Monday, August 17, 2009

My Metaphor for Social Networking

Sometimes I feel like a greasy, slick haired salesman who's selling products that are great but that no one cares about because they would never buy from a door-to-door salesman. The same product, if advertised on TV, then seen in a storefront window, then recommended by friends, would sell.

The publishing industry seems full of free advice givers and I am so grateful to them for taking the time to write blogs and show me the way. They are doing their part to make sure that agents and publishers have the most talented, capable, and polished writers to choose from. This in turn will (hopefully) lead to better books which will (hopefully) lead to more readers.

But is social networking really the golden goose of the new publishing era? I can't help but wonder if it's really safe to assume that because networking is free, people will network with you. Do you follow someone on Twitter just because they follow you, even if they're not of interest to you? I was followed by a self-proclaimed professional psychic the other day. (Outside the context of Twitter that sounds funny and creepy.) But I didn't follow them back because I have no interest in the tweets of that industry. (If I start writing a novel with a main character who's a psychic, well, then I might change my mind.)

Even though networking is free, I don't expect others to follow me or connect with me just because I'm there. I feel like I still need to be the agitated salesperson sticking their foot in the door before it slams (ouch!) begging for someone to buy my wares for free.

Price used to be a filter for decision making. But with networking, we no longer have that blockage/convenience/inconvenience.
So what kind of filter should we use to decide how our networking minutes are spent?

I don't believe networking is free. It just doesn't cost U.S. dollars per every tweet-follower or blog poster. But it does have its own currency and that is time.

Here's a fun activity to try: Quantify the currency of networking in values of time, specifically your time and what it's worth. Is one hour spent tweeting, facebooking and commenting on blogs worth 3k words of a novel? Are the ten minutes that people spend reading your blog worth one hour of your time to research what you put into that blog?

Note: This activity will drive you nuts. Have fun.

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