Buy “Runway”



In Real Life Networking vs Social Networking

Social networking, or online networking, is a style of networking that is popular among introverts writers because it allows us to blog, tweet, and post status updates from the quiet of our desk chairs and sofas. We don’t need to articulately deliberate over the national deficit while sipping martinis and munching canapés in some stranger’s living room. We can sit in our flannel pajamas, unshowered and with our hair umkempt, and expound on the necessity of m-dashes, the pros and cons of self-publishing, and where to buy the best gluten-free cookies. We can share our deepest, darkest secrets with our thousands of “friends” and followers without worrying that they’ll judge us and without stepping foot out of our bunny slippers.

The problem with this scenario? Allison Williams, in response to my last blog post titled “Does Social Media Sell Books?,” said it best: “Most of us are going at it backward—we’re trying to create online connections from scratch and hope they transform into real world connections. Instead, we should be meeting as many people as possible in the real world, and offering them something of value (whether that’s friendship, fellowship, or good business advice) so that they look forward to hearing from us online. Nobody wants to buy @jane.x.smith435’s book they’ve never heard of. But when they liked Jane that time they met her at a professional gathering, and she’s sent them a couple of articles they’re interested in (not by her), and they clicked over twice to her blog and laughed about something she wrote, they might mention to their other friend, ‘Hey, this woman I know vaguely just wrote a book that I think you’d like.'”

I couldn’t agree more. As much as I love the comfort, ease, and convenience of social media, it’s no substitute for real-life connections. Spending five minutes talking to someone at a party is worth fifty comments on someone’s blog—and it takes a lot less time. This doesn’t mean you should give up on social media. This means you should use social media, as Williams put it, as your reinforcement, not as your front-line troops. Make a connection in person, then keep in touch with that person—via Twitter, Facebook, or your mailing list—to reinforce that connection.

Here are a few tips to making in-person networking pain-free:

1. Attend events.
Events don’t have to mean huge Animal House-style bashes with 200 people and a keg. They can range from a LitQuake reading to a baseball game to a moms’ nights out. Even kids’ birthday parties are a great way to meet new people. There are always parents there you haven’t met before. Introduce yourself. Make a new friend.

2. Carry Business Cards.
You never know where you may strike up a conversation with a stranger—on a bus, at the supermarket, in the park while your toddler is in the sandbox. And you never know where you’ll run into a friend who will introduce you to his/her friend. Be sure to include your website and Twitter ID as well as your email address and phone number on your business card. And ask your new acquaintance for a card, too. That way you can initiate follow-up if he/she doesn’t.

3. Don’t Think of Networking as Networking.
The term “networking” has icky connotations. It implies that you’re only interested in getting to know someone for the mutual benefits you can later attain from one another. Think of networking as socializing, as making new friends and meeting new acquaintances. Don’t worry that you can’t be best friends with everyone. There is strength in “weak ties” according to Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point. “Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvelous efficiency.”

18 comments to In Real Life Networking vs Social Networking

  • annerallen

    This is such good advice. Yesterday my publisher contacted me to say I'd had a sudden surge in sales at the end of September. He asked if I'd done a high-profile guest post or bought an ad. I told him no–that's the weekend I spoke at a Writers Conference. Yup. Real world connections sell books!

    • meghancward

      Thanks for sharing your IRL networking experience, Anne. It's great to know it works in practice, not just theory!

  • Kristan

    Awesome tips. To be honest, I hadn't thought of the fact that "online as the front line" is going about it backward, but I agree with your reasoning as presented here.

  • This is great advice I will keep in mind. I have been told that starting with friends and family can be a great place to begin but I have a hard to admitting to them that I write. I'm sure publication will change my view points. Thanks for the advice and confirmation that you have to be social as well as have an online presence.

    • meghancward

      Repeat after me: "I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer." Don't be shy about telling them you write! And when they ask you five years from now why that novel still isn't published, tell them you plan to kill them off in the last scene.

      • This advice made me laugh. Writing is so intensely personal, (and takes so long!), that I also tend to be extremely tight-lipped about my writing– particularly to people I've just met, or already have a specific relationship with (coworkers, etc.). So I hear you, M. Ziegler! That's what I find helpful about this series on Networking for Introverts; it's good to know networking (even in person!) doesn't have to be scary.

        • meghancward

          It really doesn't, Want Chyi. It's no scarier than just getting out and talking to people. It also helps to push yourself out of your comfort zone a little now and then. Before you know it, things that were terrifying aren't so scary any more.

  • Great advice, Meghan. I've shared it and I hope our writer clients take it to heart. Your online presence is only as strong as your ability to socialize. If you can't talk to people face-to-face, it's going to be hard to build a relationship online!

    • meghancward

      I think it's important, though, that shy people aren't intimidated by this. I was painfully shy growing up, and I still hate speaking on stage (reading I can do, speaking off the cuff I hate), but having conversations with people at a reading or a writer's conference is like talking to your cousin at a baby shower. It doesn't hurt at all.

  • Such wonderful insight, Megan! Thank you :)) I suppose as introverts it's the easy way out for us…but you're right. We really need to get out there and meet more people 🙂

    • meghancward

      And, like I wrote in a comment above, it's good now and then to push the boundaries of our comfort zone a little. Before we know it, those boundaries will have grown to the point that a lot of things that were once scary aren't so scary any more.

  • Thanks for the hat-tip – I'm glad this is useful!

  • Junk Thief

    Great tips, especially the last point from Gladwell about the power of acquaintances which I have been so important in my creative life. Melinda Blau explores that idea further in depth in her book and blog Consequential Strangers (

  • While I agree that the Blog that often border insanity, I also find these programs necessary. These articles have took care of a sensible touch of social networking development and restored speculation in call accompanying.

  • I agee that those boundaries will have grown to the point that a lot of things that were once scary aren't so scary any more. but where's the pont