When I was in college at the University of Arizona, I lived close enough to walk to campus. I didn’t often encounter other pedestrians—in Tucson it’s usually either too hot or too far to travel on foot—but when I did, it was always awkward. One or both of us would pretend to have a coughing fit, or suddenly become fascinated by a neighbor’s landscaping, or in some manner create a reason not to look at, much less talk to, the other person as we passed. And it wasn’t just me; this was pretty standard behavior in my hometown. We’re not unfriendly, just … cautious.
But it bothered me. Here I was, mere feet away from another human being, and we were both too afraid (of rejection more than anything else, I felt) to acknowledge each other. So I began forcing myself to look people in the eye and smile, or at least nod. Eventually I got up the nerve to actually say “Hi!” about every third encounter. People didn’t always respond, of course, and when they didn’t, I generally felt weird about it for at least the rest of the day, and often longer.
Fast forward 30 years.
A lot happened. I was married and divorced, I became an aunt and watched my nephew and nieces grow up, I traveled, I read, I watched, I talked and listened and lived and learned. I made and lost friends. Family members died. I tried to pay attention when life offered me free lessons, and to be open to what other people were teaching me every day. And I found Zen, which helped me stop trying to be happy and just be, at which point I was astonished to find myself in an almost constant state of bliss.
And I stopped being afraid of other people.
Now I wave to all my neighbors, whether they know me or not. I strike up conversations with strangers when I’m standing in line. I make friendly conversation when I’m on the phone with tech support. Not to get anything out of it, not to manipulate people, but because being on good terms with others simply makes life more pleasant. And if they don’t respond in kind, that’s okay too. There’s no law that says they have to wave back or laugh at my jokes.
These days, I not only spend a lot of time doing the equivalent in cyberspace (after all, social media is a lot like passing a stranger on the street, only the street is as big as the planet and the person is, well, everybody), I’m running a business where we do it for other folks, too.
It’s easy to write social media off as shallow—a platform for narcissists to post endless selfies and updates about what they had for lunch—and that facet certainly exists, but it can also be a versatile tool for meaningful connection with other humans.
That’s what we do for the authors we manage. We work hard to identify your audience so they’re already more inclined to be interested in hearing from you, and then (as you) we look for ways to provide them with a positive experience. It’s not about sales, it’s about relationships. Yes, the ultimate goal is for you to sell more books and find more readers, but you don’t do that by pestering people with BUY NOW buttons.
It may seem disingenuous or just plain hypocritical for us to espouse a belief in authenticity when we engage on behalf of other people, but we don’t fake anything. We’re genuine humans, talking to other genuine humans about things that matter to them and to you. We’re not robots or spammers. We share memes, blurbs, quotes, ideas, fragments, visuals, sound bites, and all the stuff that’s grist for the social-media mill on your behalf (with parameters we get from you), and we look for ways to continually answer the question everyone’s really asking when they’re online, regardless of platform: “What’s in this for me?”
We want the answer to be “We are!”
We want to build your audience by interacting with them meaningfully on your behalf, by representing you in positive, constructive, fun ways. We view all social media as an opportunity to nod and smile as we pass other human beings, to acknowledge that we’re here, now, together.
Because what we say and do matters.