The last Spider-man movie contained a scene where Spider-man was in a sewer waiting for the Lizard to show up. He stretched webbing through the system of tunnels and then sat in the center of it, waiting until he felt a vibration running down strands that would tell him which tunnel his enemy was approaching from. I thought that scene was a nice touch, and I've thought about it as I've considered the webs I've strung around myself, or more specifically, my website (which is the interface to my work).
"Networking" is a popular concept these days and some people put a big emphasis on it, usually in regards to job-seeking. The idea is to maintain a collection of contacts to people who can be helpful to your career, whether as references or sources of information (like where there are job openings in your field). The LinkedIn website is driven by career-networking and people use it to rack up as many professional connections as they can. It's a valid concept and I expect a lot of people work it to advantage in finding jobs and clients. I have a LinkedIn account, but my approach to using it is a little different.
I've noticed that just the existence of webs has an impact. I started this website to promote my work, especially my big work-in-progress, the Dentville novels. For a long time, my only site visitors and newsletter subscribers weren't much beyond family. I was getting pretty steady downloads of my ebooks on Smashwords, but it wasn't translating much into website visitors. When I started my journal (blog), I was talking to myself for the longest, but then I made some changes.
I revamped my website, putting a big emphasis on Dentville. I did the same for my newsletter. I created an account on the Goodreads site, became a Goodreads author, and started posting comments and reviews there. My site's visitor stats increased and I saw that Goodreads was prominent as a "referring site." When I started getting artwork from Debra Grayson (New Day Project) I saw traffic was also coming from her website.
This was great and I wanted to capitalize on the process, but I wasn't sure how. The articles I was reading on the subject seemed too artifical to me. I didn't want to shotgun comments on blogs just to promote myself. That felt phoney and I'm sure it would look that way. All the suggestion I read for "free publicity" seemed too commercial or out-of-reach for me, so I just waited for the still, small voice.
From time-to-time, I would get a request to be added as a "connection" to someone's Info Technology related network on LinkedIn (this is LinkedIn's version of Facebook's friend requests). Since I didn't have a LinkedIn account, I ignored them. Then, on a hunch, I created a LinkedIn account and started accepting connection requests. I started getting more connection requests from people that were connected to the people who I first connected with. These were fellow employees and contractors I knew from my day job and my list of connections grew quickly. This surprised me.
Since then, I've created a Facebook business account and a Twitter account. I've also joined a group in Goodreads and continued to post reviews and comments. Now I don't spend a whole lot of time posting on these social sites. Mostly, they're just "there" to point to my website and blog where I do the lion's share of my writing and posting. The other sites are strands that lead to my web's center. Of course, visitors don't find a predator when they reach my center. My intention is that they find an entertaining and enlightening experience. Many of them must, because my site traffic has increased dramatically over the past year, and I've even picked up a few subscribers to my newsletter.
I've seen in all this, the value of connections that are based on an honest sharing. At this point, mine are mostly Internet-based, but I hope I'm not limited to that. Recently, stemming from our house purchase, I've found a suggestion for a real-time, electronically unmitigated group centered around hearing lectures and presentations of common interest. It's the germ of an idea that I hope develops, and becomes another strand in my web. If it does, I'll talk about it here.
In one of the old Spider-man comics, there was "pin up" page that showed Spider-man standing against a web-filled background and surrounded with portraits of all the stories' major characters. The page was entitled something like, "Spider-man and those who've been caught in his wonderful web." The picture speaks to me of the linked connections of family, friends, and even opponents, that make our lives meaningful and even heroic.
Our webs should be like that.