Friday, April 30, 2010

Guidelines to Online Networking

Please help me welcome C.J. Redwine to Once Written, Twice Shy. C.J. writes edgy urban fantasy with a side of comic relief and is repped by Holly Root of the Waxman Literary Agency. She runs a fun and fabulous blog where she writes about ninjas, awesome books and Zombie Goats, and teaches online query writing workshops and is a "professor" at Romance University.

Here's C.J.--I have a confession to make: I’m an outgoing introvert. This means I can comfortably hold my own with strangers if I must, can make conversation with anyone if called upon, and don’t mind sometimes being the life of the party. As long as the party doesn’t last too long.

Unlike an outgoing extrovert, the time I spend with people drains me. For every one hour I spend being “on” around others, I need at least an hour to myself to recharge unless I wish to treat the world to the spectacle of a girl waltzing into her local Ben & Jerry’s with a sketchy plan to abscond with all the inventory or go out in a blaze of glory trying.

I’m an introvert, but I’m also a writer trying to effectively brand herself online using the free platforms of blogging and social networking. Sometimes finding the balance between building community online and hoarding my scant time to myself can be difficult. So, how do I connect with others effectively without losing what’s left of my sanity? By following a few simple guidelines.

C.J.’s Guidelines To Online Networking
Or
How To Not Commit A Felony At Ben & Jerry’s

Set Time Limits: Let’s face it. As introverts, every interaction costs us something. Often, we pay the price willingly because we’re interested, we’re friends, or we know it’s something we need to do. But add up all those small interactions and before you know it, you’re exhausted, and Ben & Jerry’s starts to look like heaven, or close enough. I’ve found a good way to handle social interaction is to check in two or three times a day. The same goes for my email account and my blog comments. By setting aside times to handle all of the necessary interaction, I give myself permission to unplug for hours at a time.

Narrow The Field: Blogger. Live Journal. Wordpress. Goodreads. Facebook. Twitter. Myspace. The options for social networking are myriad, and trying to be an effective participant in too many forums will not only drive you batty, it will devour time better spent writing. I choose to spend my time on my blog and with the community I’m building with writers and readers on Twitter. I have a Facebook page, but only check in once a week for less than ten minutes. I find by having only two sites requiring my focus, I’m able to more effectively network and build my brand.

Know Your Boundaries: I’ve found that being accessible is one of the fastest ways to build community online. The problem, of course, is that I don’t want to be too accessible. It’s bad enough I just admitted to considering committing a felony over ice cream. Do you really want to know the things I’ve chosen to hold back? I didn’t think so. I dealt with this by setting boundaries for what I would and would not share about myself and my life online. I don’t have to be an open book. I just have to be accessible to the degree that I’m welcoming and interactive with others. I’m fiercely private about the things I’ve decided not to put out there for public consumption.

Keep A Notebook Handy: Let’s face it. As introverts, some days we want to crawl under the covers, grab a pan of brownies, and watch a Harry Potter marathon rather than say one word to anyone. It can be a problem when your I-sort-of-despise-the-world day falls on the same day you need to post a blog, update your Twitter feed once or twice, and interact with others without strongly suggesting they move to Antarctica and leave you and your brownies in peace. I’ve found that keeping a notebook with me at all times (I carry a small one EVERYWHERE) is my lifesaver. Any time I see or hear something funny or interesting, I jot it down. When I hit an I’d-rather-stick-a-fork-in-my-eye-than-blog day, I pull out my list, grab an item or two, and start writing. Having a ready supply of stories or interesting things to say takes the pressure off!

Cut the Crazy: Social networking attracts all types, and some people out there will ping your inner crazy meter. Really. You’ll run into those people who just drain the life out of you. Who demand things that cross your boundaries. Who make you feel like you need to back away. There’s no need to spend your emotional reserve on someone who causes your left eye to twitch. You don’t have to network with everyone who wants to. I’ve learned to be respectful but firm. My priority is to remain energized for my family and my writing. An online acquaintance who jeopardizes my ability to do so no longer gets my attention.

So, there you have it. Some basic guidelines I use to make my online interactions interesting, easier to handle, and—dare I say it?—fun. Step away from the ice cream case, and enjoy social networking on your own terms.

23 comments:

  1. I truly understand the drain. I tend to hide behind characters a lot more when that is occurring. Social networking is off and on. Wow, you an introvert? No way. I would have never guessed.

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  2. Lol. Most people who only know me online (or only know me casually in person) are surprised. For years, I thought I was an extrovert b/c I was outgoing. And I always wondered why I needed so much time alone after being around people. :)

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  3. C.J.--Thanks so much for coming. I hope you get a lot of traffic today!

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  4. Great advice, CJ. The myriad options for social networking can exhaust even an outgoing extrovert! When I get tired, writing (stories) always seems to reinfuse me with energy, happily. :)

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  5. Thanks for the great post! This outgoing introvert describes me perfectly. I also think of myself as socially awkward b/c it feels like work to be 'on' sometimes.

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  6. When I first saw the title of this blog, I thought no way... Effervescent would be a word I'd use to describe CJ on-line. I'm usually able to spot another of like mind, you know? So CJ, I am in awe of you… you're good.

    Thank you for the wonderful advice. I especially love the notebook idea. Although I really enjoy everyone I interact with online in the varying places I do so, I reach a saturation point where I just want to hide in a deep dark cave with some chocolate and, yes, Harry Potter is welcome.

    And if I don't get some down time, and I push it, I become social-awkward-person-of-the-year.... yup, it feels that way.

    Thank you Rebecca and CJ for an awesome post!

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  7. Wow, CJ. I'd never have pegged you for an introvert. :-) But the way you feel after engaging with the world mimics my feelings exactly. I'm in awe of the ability you have to put yourself out there and manage your interactions so effectively.

    Thanks for the pointers!

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  8. Thanks for sharing your deep, dark secret, CJ! It's nice to know that I'm not the only one who gets totally drained being around people. Big social events are torture for me.

    Of course, I'm married to the exact opposite - the kind that has to be around people all the time! Right now with two teenagers very busy sports schedules, I feel frazzled beyond belief. Thank God my daughter's is almost over. Then maybe I can breathe again for a while!

    Sue (hiding out in her cave)

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  9. Great post. I barely know how to fake it, expect for on-line. That has become my social playground and it really works for me. Forces me to also meet people when i go to conferences instead of holding up the wall. Now that I'm a publisher, i have to do even more networking.

    Great advice!

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  10. Hi C.J.
    Thanks for the great tips. It's reassuring to know there is hope for people like me.

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  11. Great info. I was actually relieved when Ning made changes, and I had one less site to update. :)

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  12. Great blog Rebecca - I popped over from CJ's!

    CJ - great advice - it's hard to believe you're an introvert :) I love your advice. I limit myself to blogging and twitter and that's MORE than enough!

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  13. I have to give up my ice cream . . . . Good advice. Hard to keep up with everything.

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  14. OMG - That's me, too! I can be personable and all that, but I'd really prefer to be home alone. Great to know I'm not alone, and I LOVE the blogging tips!

    Thanks, CJ!

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  15. Right there with you CJ. I've been short on recharge time lately and it's really sapped me. you're absolutely right about setting time limits and boundaries.

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  16. C.J. has been really busy in her non-writing life today, but I bet she'll be checking back in over the weekend.:)

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  17. Sorry to be late responding to comments! My gall bladder decided to take up arms against me and that has taken most of my focus.

    I'm so glad you all found usable tips here. And for those of you who said you wouldn't have pegged me as an introvert ... I made the same mistake for years and wondered why I was constantly feeling close to a breakdown if I didn't just GET AWAY for some alone time. Now I know there's a special classification of outgoing introverts and that fits me perfectly. :)

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  18. C.J. I'm sorry you're dealing with gall bladder issues. Get better soon, okay?

    I think I'm more introverted than shy, too. If I don't have my daily alone time, my head feels like it's going to explode and I almost get a claustrophic feel. Glad I'm not alone .

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  19. C.J. You're a smart woman. :)
    I keep saying stick to a few, not all of them, but alas... most people don't listen -- and the cries of "I don't have time to write" echo the halls.
    Take the plug out, and you do. Simple.
    And the notebook?
    My little moleskine travels with me. Everywhere. Anywhere. At all times.
    In fact, I showed a crit partner of mine the little black book and she was so impressed with the idea -- guess what's in her handbag now. :)
    I'm fiercely protective of any information I put out there. You need to be.
    It doesn't just extend to facebook/twitter etc, either.
    I like to be social.
    On my terms. ;)

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  20. C.J., from a fellow introvert, thank you for the tips on networking, but mainly for ideas on how to set limits!
    Mary

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  21. I'm so glad I found your blog. As an introvert who, by necessity, functions quite well in the 'outside' world, but who wouldn't function at all without plenty of alone time, I can relate to so much!

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  22. Hey Leigh,
    I'm glad you found this blog, too. Let me know if there are any topics you'd like to read about.

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  23. C.J.: You described me exactly. Social activities wear me out, even if I'm having fun. Great advice for staying sane. Sorry I'm so late to the party. =)

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