A Lesson in Networking

I think I may have finally joined the internet age, and it has made me reflect on how nervous I have been about engaging too much with the virtual world of social media networking.  I’ve been taking dolly steps in my online adventures; I started this blog without thinking that anyone would actually read it, my Facebook account is set to ‘private’, and when I signed up to Twitter I was  very slow to build up the list of the people I follow, and would investigate somewhat suspiciously when people I didn’t know started following me.

But then last week I went to the launch for  Jane Rusbridge‘s second novel ROOK.  I’d never met Jane in person before.  In fact I didn’t know anyone at the party, the prospect of which was decidedly daunting, as walking into a room full of strangers doesn’t really play to my strengths.  But I took courage from an article I read on Isabel Costello‘s blog saying that her experience of attending launches at which she knew no-one before she arrived was entirely positive in that she’d found writers to be very welcoming and friendly.

So I took my courage in my hands, put a smile on my face and launched myself into the room…….. and it all lived up to everything Isabel had promised.

But how had I got there?

When I first joined Twitter I sought out women writers to follow.  But as I still had reservations about the rather negative connotations of the word ‘follow’, I felt that I should do more than passively lurk around shadowing them.  I therefore sought out the books of writers I knew only through their presence on Twitter, read them, enjoyed them, and then wrote a review here on this blog.  This did, as I had hoped it would, create a ‘proper’ sort of exchange.  I learned that writers love to have their books read and reviewed (of course it’s obvious, I see that now!) even if the review is only on my blog. Jane was one of the first people to teach me this.

Once I had started receiving thanks and positive reactions to my occasional reviews and gathered my own very modest following, I started to follow more people, but although I have learnt lots and picked up many interesting links through tweets, hitherto I’ve not been a frequent tweeter myself.  Part of it is that if I have an idea for something I’d like to say, I tend to save it for use here, and part of it is that residual feeling that it’s rather an odd thing to be doing.

But I can see it’s a powerful tool now, because one of the consequences of my rambling and stumbling about online is that at the party I didn’t not know anyone; instead I found myself in a group of extremely friendly people enquiring of each other ‘Do I follow you? I think you may follow me?’  and then talking about books and writing and how each of us is learning how to do this social media networking thing; and I discovered that I was not the only person who had arrived at the party knowing no-one, but who was leaving having had real world conversations with people who until then had only been known 140 characters or less at a time.

It’s scary, but there are tremendous rewards.

Thank you, Jane.

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  1. I agree. I often think it’s a strange electronically-managed world we live in, but then maybe it isn’t so strange – there are so many people in the world doing so many different things, how would we find the ones we want to find if we don’t sift and search using e-methods! And sometimes if we’re lucky it leads to meeting the Actual Person in Real Time, and we find they are more than the characters on the screen. I meet a group of people once a month (this afternoon, in fact) whom I met online on a fiction writing course nearly 2 years ago.
    And I met my partner through an online dating site – now THAT took real courage.
    What I am hoping is that one day all your e-friends and followers get to meet YOU properly at the launch of your novel. 🙂

    • Thanks Jill. If (When!) I get the opportunity I would certainly hope to emulate the great get together of my online gang! I think I feared that people for real would be different to how they project themselves online, but the experience last week showed me that lady writers at least are exactly as much fun and as engaging as they appear to be.
      Hats off to you for dating online; I don’t have that much courage.

  2. That’s great, Rowena. I’m glad to see a real use for Tweeting, at last!

    • It does genuinely seem to be one of those things that you have to engage with before it’s possible to see the point of it, I was very sceptical before…..but now I think I’m beginning to ‘get’ it.

      • Good – glad to hear it. It’s important to learn from others, and to keep up with technology, otherwise we get left behind so quickly. I once had an almost terrifying transition back into ‘civilisation’ at the cusp of the internet/email age – I vowed I’d never be in that position again. It’s just that things move so quickly and it’s difficult to know which is going to be important, or necessary to engage with!

  3. Lovely piece Rowena! I’m thrilled that my blogpost helped calm your nerves a little. It was really great to meet you and so many other Twitter friends at Jane’s launch. Apart from Jane herself, I hardly knew anyone else in advance, but I did go in the expectation of meeting those I ‘know’ online, and as you say, that proves to be a very different thing to not knowing anyone at all. Like you I’ve been amazed how rewarding online connections can be.

    • Thanks Isabel. You did give me confidence! I look forward to seeing you again at the Ham and High!

  4. Lovely, post, Rowena. Yes, I was a late comer to the entire social networking thing, too. But I have found a real community of book lovers and good writing tips at Twitter–and sometimes Facebook. When it comes to that blend of in-person and online networking, I do find that the online thing kind of uses up all my news. When I meet a group of local writers here in Massachusetts, it sometimes feels like there’s little left to chat about. Or worse is when a friend blithely mentions some large-ish bit of news and I say, “Oh, really. Oh, I never heard.” and that friend turns to me and says, “Well, it’s not news. Didn’t you read it on my page?” Um …
    But overall, it’s been positive. Which reminds me, I must “follow” you on Twitter.
    Hope you’re well and happily writing …

    • Thanks Aine, and how lovely to hear from you. Things are going well thanks, and I am now working on my second novel, and still hoping I can get some interest in my first, but I’m keeping the faith! I try not to put all my news ‘out there’, but I’m very careful not to assume that anyone has read anything I’ve written. I sometimes worry that I’m telling people things they know already, but generally carry on as normal until they tell me to stop!
      I hope everything is going well with you. R

  5. hey Rowena,
    you echo thoughts I had, and so many others have shared…diving in and just doing it has been ahhmazing, glad you’ve found your niche, and I’m glad to have discovered you 🙂

    • Hi Roxie, thank you so much; it is nice to think I might have found a niche! I’m enjoying your posts too, so very well met by blog indeed!


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