Last Saturday, I went to Portland to be part of a panel presentation on savvy social media for authors.
As a sidenote, it's not wise to drink fourteen gallons of caffeinated iced tea before getting in front of a group for an hour-long presentation, unless the image you're trying to project is that of an incontinent crack addict.
It also might not be wise to sit there with your iPhone posting to Twitter while you're in the middle of the presentation.
Or at least that might be true under normal circumstances. In this instance, the Twitter dialogue that took place turned out to be the perfect illustration of many of the points I hoped to make on the topic of social media, so I'll share it with you here.
Some background, for those who aren't Twitter-savvy: The first tweet in this series is a general message I posted to all my followers just a few minutes before I got up to do the presentation. Malin is a regular blog reader and Twitter pal who lives in Sweden. She replied to my initial tweet with what I thought was an exceptionally keen observation about social media, and the conversation unfolded from there:
A couple things are noteworthy about the exchange.
For one, Malin is exactly right about social media being personal. It's one of the reasons I tweeted what I did. Though I'm not generally nervous about public speaking, I was feeling a little pressure to get up and say something smart. There's always a risk my brain will decide to take a mini-vacation just as I open my mouth to speak or click on my iPhone to tweet. It happens to all of us, and sharing that fear in a public forum gives us all an opportunity to relate to each other.
The second thing that's noteworthy is that I've never met Malin. She lives on the other side of the world, and half the time she's tweeting in Swedish. My book isn't even sold in Sweden, but because Malin follows this blog and pals around with me on Twitter, she ordered Making Waves online. She even emailed me this screen shot a few months ago so I could see what my book looks like on the Swedish site where she bought it:
Now here's the thing: I never asked Malin to buy my book. I never asked her to send me that delightful screen shot. I never asked her to banter with me on Twitter in a way that made me look smarter than I am in front of the assembled group.
She did those things because we've forged a sort of friendship through our months of banter on social media sites. In the spirit of that friendship, you can be damn sure I'll line up to buy Malin's book someday when she achieves her goal of becoming a published author.
It's that sort of friendship – real, genuine, honest-to-goodness human connections – that make social media a valuable tool for authors.
I think about that every time I see an author cramming her tweet stream with messages urging people to buy her book. I think about it whenever I see an author on a message board asking people to visit his blog without bothering to interact with other authors there or considering the fact that at least 90% of them have blogs, too, and that the way to get someone to visit yours is not to beat people over the head without engaging in a real, meaningful way.
Social media isn't about selling. It's not about self-promotion. It's about forging connections and trusting that the rest will happen naturally.
Any thoughts on this subject? Feel free to tell me if you disagree – it's all part of engaging, right?
I'll leave you with a few photos someone was kind enough to snap for me on Saturday. Note the giant iced-tea cup. It was on its third refill, and I was preparing my second potty sprint. I'm not proud.