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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Two Words about Social Media: Don't Panic

One of the sessions I was super-excited for at the Writer's Digest Conference was the Social Media panel.  After all, over the last year or so, I've become almost addicted to fairly comfortable with connecting to readers and writers through blogging or twitter or other webby things.

I've been to plenty of conferences with panels on social media and I find they always run into the same glitch.  The speakers are super-talented and the audience wants to hear what they have to say.  The trouble is, the panelists and audience are speaking in different languages.

I didn't do an empirical study, but here are a few things I observed during the session:
  • Very few young whipper-snappers in the audience, tweeting the panel from their iPhones.  (OK, I guess I'm a whipper-snapper but I didn't tweet from my phone because I'm morally opposed to phones that do more than work like phones.)
  • Hardly any people clicking on their laptops (fewer than what I noticed at other panels, in fact).  A lot of people taking notes by hand.
  • When the moderator asked how many people in the audience had a twitter account, only a few people raised their hands.
  • When the moderator asked how many used social media to interact with industry professionals who would be at this conference, no one raised their hands.  (I almost raised my hand, but then I was embarrassed because no one else did.  Remember, I'm shy.)
  • Based on a lot of the questions that came up in Q&A, most of the people at the session were just starting to get their feet wet in the world of social media.
  • As the discussion and Q&A progressed, I noticed more and more writers around me looking like they were about to have a nervous breakdown.
Despite these obstacles,  I was blown away by the awesome I observed from both the audience and speakers at the session.  This session had everything to be an incredible opportunity.  Writers hungry for information were present and motivated to connect with some of the leading industry professionals in the field of social media.  Both sides of the equation were there, but it seemed like there was one crucial piece missing in the middle.  What it needed was some way to bridge the gap.

How do we solve this problem?  Personally I'm a believer in baby steps.  When people get overwhelmed with too much information, they end up shutting down altogether.  The idea is to help them take one tiny step outside their comfort zones.  Once they've grown comfortable with that, they take another step.  And so on.

This is where you come in.  Think back to when you were new at all this social media stuff.  For some of you, it could have been last week; for others, it was back in 1989.  The point is, somehow or other, you learned to get comfortable with it and to make it work for you.  All sans meltdown.

I want to know: If you had one piece of advice or one small step you'd recommend to a newbie, what would it be?

Here's mine:


From The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

11 comments:

Karen Akins said...

I think my one word of advice would be "Do what you enjoy and only what you enjoy." Social media isn't a benefit if you hate it and are trudging through the motions. A lot of people like blogging but hate tweeting and vice versa.

Misha said...

I'd say that people should pick one social media service and expand as they adapt.

Me? I've never joined twitter.

:-)

Damyanti said...

I would say it is all about becoming part of a community. Don't do it merely for self-advertisement.

Great post :)

cynthia kerestes said...

Lurk before you leap...

Ghenet said...

I agree with Misha - pick one form of social networking (twitter, facebook, blogging) and focus on that. When you get more comfortable, you can always branch out later.

My main forms are blogging and twitter and that's enough for me for now.

Moriah Jovan said...

Aw, now I feel bad that I didn't pick up on it. There was the one lady who said her niece said she had to have an app (or something) and that blogs were so 1990. That poor woman was definitely a deer in headlights, though.

Here's the dirty little secret: Nobody knows. NOBODY. We can have panels all day long and the fact is, nobody really knows. It's still about luck as much as it is about patience.

Gabriela Pereira said...

Thanks for all the fantastic comments everyone! I definitely agree that social media is about connecting to people and only doing it if it's right for you. With so much emphasis placed on "building a platform" it's easy to forget that there are actual *people* on the other end of that screen.

Cynthia - Ha ha! Love it!

Moriah - Oh don't feel bad; I thought the panel was phenomenal and I know I learned a ton! It inspired me to step outside my shell and good things are happening so I have you guys to thank for that. (p.s. I totally agree with you about FB, btw.)

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

My advice would be to start slow. There's no need to rush in, jumping into the deep end of all the social media forms. Find something that interests you, play around, keep it small. Once you get used to it, expand. Veer out to the other forms and explore them. No rush! Hakuna Matata.

M Pax said...

If you know someone adept at social media, glob on and beg for help. Don't jump into everything at once. Eventually, favorites will come out. I used to not like Twitter so much. Now I prefer it. Still learning though - it and blogger.

As to platform, be yourself and somehow tie your genre in. Eventually, you'll find your style / platform if you keep blogging.

JoLynne Lyon said...

Take your time. You don't have to follow hundreds of people in your first week on Twitter; just learn what you can and listen more than you talk. It's a great tool if you don't expect too much of it. Oh, and get a client (I use hootsuite but there are many others out there.) It helps tie the conversation together.

Bookewyrme said...

I think this one may have been covered somewhat, but I would say "Don't try to do them all." When I first started, I signed up for every social media thing there was, from Twitter to StumbleUpon. Talk about an overload if I'd kept with them.

BTW, love your blog, just started reading a week or so ago!
~Lia

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