Scan the website first. When you join an online community, it’s smart to scan the site or “lurk” on (browse) the forums, comments, and message boards. Just like when you walk in the door of a social event, you want to get a feel for the place and how the people are interacting. You can tell from the comment conversations if these people will be ones you can relate to or not.
Some online communities require that you sign up before you can read the boards or comments. You can do a little research about websites by reading reviews or reading on the website itself to see if you think it would be a good match for your personality.
Identify users who share your interests. Once you’re signed up on a website, it’s time to find users you think might make good friends for you. The easiest place to start is identifying others who share your interests. If you see a comment someone left about how much they love soccer or baking, and you love that thing too, you may want to pursue friendship with that person.
You can contact them immediately using the methods the website provides (such as clicking on their username to open a chat, or clicking “new message” by their name).
You can also copy and paste their name somewhere on your computer (or write it down) so that you can message them later when you feel more comfortable.
Decide on a solid username. Even though you’ll likely want to join more than one website—which means you’ll be setting up several user accounts—you want to be able to remember them all. Creating a username that you can use across all the websites is useful for this. You may have to tweak the name for different sites, but in general the similar name will prevent you from getting confused.
If a website already has a user with the name you picked out, adding a number, letter, or special character can usually allow you to still the use the name. For example, myrajane might be in use, but myra_jane might be available.
Use a different password for each site to protect your identity. Create a file on your computer (such as Word or Excel) and save all the username/password combinations so that you don’t have to keep resetting the password.
Join the conversation. In addition to private-messaging (PMing) users you think you’d get along with, you can start commenting on threads already present. This way others will see your interests and may contact you first.
Make intelligent, unbiased comments so that you garner favor among commenters. Jumping in with a strong opinion or judgmental comment will most likely polarize the other commenters and contribute to your bad reputation on that site.
Introduce yourself. Some online communities have introduction message boards. You can type up a couple of brief paragraphs with your name, location (just your city or state, nothing specific), age, gender, and a few interests. This information will provide a way for other users to connect with you. For example, someone from the same city or age group may be excited to contact you.
You can also find other users with your interests by scanning this board.
Start groups about your interests. If you want to start relationships with users who have specific interests, but you don’t want the bias already present on other message boards, starting your own group or message board might be the way to go. You can attract other users to join this group by commenting about it on similar threads.
Play games. An easy way to make friends is to play online video games. A lot of online games today have a vocal component, so that you are playing the game and talking to other users at the same time. You can build relationships verbally rather than via text through games like Minecraft, Call of Duty, and many more.
Since you can join teams in video games, this often contributes to the creation of tighter bonds because you are working together toward a common goal.
Be aware that starting your own team and recruiting people to join it might create hostility in a game, so try to wait until people are interested and agreeable before starting your new team.