This article appeared in the September/October 2010 issue of Writer’s Journal.
Social networking. Agents and Editors say you have to do it. I’ve given you how-to tips. You may have even tried it. Here are some common faux pas people make on social media. Could this be you?
Imagine social networking as a huge cocktail party at an extravagant, modern Malibu home overlooking a Pacific sunset. Everyone who is anyone’s been invited and a lot of people have show up—from big names to everyday people. They drink exotic drinks, chat, laugh, nibble. Some dance or sing or show off their art.
In walks a guest dressed in ill-fitting high-fashion knock-offs—mismatched styles and gaudy jewelry. Grease dribbles from his slicked-back hair. He bellows greetings, slapping people on the shoulder as he strides to the center of the room. He gets up on a table, splattering the dip on his neighbors. He shouts in a stentorian bellow, “Get to the top of Google for just $100 a month! I’m an expert! I’m an expert!” The party-goers quiet. They watch him a moment, and then resume their interrupted conversations, eventually drowning out the shouting.
First off, don’t let this be you. Social networking is about chit-chat and making personal connections, albeit virtually. Screeching your marketing message at the top of your lungs won’t get you anywhere on this media. Second, don’t let this guy scare you off. There are ways to ignore the SPAM and the general personal horn-tooting that is so common on the media. Un-friend people, report them, hide their comments. Every social medium out there has a way for you to filter the information you receive. Don’t worry about hurting feelings. The Gatecrasher’s too busy shouting to notice.
This lady’s spent months preparing for the party. She’s practiced her pitches, planned what she’s going to say and how to deliver it, learned where the people she wants to meet cluster, and what they prefer to chat about. She’s spent $5000 on the perfect designer gown, $10,000 on her matching diamond jewelry, $2000 on heels just the right height and color, and $1000 on her handbag. She’s spent the entire day at the salon. Manicured nails, professional hair and make-up: perfection. She arrives at the party in style, sweeps through the room, turning heads as she passes. She heads directly for the nearest potted ficus and stands behind it with her nose in the corner.
Sigh. For as many gatecrashers as there are at the party, there are even more ficus-dwelling wallflowers. Not all of them spent as much time or money on their look, but there are so many people who get this far and then never take the last step. If this is you, come out from behind the plant and socialize!
Jogging shorts, running-shoes, and pony-tail, she runs through the party bobbing and weaving, engaging everyone she can in quipped, one-liner conversations, trips over a wallflower and face-plants in the shag carpet, there to remain for the rest of the party.
Pace yourself. Many people embark on social networking with so much enthusiasm that they run out of energy or things to say. Socializing requires listening as well as talking. Slow down and enjoy the party. You have plenty of time.
This fellow came to the party dressed for action. He engages a few people in conversation. When he doesn’t immediately draw a crowd, he throws his hands up in disgust and leaves, muttering that it was a waste of time.
This isn’t the 1990’s, when putting up a website brought instant notice. It isn’t the early 2000’s when a little blogging drew an instant following. It’s not even 2005 when social networking could get you friended by thousands of people in a few weeks. In 2010, you have to work for your following just like the rest of us. Log in. Be witty, charming, intelligent, helpful, or some combination thereof. Make sure you take the time to set up your software to best advantage, but participation over time is the key.
He’s wearing a tuxedo with the tie too tight. He stands quietly by the buffet, nibbling mini-quiches. Occasionally he speaks, but the words are scripted—lawyeresque. Once in a while someone will speak with him, but they soon wander off, leaving him alone.
It’s a party! Loosen your tie and engage people as people not as a corporation. There’s such a thing as too professional. I’m not saying you should throw professionalism over a cliff. I am extremely careful about what I say and how I say it in all correspondences—including this one. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be entertaining or speak my mind. My mind and personality is what attracted my friends in the first place. It will be for you as well. An unpleasant side-effect of the corporate is that they often turn into the disenchanted or the wallflower. Social networking by committee won’t progress.
You know, this is a perfect opportunity to invite your participation. I would love to hear your social networking arch-types. Please write Writer’s Journal and tell them about your experiences on social media.
Angela Render is an author who has been designing and developing websites for over a decade. With free-lance editor Ally Peltier, she is offering her first ever one-day seminar: Self Publishing Success Intensive.