A Bit on Social Networking

I’ve been told, more than once, I’m really good at networking. Honestly, this just isn’t true.

Christie understands. She and I have spoken about this, how we both get told “Oh, but you can make friends almost anywhere you go!” Which, sure, this is sometimes true. The key word there is friend. We don’t get in people’s faces to get their business cards in our pockets and then turn around and abuse this brief connection into a way to leverage our brand or whatever fancy terms exist. We just smile, and listen, and talk about any topic that isn’t us or them, like how the Black Plague charted the course of Western thought for the next four centuries, or where to get some really great ice cream.

This made me wonder what people really think networking is, and how they deal with these concepts online. Thus, my second Inkpunks post: Social Media and How, Statistically Speaking, You Suck at It.

Point 1: You Have to be Interesting.


I also know the sign for Cthulhu.

Social media … can’t magically create what doesn’t exist. – Denise Zimmerman

Something I mentioned on Twitter once, which apparently made Erika quite distraught (sorry!), was my inability to deal with boring people. This has nothing to do with how the Internet Age is warping my brain, or whatever. It’s been an affliction of mine since before we got the Internet piped into our house (for the record: 1994, dialup, with Earthlink, and we had a 28.8kb modem; I know, ballin’). When people around me are boring, I completely tune out. Apparently, if it goes on for long enough, I will start dancing and humming Lady Gaga.

On Twitter, I’ll just unfollow.

Many authors are told that they Must Get Online, that they have to hop on This Whole Blogging Thing, and Do You Have A Facebook, and Oh My God You Don’t Have A Twitter What’s Wrong With You, et cetera. So they hop on every social media doo-hickey forever and start blasting the world with what they are currently doing or writing or eating, because Holy Cow I Better Get On This!

Then the panic sets in. They have nothing to talk about! They don’t have a book out, and their lives are boring because — guess what? — they’re spending their time writing that book so they can have a book out and then have something to talk about!

Honestly? You probably are more interesting than you think, you probably just don’t realize it. For instance, all that research you’re doing for your historical fantasy? There’s probably random tidbits you encounter that would probably be of interest, such as the weights of historical swords. If you’re a writer, you’re reading, and if you’re reading, you have interesting things to share. (And if you’re a writer and not reading, well, we probably won’t have very good conversations, you and I.)

tl;dr – Unless you’re on Hell’s Kitchen, I don’t want to read about what you had for breakfast.

Point 2: It’s Not All About You


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Networking is not about hunting. It is about farming. – Dr. Ivan Misner

This nests well with the above point, but it’s mostly its own thing.

Having something to say keeps people interested in you, but that lasts for only so long. The Internet isn’t a podium, it’s a party, and you don’t want to be that guy in the corner standing on the end table shouting all night about how great he is. Eventually someone will just roll their eyes at you, find the strongest person in the room, and throw you out.

Social media isn’t about soapboxing. It’s about conversation. You see that little “Reply” button in Twitter, in Facebook, in everywhere? It’s there for a reason. They want you to reply. Comment on other people’s blog posts, contribute to Twitter and Facebook conversations, give beyond just your daily chest-beating. And reply in useful ways, more than “me too!” or “I talk about this exact topic in my book which you can buy here!” If Neil Effing Gaiman and Will GD Wheaton and John No-Really-He’s-That-Nice Scalzi can find time in their schedules to @-reply to a few people, I’m sure you can.

tl;dr – Talking online is like talking in real life: people want to hear about more than just you.

Point 3: The Internet Remembers Everything. Forever.


This image is © Penny Arcade. I dun drawr this gud.

Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it. – Erin Bury

I wondered at first if I needed to say this. I mean, we’re long past the days of the famous Anne Rice meltdown where apparently the entire world was “interrogating this text from the wrong perspective” which is academia for “ur doon it rong.” Surely we’ve learned.

Well, as Alice Hoffman and Christopher Pike have fairly recently shown us: Nope. We haven’t.

If it’s on the Internet, it will be seen, and shared, and if you look like an ass, be prepared to deal with it. Be a big enough of a jerk, and your servers will get hugged by the Internet. Your Facebook page will be torn to shreds. And when you cry foul, no one will care.

And there’s more to being an ass than just trolling. You could simply throw your personal politics or beliefs out there, in such an aggressive, caustic manner, that you will drive people away. Go ahead and hold whatever beliefs you want, no one is denying you that. Just be aware that, just like in real life, you piss someone off, and they will either punch you in the face or walk away. Here on the Internet, we have unfollow buttons. And should your abrasive behaviour lose you a few followers, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Lastly, semi-related, Twitter is not your therapist. If every single tweet or post you throw out there is about how woe-and-angst your life is (and trust me, unless you’re living in your university’s library or in a van parked somewhere on your university campus (or down by the river) it’s probably not that hard — you’re on the internet, clearly there’s some bill you’re managing to pay) then I’m going to unfollow you. Without remorse. Once in awhile is fine. You’re having a foul day and you need a hug, even if it’s surrounded by asterices. I get that. I sympathize. But a constant stream of whining and negativity — unless it’s funny — will get you ignored.

tl;dr – No, go read this one in its entirety. From everybody who’s saying it. As many times as it takes.

In summary: people don’t want to be sold to. They don’t want to be a node in your massive human network. They want to interact with a human. Conveniently enough, you already are one. Just keep doing what you do.

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  • Erika Holt

    The reason I joined twitter was not to network, or for support, or to gain industry knowledge–though it can be useful for all of those things–it was to keep in touch with awesome friends like you. I’m so glad I did. 🙂

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  • Well said. Though I think you’re writing about me, aren’t you? I guess you did say “most” so I should be in good company.

    Wait, does this count as a “me too”? I looked for the “like” button but couldn’t find it. And, sorry, I have not written about this subject in any book, or blog post. I do have this problem I’ve been meaning to post about…

  • @Jacob —

    Maybe I should have been clear. You can totes just say “me too” when you’re stroking my ego. That’s more than fine 😀

  • I joined Twitter to stay in touch with old friends and was supremely pleased to make new ones just in time for meetup at World Fantasy Con. And I connected with a few more there, which gives me a happy.

    ::cringe:: I tweet way too much about what I eat. Because I miss eating with specific friends. But I have cut back a bit (on tweeting, not eating).

  • Now this may sound old fashioned, but I enjoy private conversations with my family and friends. I do have a Face Book account and a twitter account but don’t know really why. I tried all these things initally and thought they were pretty cool but for me personally there is just not enough time to update EVERYBODY on where I am and what I do, not that anyone would actually care anyway.

    On the other hand I can see a great opportunity for marketing and pr. Just this morning I was listening to a radio show on NPR about how Conan O’Brian launched last summers comedy tour almost exclusively with tweets!

    Pretty impressive.

    Now there is a great use of this wonderful free tool.

    Keep tweeting and hope someone will actually read you message.

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