I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed the tech and social media sessions at EBBC2012. I thought I had a pretty good handle on stuff, but it turns out that I was only about half as good as I thought I was. The reason for this is that although I've fiddled about with all sorts of social media (YouTube, Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and briefly Tumblr, Google+ and Klout), I don't really pay any attention to who is listening and responding to what I say, beyond comments on this blog, Twitter followers, and Facebook feedback.
I still don't know how I feel about this. On one hand, I'm pretty happy with what I do via social media. It's a great network of like-minded and interested individuals, and as I said in the session that I co-hosted, it was having a body of work online that enabled a publisher to find me and commission me to write "500 Beers". Clearly I was doing something right, and crucially, that commission happened just before I was made Beer Writer of the Year 2008 by The British Guild of Beer Writers. I'm sure the award reassured them that taken a flyer on the right person, but they had approached me solely on the basis of my online persona. I'm sure that having video available to them helped to round this out a bit, but ultimately, having a social media portfolio is vital if you want to Take It To The Next Level (as the session with Mark, Marv and me was called).
I was also interested by the idea that you might want to alter your voice and respond to feedback from readers to write content that they were more interested in, points raised in part by Sophie Atherton and Adrian Tierney-Jones. I disagree with this - I say write your own thing, just make sure that spelling and grammar are correct. Very little good ever came by committee, or by trying to mimic someone else. But that's just my opinion. And anyway, Adrian was being somewhat disingenuous - his blog is his Gonzo, Joycean, Proustian outlet. Having read a few draft pages of a book that he's currently writing, it's obvious that he's one of the greats, with a unique voice that is the summation of years of self-taught journalism and, most crucially, of a life lived in (and through) words and literary structure.
But I digress (hey, this is my space to do so). While you can use social media to create a showcase for your talents, content is still king. I'm still not convinced that being popular on social media is the same as being respected, despite what Klout might say. It's probably apposite to conclude on one of my favourite maxims - you can't polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter. But who wants to be a glitter-covered turd?