How Writers Network Online: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Writers know they need a social media plan to successfully market their work. So you sign up for Facebook, Twitter, and various niche sites, but you wonder what the big deal is, because you don’t see how doing so has made any difference at all in your book sales. What’s the point of online social networking, anyway?
Think of a social networking site as a community, a neighborhood. It’s just that simple.
Some neighborhoods are merely a place to live. But some neighborhoods provide residents with a rich and rewarding community experience. It all depends on the people who live there and how they interact with each other.
Perhaps you’ve met some of these characters in your neighborhood. And maybe you’ve met people like them online, too.
Ina Invisible. You saw her move in. She had the house repainted and planted a garden in the first week she was there. But ever since then her shades have been drawn. You never see her come or go. Her lawn is overgrown. Newspapers have piled up in her driveway. She doesn’t answer when you knock on her door. Uh oh. Is she… You never got a chance to know her.
Mimi Allmee. Mimi is always asking for something. She asks you pick up her kids from school when she’s running late. She asks for your lasagna recipe—the one it took you years of experimentation to develop. She asks you for rides to the airport and wants you to feed her cat when she’s going out of town. You like her, and you don’t mind helping out even though she asks for favors so frequently. But you have to admit, your feelings were hurt when you sang in the town talent show, and she didn’t show up. Come to think of it, the only time you see Mimi is when she wants something.
Karrie Klass. Karrie is a one-woman welcome wagon. Whenever someone new moves into the neighborhood, she delivers a basket of homemade muffins with a warm welcoming smile. When you see her on the street she always asks about your kids and your Great Aunt Fanny by name. Not only did she come see you in the town talent show, she sat in the front row, cheered loudly, and took photos. When Karrie held a fundraiser for homeless pets, neighbors were happy to pitch in to help.
Sammy Sales. Whenever you see Sammy in the neighborhood he says you need to buy life insurance—from him. When you talk about sports, he talks about life insurance. If you say your cat died, he talks about life insurance. He never asks you how you’re doing. He just drones on and on about what he’s selling, oblivious to what others are doing or whether or not they’re interested. It has gotten so that when anyone in the neighborhood sees Sammy coming, they hide.
Frank Fixit. Everyone in the neighborhood knows Frank owns every tool and gadget one could ever need. He’s generous about sharing his tools, and he seems to enjoy showing others how to use them. He’s also the kind of guy who is always there when you need help with a project. He volunteers his truck to move your daughter to her new apartment and holds the ladder while you climb up to clean out your gutters. When word got out that chinch bugs killed Frank’s lawn, most of the neighborhood turned out to help him lay new sod without even being asked.
My portraits may seem silly and extreme. Nevertheless, we see similar behavior in our online communities, don’t we? Which neighbor do you want to know? Which neighbor do you want to be?
Don’t expect immediate rewards from your online networking efforts. Cultivate your online persona. Opportunities to give and gain support will develop naturally from regular, authentic interactions. Connect. Contribute. Share. Listen. It’s about talking to each other, not at each other. Build relationships. Be a good neighbor. That’s how you network online.
P.S. If you’ve got lots of followers in your social media accounts, do you still need an author website? Yes. To learn more about why and how to build an effective author website, attend my “How to Shine Online” session at the Florida Writers Association’s Mid-Winter Conference in January. I have scads of good info to share with you!
Mary Ann de Stefano is the editor of The Florida Writer, the official magazine of the Florida Writers Association. She is also a writer, editor, and organizer of writing workshops with 30+ years experience in publishing and writing consulting. Besides working one-on-one with writers who are developing books, she designs author websites and advises on e-marketing. Mary Ann does business at MAD about Words, named as a play on her initials and love for writing.