Thursday, February 04, 2010

Social Media Week, Centennial & Me

This morning I went with my work colleague, Steve Osgoode (@sosgoode) to Centennial to speak to publishing students about online and, specifically, online marketing. It's invigorating and exciting to speak to kids (or students; they're not all youngsters) who are starting out in their careers. I can see how/why teachers find their jobs so fulfilling. Bright eyes and bushy tails and all that...

Then, this afternoon I sat on a panel for Social MediaWeek Toronto headed up by writer Arjun Basu (@arjunbasu) with Julie Wilson (@bookmadam) and Erin Balser (booksin140). It was an odd experience. Usually I am terrified of speaking in front of a large group, but because there were three of us, the pressure was off -- the same with earlier today, with Steve. The biggest problem I have, and will continue to have, is simply talking too much. Anyway, I'm going to spew some thoughts right now that came from my day today:

1. Miscommunication throughout companies can be deadly. It's no wonder that people don't know how to communicate or use social media when the basic fundamentals of getting proper, informed, well, information out to the people at the front lines of your business sometimes isn't even possible. Does Twitter change this fact? Not necessarily but it certainly amplifies it when there's a problem.

2. Not a single person thinks the same thing about the future of publishing. The question came up, "where do we think it's all headed," and I was flippant, said something about how we should wait for the iPad before making any prognostications. What I didn't say is that the moment that Apple device hits shelves, it's a different game. There are few moments when you're in an industry that has such momentous change. For the music industry it was Napster, file sharing and the collapse of the old models -- they melted like icebergs, for publishing folks, it's a bit different. We have the knowledge and the need to move things forward in ways that maybe the music business didn't have; it'll just be interesting to see where we end up. Hopefully, we'll empower authors, instill a sense of urgency in how our business needs to change, and step up to the plate. We're in the moment. It's inspiring.

3. Summing up your life in a bio is never satisfying. My professional bio reads so boring: [she] worked at Alliance Atlantis [read: was Executive Producer of many major branded web sites], Random House [was given a chance by someone who saw potential in me; that changed my life]; and ended up at HarperCollins [has a love/hate relationship with her current job; left the House simply because she couldn't stand the commute; read nothing more into it]. Here's what they didn't mention: has completed one solid draft of her first novel, has written many, many abridged classics for kids, is a published poet, has written tonnes of movie reviews, is married to an independent musician, blogs, reads and blogs some more, has a crazy-ass disease that almost killed her twice and ruined her health forever, but she survived just to almost die again this summer when her appendix ruptured. Somehow, that can't be captured in either 140 characters or a work-related bio.

4. People want to be noticed. They want to be heard. This doesn't change because you're in a public forum or not in a public forum. This is the power of social media. Now I suppose all that matters is whether or not you care if people are listening. For a long time, I've struggled with this -- shy, with little confidence, happy to type, not so happy to talk -- trying to find a balance between the need to be a public person in a very public world and to want to shrink back into the corner and hide, waiting for the popular boy to ask me to dance (he never did, by the way; I'm the better for it, don't you think). How much personality can one internet handle?

5. I love books. I have ever since I was small and winning Read-A-Thons at school and devouring everything with words written on them, cereal boxes, billboards, planes dragging signs, none of this has changed by working in publishing. The sense of wonder I lost by doing two English degrees was reclaimed by seeing Salman Rushdie walk the halls of Random House and spending the day with Curtis Sittenfeld. Today made me happy that other people feel this way too, we stand together far more than we stand apart, us book lovers, high fives and high kicks to that.

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