Building Real Connections with Real People

Social Media seems to be the rage right now. As authors, we are getting online and tuning in to what readers want and learning through each other how to improve our writing and create a “Brand” for ourselves. But how do we balance the “brand” with the reality of who we are and what we are trying to accomplish? Balance between being “real” and being a “brand” is difficult if we don’t take care to brand ourselves correctly.

Spending time paying attention to something other than our writing may not be something we want to do; let’s face it – we want to write, and sometimes taking time out to socialize can be hard to do. It can take hours at a time away from our writing. It is time well invested, in my opinion. Getting to know my readers and so many other writers has taught me a lot of valuable lessons that I can incorporate into my writing. I try to find relevant articles and information to share, but a lot of the time, I find myself learning from something that someone else posted and having that “aha!” moment when something I have been struggling with sinks in. I find that I have a lot more in common with the people I am connecting with besides just what I like to write and what I like to read. I joined writing groups to meet other authors and to learn and share and have found that instead of just giving and receiving information, I have made actual friends through these groups; friends with whom I connect in other groups as well. My purpose in joining the groups was to learn and to give something back; share my experiences while writing and publishing my books and perhaps help someone who is struggling with the same experiences I struggle/d with. What I have found is more valuable than just learning and giving back – I found new friends.

Finding common ground with others is an important way of connecting with other people…and if they happen to want to read my book, well, the more the merrier. But it’s that connection that is important. I am more apt to read a book written by someone I feel I know and with whom I feel I have a connection than I am some person who contacts me on Facebook and tells me he/she has a new book coming out and I should read it. Being connected means not being a “Me, Me, Me” person. Yes, I have a book coming out and I am very proud of it; and yes, I would love to shout it from the rooftops and ask everyone to buy it…but that’s not connecting. That is advertising and pushing my product down people’s throats. I would rather have 5 readers with whom I am connected who truly want to read my book than have 1500 people I am connected to who I ask to read it, but who have no idea who I am. How many of those connections (strangers) will really care that I have a new book coming out? How many will actually buy my book?

The need to connect with people is a human condition. The days of the reclusive author are over. People want to know about the author whose books they are reading. They want to know that we are real people, with real families and real concerns. Does everyone on my friends’ list care that I am remodeling my home? Probably not; but it I share it not to draw them in, but to connect with someone. Inevitably, someone on my list has gone through something similar and can sympathize or offer advice as to ways to deal with it. That’s a connection; that is someone I can have a conversation with, and that is someone who I can tell about my new book, because that is someone I have come to know or who has come to know me.

So how do we connect with these “virtual” strangers? Finding a common ground to talk about is the best way I have found to build a connection with a new friend. Is there someone in my newsfeed who is changing careers and looking for some advice, sympathy or encouragement? That is a person I can relate to and offer my advice or encouragement as it is something I have done myself; it is a connecting force in our lives. Is there someone on one of my friends’ walls who loves shopping, reading mystery novels or walking on the beach? There’s a connection and a possible new friend.

Branding ourselves is more than just collecting friends and trying to get people to read our books; it is about building friendships and giving as well as receiving.

I have found that writers tend to be some of the most caring and giving people on our planet. I am a great believer in sharing what I have learned over the bumpy road to publication. Helping others avoid some of the pitfalls is extremely rewarding. Major caution: Time management is essential. We must keep our mission and obligation foremost in our minds. In fiction it is to produce a compelling story, in nonfiction we must provide our readers with valuable content– never short-changing our readers. Therefore, we are honor bound to continue to give our best, knowing that with each new novel or book the bar is raised. By keeping our priorities is perspective, limiting the time we invest in blogging and social media is essential.

How do you use social media?  How do you make new friends?

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7 responses to “Building Real Connections with Real People

  1. Oh, bravo, Darlene! You said what had to be said, and so well. The benefit of first making friends and connecting and then “pushing” your book is just that: you make friends. You connect. It’s so much more than just marketing.

    • Thank you Mariam. I truly cherish the new friends I have made and the old friends I have been able to reconnect with. It is so much more than marketing, truly.

  2. Enjoyed this Darlene. Have just returned from Southern Writers’ Conference where we all did just that. Met friends and fellow writers’ listened to a variety of speakers and attended workshops and discussion groups. Came back (it was simply from Friday evening to Sunday afterernoon) tired but full of renewed enthusiasm for our craft. Good wishes from Joan Moules.

  3. Don’t sell and be authentic. I know Chris Guillebeau has done this and now has a new book deal with Random House, but he’s amazing, and has succeeded in getting people to like him through being a non-conformist, down-to-earth, and making everyone who contacts him feel special.

  4. Greetings, Darlene, Enjoyed your thoughts. After 44 years as an insurance broker and recently selling my business, I have new found time. Writing was always a hobby but I didn’t have the time to do it. Then Lydia came to me in a waking dream shortly after I retired. She forced me to tell her story and after three months, three books had been written about this unorthodox “talking cat”. A “WordPress” website was created (www.valeriedickison.com) and a daily blog set up where Lydia generously dispenses advice to whoever will listen. Some of her ideas are strange; after all she is a self-centered, over weight female cat. I also send out an electronic newsletter about my life growing up in the 1950’s in rural Bothell, Washington (so my readers will get to know me, as a person.) During my insurance career I attended many sales seminars. One thread was ever present: your customers need to know you. They need to feel you are a friend. If you can accomplish this, they will listen to your fears and foibles. Writing is still a hobby. I don’t think Lydia will make me rich in my old age, but she is a great friend, if only in my own mind and those of her followers. Keep up your good work. Regards, Val

  5. Great post!
    Social media and trying to network at conventions has introduced me to many awesome writers and readers. Many friendships have been forged and grown because of this. And I wouldn’t give them up for anything!
    Learned lots, and continue to do so. I hate having agendas on why I talk to peeps, so going at this as myself and truly wanting to interact is awesome and so much more fun than just trying to push my novels down peeps throats. I know there’s a certain amount we HAVE to do, but it does not have to consume my life. Heh heh.
    (Now digging into the day job and possibly getting me into trouble one day is something else altogether. :P)

  6. Pingback: Mind Sieve 6/20/11 « Gloria Oliver

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