In today’s blogosphere a lot of discussion is going on about various aspects of positioning and growing a blog. Even though the space gets more and more crowded every day, and the game is changing constantly, there are still some things everyone tells you to do – things considered as mandatory for any kind of success.
Among various aspects of promotion, advertising, search engine optimization, social media, and all kinds of other stuff lies the need of contacting other, fellow bloggers, and being in touch with people in general.
This post is a part of a series titled – Networking Guide for Bloggers. Be sure to check back next week for more!
Networking is a fancy term, and one that I don’t especially like, to be honest. It strips the whole experience of interacting with other people from all emotion and personal aspects.
Networking sounds strictly “businessy,” which simply doesn’t give a good impression. Reaching out to others, or even making friends are a lot better terms here.
Anyway, we all know that meeting new people is essential for both our own and our blogs’ growth, however in many cases we don’t know how to make the initial step, in a way that we don’t get burned from the get go.
By the way, sending an email with a subject like “link exchange proposition for X” is not an optimal solution! (Please, stop sending me those.)
Furthermore, getting in touch with other people can be even more challenging for people not speaking English natively (myself included). And even when you are a native English speaker it’s not much easier anyway.
Challenges of networking over the internet
You see, communicating with anyone over the internet consists mostly of writing. Essentially, written communication is just that – written, so things like using certain words, and proper punctuation are especially important.
For instance, when you are speaking to someone in person, your tone, voice, and volume of speech create more than 50% of the message, I’d say, but when you are writing the same message none of these things can be used. That’s why there’s so much room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding. And I’m sure the last thing you want is to sound aggressive or maybe even offensive.
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And then there’s the problem of building up the relationship along with time… not asking anyone to marry you too soon, so to speak.
What I mean here is that most of the time, asking a stranger for help doesn’t work. Simply because they don’t care about you. But asking a friend for help works almost every time. How to turn strangers into friends?
Well, the challenge of making new connections online has to be tackled from more than just a single angle, and this is exactly what we’re trying to do in this series.
What is networking?
As I said earlier, I don’t like the word networking. However, I think I’ll continue using it anyway, purely because it’s a single word, and it’s much easier to apply then a two or three word description.
Anyway, networking is not about getting hundreds of pointless business cards during an event. And it’s not about sending hundreds of spam emails in hope that one or two will get a response. So what is it about then?
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For me, networking is the art of meeting new people. Both in the real world and in the online there can be multiple reasons why you want to meet a specific person. It can be business, romance, friendship, let’s-have-a-beer, or whatever else. Here, of course, we’re talking blogging and growing your blog. But blogging is neither purely business nor purely social. It lies somewhere in between.
This makes it particularly difficult because in a purely business-like communication you can send an email starting with “Dear Sir, I’m writing to you to propose my blah blah blah.” In a social relation, on the other hand, you can start with “hey dude, how is U today? Wanna meet 2nite? Blah blah blah.” And in blogging neither one of these is acceptable.
Benefits of networking
Big part of this is obvious. The benefit is that you meet other, likeminded people. So what’s the point of meeting new people? – That’s the question we should be asking.
First of all, there are very few blogs or websites that grew into mainstream popularity all by themselves. Most of the popular sites gained their popularity due to the popularity of other sites. By ways of borrowing it.
Borrowing popularity is a fancy sounding term, but essentially it boils down to getting multiple mentions on other sites. It can happen by obtaining backlinks, being featured in interviews, contacting the webmasters directly, or thousands of other ways.
However, one fact remains, no one, not one webmaster/blogger/website owner will mention you or your site if they don’t have any amount of trust in you and what you do.
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You see, it’s easy to mention and link to sites that are already popular – those that have a massive amount of social proof working for them. For instance, if you see a new product at Problogger you don’t need to hesitate whether you can link to it or not. You don’t have to be afraid that the product will turn out awful and people will be very mad at you for pointing them to it. You know that Darren produces great stuff, to some degree you trust him, and he seems like a credible person … the social proof simply does its job for him.
But if you stumble upon something new, you find it a lot more difficult to endorse such a thing or even link to it … “what if it turns out a scam?” … “what if the site disappears tomorrow?” and so on.
It all becomes a cycle of death, so to speak. Here’s the cycle: If you’re just starting out you can’t get no one to endorse you because no one knows you because you’re just starting out. So what’s the best way out of this cycle?
Yes, you guessed it – networking. By networking with others you can break the cycle at the point of “no one knows you,” and then, sooner or later, all the other pieces shall fall as well.
Borrowing popularity through networking
Ultimately, once you know some people you can borrow their popularity to build your own, and that’s a big benefit.
Don’t believe me? Try to imagine what a plain endorsement from both Darren Rowse and Hongkiat would do for your business. I mean, the case where they both say “go there and buy.” Of course, getting it won’t be easy, but I just needed an example.
All I’m trying to explain here is that building relationships with other fellow bloggers and website owners is the best thing you can do for your online presence. There’s nothing that will do a better job at keeping you on the radar.
You can work on SEO, social media, advertising and all the other tools, but these are all things that greatly depend on other company’s opinion of you.
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For instance, if you build a good position on Google, but one day you get dropped due to an algorithm update, the next day you wake up with nothing. If Facebook or Google shuts down your advertising campaign same thing happens.
But still, no matter what happens you can work with your network of contacts, participate in their projects, do joint ventures, make partnerships, and so on. Essentially, you’re making friends, and I’m sure I don’t need to explain the value of that.
Moreover, by working with other people you’re positioning yourself alongside them. So whenever a complete stranger is considering whether to promote your new product this social proof is something that is very likely to work in your favor.
When people can see that you’ve been working with “Mr. Authority” in your niche then some of that person’s credibility falls on you. Something along the lines of: “if they’ve been working with X then they must be the real deal.”
If you work on this consistently then you can build up your brand in a relatively short span of time. And I’m not saying that anything will get you overnight results here. You still have to be able to put some serious work, but the benefits make it worth the effort.
Is blogging really a strictly online thing?
Even though blogging or blogging as a business seems like a purely online activity it’s not exactly like that. Most of the things happen online, that’s true – you’re publishing your content on the internet, and interacting with other people via various online services, and so on. However, the basic offline world’s principles of growing your venture/business still apply. And the online world didn’t change anything, it just made certain things easier to do.
For instance, the whole concept of networking is nothing new. However, since the internet is around you don’t have to leave your home, and you can connect with multiple people at the same time, but the whole idea still remains the same. And it’s not much different from what your father or grandfather used to do over the phone.
In essence, I think networking is that valuable because people don’t like to do business with companies, or websites … they like to do business with other people. Until you introduce yourself to your online community nothing significant is going to happen in terms of your brand going viral. If you don’t do this yourself no one will bother to take this step for you.
This concludes the first part of the series, next week we’ll have a word on setting goals for networking. Until then don’t forget to subscribe to get the posts delivered straight to your inbox.
Lastly, feel free to tell me what you think about the whole concept. Do you find networking valuable? Which side you’re on – do you think that who you know matters more than what you know, or the other way around?