaging with your followers in meaningful ways. Participate in fruitful conversations, making for a better online experience for everyone involved. The same thing happens with Facebook and it applies just as equally to blogging.

On Beyond the Rhetoric, I very much encourage my readers to leave their thoughts in the form of comments. You may notice that I reward the “top thinkers” each month with a speedlink session, for example. I share the links to my posts through Facebook, Twitter, and Google Buzz, but again, sharing isn’t enough.

That’s why I do my best to actively engage with the audience too. If a comment warrants a response, I’ll likely reply. If someone poses a question through social media, I’ll respond to them there. It doesn’t matter if it’s a positive or negative comment, but you can’t please everyone all the time. It’s much more fruitful to participate in a fruitful conversation than it is to disregard the naysayers altogether.

The idea of engaging, as well as sharing, stretches beyond the online realm too. If you really want to make a difference in the world, for instance, donating (sharing) to charity is good. Actively engaging in the issues that you care about in some way, however, is better. Sharing information with a colleague is good; engaging with the colleague to ensure they understand the information is better.

And you might learn something too.