Have you ever read the book How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot? (Probably not, because it’s a young adult novel written for 12-14 year-old girls, who probably don’t read this blog.) I read it this weekend as research for another project I’m working on, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book.

Meg Cabot is a wonderful young adult novelist – if you haven’t heard of her yet, her work includes the Princess Diaries, which became a huge Disney movie series and propelled Anne Hathaway onto the celebrity A-list. What I loved about How to be Popular (besides the cute, witty story) is it gives great tips for how to be popular in real life, that I think can be applied to social media. Here are some of Meg Cabot’s tips, directly from the book:

Popular people always have a ready smile for everyone

Even though you can’t smile via social media, the picture you post on all your profiles is extremely important because it makes an impression on people and helps them decide if they want to pay attention to you. Choose a photo that is inviting and happy. A smile goes a long way.

Popular people show genuine interest in others and what they have to say

It’s simple – comment on other people’s profiles, twitters, and blogs, and they will automatically know they have a fan out there who cares about what they are trying to do with social media. Don’t be just another lurker.

Popular people call others by their names, and do it often

Something about writing someone’s name makes your comment to them more personal. On twitter, I love when I get a direct message with my name in it, because it shows it’s not an auto responder. But beyond just using someone’s name, make all your communications personal. It’s the best way to remind that person you know (and care) who they are.

Popular people always make the conversation about YOU, not about themselves

When you’re writing in your blog or on your social media profiles, don’t forget to help others instead of just talking about yourself. Advice blogs are popular because they give value to the person reading – and in return, the person writing gets a boost in popularity as their content is shared. But people don’t share self-centric content.

Popular people are the same people in private as they are in public

Gen Y is known for extreme transparency online, and other generations – even when they embrace social media – are wary of putting themselves completely out there. But Gen Y knows something other generations don’t – that there’s no hiding who you are anymore. If you are mean, spiteful person in real life, people online will find it out eventually. So work on being nice in your “private” (offline) life, and you will naturally become more popular online.

Popular people do what they want to be doing in life

The social media elite have become that way because they shunned the corporate lifestyle and defined their own paths. You can’t be popular unless you are passionate about something. So write about your passions and the crazy things you are doing in your own life, and people will be drawn to you.

Popular people are direct and honest, while always being conscious of the feelings of others

It is okay to disagree with others – it’s inevitable actually. But instead of passing up a blog post simply because you disagree, go ahead and (kindly) engage the writer with your opinion! You will also get comments where people disagree – sometimes rudely. But you will get respect when you stand up for yourself without rising to their provocations.