It’s taken me a while to write about but earlier this year I had a great experience with using social media to further my writing. It got me thinking about the role of social media compared to face to face networking and indirect networking. (By indirect networking I mean networking when you don’t even know you’re doing it).
I was reading my Twitter feed one afternoon when I noticed a tweet from Vanessa Carnivale (@v_carnivale) to another writer encouraging her to submit an article for a new magazine she was beginning to develop. While the tweet was not for me, it was in the public sphere so I checked the link. It turned out it was for a new magazine Mindful Parenting, which was looking for submissions. I was in my final weeks of work before I was due to take maternity leave so I decided to send in a pitch.
Writing the pitch was difficult for a few reasons. As this was a brand new publication I had nothing to compare it to. Who was the audience? What was the style – conversional, professional? The second difficulty was that I was pitching myself not for my expertise as a professional, in fact quite the opposite. My pitch was that I had no idea about parenting, mindful or otherwise. My argument was that this would make a great ongoing column exploring the trials and tribulations of new parents. I had no idea how this would work, but I gave it my best shot and sent it in.
I received a response via email soon after. Vanessa was interested in my piece and as it turned out she asked me if I had curly hair – she remembered me from the Ballarat Writers and Illustrators festival. There had been heaps of networking going on that day, but I wasn’t doing any of it. I don’t write children’s fiction, but I did interview the keynote speaker, Maureen McCarthy. So it seems I had been participating in some indirect networking. Without realising it my profile as a writer had grown without writing a word.
As it turns out the column in Mindful Parenting didn’t go ahead, but the magazine did and you can check it out here. Vanessa received so many wonderful articles that the column was no longer required, and I can see why, it’s a great publication. But the whole experience was worthwhile and taught me a few things:
1 – treat social media as a job interview: You might not be face-to-face with someone, but there are real people out there who read what you write, even if it is from years ago. When I blog my golden rule is imagining I am in a lift with a stranger on my way to a meeting with a publisher who has fallen in love with my manuscript. If I would not say what I am about to write to the stranger then I won’t write it. That stranger in lift could well be the head of a publishing house. While I think it is important to express your opinions, I think there is a professional manner to do it in.
2 – be honest: Pitching myself as a non-expert worked. Trying to appear experienced in your writing about something that you are incompetent at will show through. Readers enjoy a journey and like to read about mistakes. If you’re a ‘little Aussie battler’ don’t hide it, it might just work in your favour.
3 – take non-writing work seriously. My role as publicity officer for Ballarat Writers is a volunteer position. Usually I have a million other things to do than my volunteer work, and should probably be working on my novel, but I always maintain a professional standard. Once again it’s a case of not knowing who you are talking to. All but one of the paid jobs I’ve ever had have come about through someone I know. I’ve never realised that what I am doing at the time will lead to a paid job but somewhere along the line someone has noticed my skills. Keep this in mind for all things writing related – you never know where it will take you.
You never know when you are networking so keep your best foot forward.