Thursday, March 31, 2011

Social Networking: How Do I Know My Net’s Working? or Yep, I Totally Suck at This

Author, Anne R. Allen recently posed an intriguing question on her blog. The post heading:

Does Social Networking Make You Feel like Your Back in High School?

Read it. How much of it do you agree and/or disagree with it?

Many of you reading this are fantastic social networkers. You cast your net and draw out a boat full of fish. You’re well-spoken (I guess, well-typed in this instance), leave thoughtful feedback, and engage other writers with genuine relationship building skills and carefully presented self-promotion. You’ve got tons of Twitter, Facebook, and blog followers.

Me, I’m terrible at small talk and self-promotion. And don’t get me started on my net-flinging skills.

I often ponder; how social does a writer have to be? Personally, I’m not a social butterfly. For that matter, I’m not even a social caterpillar. In fact, truthfully, I write so I don’t have to speak aloud. I understand that as a writer, I have to take responsibility in promoting myself via all available media outlets. And I know this may include public readings, mingling with like-minded individuals, and general social schmoozing. I know this…yet, I remain hesitant to participate. Why? I think Ms. Allen’s right; to me, in a lot of ways, social networking is like high school all over again. There are the cool kids, and then there are the rest of us. Sadly (although there’s the hint of a smile as I type this), my high school no longer exists. The building was torn down. Terrible, I know. But I don’t have many fond memories. Of course (and please feel free to refer to my psychologist for further details), this may be due to my own self-induced ostracism.

Anyway, I do spend time lurking the halls of Twitter; waste time in front of my Facebook locker, nervously pretending to search for a textbook that doesn’t exist, willing myself to turn invisible. Is this something innate in me? Can a non-social person/writer flip the coin and change? I’m not shy; I’m just somewhat…disconnected, disconcerted.

Anne speaks of feeling ignored on social networks. I partake in conversations, add my two cents when opportunity presents itself, but the drive to engage individuals, who may or may not be who they portray (especially online), usually leaves something to be desired. And selfishly I think, man, I should be using this time to create.

I’d like to build stronger relationships with writers. I’d like to see more folk read my book, The Man of Shadows (like how I worked in a hyperlink to Amazon here?), AND have it increase in sales. But how do I successfully balance between writing and networking?

And with that question (yes, and now my sad attempt to throw my net out and gather ye little fishes up), I leave the mike open for social commentary.


  1. That's a fair question. The balance between writing and social networking is as hard to achieve as the balance between work and personal life. There's no magic formula, unfortunately...

    All I can say from my personal experience, is that it's easy to build up strong relationships through twitter. It's time-consuming, of course, but the pay-off is amazing. You are part of the #FridayFlash community already, aren't you? These guys are incredible, I'll tell you! Visit people's blog and comment. Be on twitter from time to time. You'll see. :)

  2. I'm with you. *knuckle bump* I suspect most of us writers are an antisocial lot with memories of high school that still give us nightmares.

    Like Mari said, #FridayFlash is great. She finally convinced me to try it last month, and I love it. What better way to market your writing through writing? What better way to meet writers than to read and comment on their stories? It's something we instantly have in common with each other and love to talk about. Then, if the conversation does drift into April Fools' jokes or how to fix the car, it's a natural progression and not forced.

  3. Great post - you bring up a concern I've had for some time. Every marketing book written for the indie writer notes the need to use social networking to build visibility, drive recognition, and grow sales, but not only is it a time-consuming process, but a network of 300-400 friends/connections doesn't translate into book sales.

    I've utilized FB and LinkedIn, as well as two separate blogs, but the biggest return on my investment of time so far has been the use of some PR releases via media outlets, book club reviews, and interviews to promote my book LOST EXIT - available on how I worked that in). I think for those of us going the indie route as well as more traditionally publisher writers with a limited budget, the key will be coming up with a marketing strategy, using some guerrilla tactics, some self promotion, and a relentless/ruthless effort....and not being afraid to change things that aren't working.

    Good luck. Off to purchase your book.

  4. Angel - look on the bright side, if you're not so comfortable on twitter, you'll get more writing done, heh heh. Seriously, tho, I have some pointers 4 u. (typing on my iPhone). Follow @kristenlambtx for gr8 tips on social media 4 writers. Make info about your book readily accessible thru occasional tweets & on your blog, but be yourself. @ reply to other people's tweets, participate in chats like #litchat or #writechat, get to know ppl on twitter & let them get to know u. Let the marketing aspect happen organically... Get reviewers to review your book, do guest posts on other blogs and little by little it will happen. Hope this helps - oh, and tweet me any time :-)

  5. Anne wrote a very interesting and much-needed post. Thanks for highlighting this, Angel.

    I hated high-school and skipped most of it. If I look popular on the net, it’s only because I’m actually just a snoop, gathering as much information as I can, and then burrowing back to my cellar where I try to create something different.

    There certainly are clicks, but I think it’s obvious to many who the real writers are on the net. I also think everyone has a “do people like me?” syndrome, because it is in our nature to want to connect and belong to a group—unless you’re the lone wolf type, which is common in writers.

    What helps me stay balanced is always having a goal (deadlines) on numerous projects. So, if I bust ass and finish them, then I allow myself the freedom to waste time blogging.

    Recently, I closed my FB account. I do not regret it at all. And I don’t think I’ll ever twitter. Yet because my job is isolating, I do rely on blogging to connect and learn from other writers. Social networking can be a high-school nightmare, but guess what? I still blog in my PJ's!

  6. Great topic, Angel.

    First, this: my own self-induced ostracism

    If we're being honest, most of the time, it is self-induced. I can tell you that high school was hell for me, as is most of the world outside my front door. But it's not (mostly) them, it's me. And I get that.

    Some of us are just like that, right? Baby, I Was Born That Way!

    *cough* Sorry for the Gaga. Anyway. So, here is my little tale of Being Popular On The Interwebz: I used to write under a pseudonym. Without knowing about all these people who tell you how to blog and build a platform, I did everything you're supposed to, and I got amazingly "popular" and blah blah blah lots of followers blah blah tons of reviews, comments, etc.

    Here's the thing. I absolutely hated it. I do not regret killing off my ebil twin, deleting it all and leaving it behind. I learned a lot, and one thing I learned is: That stuff doesn't matter to me, personally. I'd rather be in a hidey-hole, creating stuff just for me, than worrying about how it's been three days since I last blogged or tweeted, and what material will I have for my next post that is sure to hook people, and what about this vast network of people, who also expect you to go by their blog and comment intelligently and interact with them.

    And there's the key: People want to be noticed. So you notice them. You notice them in a way that authentically says you notice them. Not just a "Great story!" comment, but intelligent responses to their blogs, fics, tweets that builds relationships.

    But at what point is that fake? Isn't some of it made-up, little white lies? And to take it further, how much of this "noticing people" is taking time from your writing? A lot. A LOT.

    The world may have changed. It may not be possible anymore for writers to stay in their little offices in their houses, sending out the occasional ms and having that be all they need to do to be successful. But if the world's changed that much, all I can say is: It's exhausting. And I wonder how much great writing is never going to be done because of it.

    (Just a side-note, Neil Gaiman tweets constantly and blogs a lot, and every day, I think, "Shouldn't you be writing?")

  7. Angel, Thanks so much for the mention. It's great to see the discussion continuing here. This has hit home with a lot of people. (Love the term "social caterpillar")

    It is the nature of writers to sit "Alone in a Room," as the great Michael Ventura essay told us. But social media allows us to stay in that room AND communicate with other people. So agents and editors tell us we must. But they are generally not solitary people. They don't understand many of us carry our social anxieties into Cyberia. It really isn't as bad--at least we're not being judged by our physical appearance the way we were in high school--but it's hard to break old habits.

    I agree with PJ that Kristin Lamb is a font of information about social media, and I highly recommend her book and blog. But I worry that if you follow her approach to the letter (and all the blog tyrant/blog boot camp stuff), you'll end up doing social media 100% of the time (and still feel guilty you're not doing more) and never get back to your creative work. That's why I advocate "slow blogging" --and moderation in other media. Thanks for backing me up on this, Angel.

    I also read just today that blog tours are NOT translating to book sales, so I find Kevin's comments above very useful.

    Thanks to all of you for these thoughtful comments.

  8. PS--I do recommend bloggers turn off the "word verification" thing. I think Kristin Lamb does, too. They're kind of the pocket-protectors of the cyberworld. They cut down your comments a lot. Spambots are not a problem if you moderate old posts.

  9. I feel your pain here. I wish I could just write and people would miraculously find my words while I live in a cave and never speak.

  10. I enjoy some of the small talk and have come to look forward to people sharing news that I would otherwise miss, like Amazon deleting reviews or high-profile author gossip. It's the networking-for-profit part I fail to grasp. I'm not good at it, and I don't want to be. I loathe the notion of using people as ends to my means. But if I don't make some professional use of these things, what am I doing? An endless cycle of undertalented self-loathing.

  11. Great dialogue - thought I'd add the following link about a writer using some guerrilla tactics to get exposure for his novel:

    (might have to cut and paste this into your own browser). It probably doesn't work for everyone, but here's someone who went outside the norm to promote his book and draw attention to it.

  12. Feedback folk—

    You’ve given me plenty to digest and many, many new resources to distract me from writing…I mean, visit and learn from. I’m now ready to either sign in on Facebook and build relationships OR close my account, thank you very much Erin “Snoopy” Cole.

    As Kevin Michaels suggests, I need to force people to buy my book at gunpoint…excuse me…put forth “a relentless/ruthless effort” in promoting my work and the “man behind the shadows” (a little play on words for my book, The Man of Shadows…available NOW at Amazon!)

    When it comes down to brass tacks, I love other writers. I love the thrill and craft of writing. But mostly, I just wanna write and let my imaginary friends roam free. I know, selfish, huh? But since “selfish” is the bonding of “sell” and “fish” I guess my net might be working after all.


    P.S. Thanks again to Anne R. Allen for inspiring this post.

  13. Cool Angel. And everyone's comments here fit like old shoes. Social networking just plain confuses me, and I'd rather spend the time working up a great story than trying to understand it. But then, what is a story without an audience? It makes my head spin.

  14. Hey Pumpkin King ;-)
    All I can say is be you. Do what the F you want when the F you want. And don't worry about what people are thinking of you or if they will buy your book if you do this or tweet that. If you don't want to tweet. Don't. If you don't want to FB (like Erin). Dont! (Yay for Erin- its why we love her. She's true to herself and it shows.) Find what works for you and do it. And if you feel like switching to something else. Do it. I tend to bounce all over tarnation like a bouncy ball because I can't stand to be chained to one group or one site or one social network or even one genre. And I only network when I want to, which means I fall off the bridge into my own worlds sometimes weeks at a time, then pop back in and say hello. That's just me and yeah, people may think I've got a couple loose marbles. Who cares? In the end, I'm true to myself and I end up with way more readers and good pals like you and Erin. The other thing is you are right. Net world is like highschool, so many people are about putting on a show than about being real. So I try to make sure I have the chops to back up the person I put forward on the net. Can I f*cking write? I practice it everyday. I fall asleep reading at night. And I think it shows up in my work (at least I hope!). Anyway, I hope this makes sense. Good post. I like your term "net flinging" ;-) Darn gum net flinging sell fish!

  15. JMac, the net would not be the same without you, and of course you can effin' write! See, we're all just really sellfish and want more of you.
    And John, he's kind of like my 'network-writing guru' - always having something valuable to reflect on-daily even!

    Angel, if it's gunna come down to brass tacks, or "Snoopy", I might have to dig through your tackle box and find that one "Gummy Bear" post. I bet those orange ones would make great bait. ; )

  16. Angel, your social networking skills must be working somewhat. I found followed my blog, saw Morpheus Tales listed, who is on my FB list, and popped over here out of curiosity.



  17. We have something in common too - Twisted Tongue. I have been published there as well.