“Networking” is a word that is often met with a groan or roll of the eyes. It is seen by some bloggers as a “corporate” or disingenuous practice, done only to further one’s own best interests.
And one might be forgiven for thinking of networking in such a way. Wikipedia defines it as “a socioeconomic activity by which groups of like-minded businesspeople recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities.” That definition does not harmonize well with a great deal of bloggers.
But the fact is, networking is something that you simply must do in order to become a successful blogger. It is unavoidable; it is all around you. Even if you would never consider yourself a “networker”, you probably are, at least to a certain extent.
The Advantages of Networking
There is a famous saying; “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. The underlying message is that your potential for success depends more upon your network than it does on your own talent. Although that is certainly not always the case, there are so many examples of this in life. Actors with little discernible talent who hit the big time because they knew the right people. The daughter of the CEO who seems to be on a guaranteed fast track to success. And the blogger whose content isn’t that great, but still gets thousands of hits a day.
All of these people share a common trait – a well-formed network. Whether it be just one extremely influential person, or several relatively influential people, the cumulative influence of their network serves to promote their own interests effectively.
You probably know of a few people in such positions. Perhaps you resent that they are afforded opportunities based simply upon the strength of their connections. At that juncture of thinking, you can either choose to bemoan their fortune, or play the game.
What Networking Can Do For Bloggers
So there are plenty of examples of how networking in the “real” world can have a positive impact on careers and livelihoods. But what are the benefits for bloggers? Ultimately, many of us do not have an “agenda” – a concrete idea as to where we want our blog to go.
But one thing is for certain – regardless of your priorities, you want more people to read your blog. And networking is perhaps the most effective way of facilitating that. Getting on the radar of influential bloggers can lead to numerous opportunities – whether it be them simply linking to you, sharing your content on social media, or introducing you to powerful people in the blogosphere. There are a multitude of ways in which establishing solid relationships with your peers can benefit your blog’s exposure.
When it comes to effectively promoting your blog, you need to go to where people are – they will not come to you. You try to do this by ranking for popular keywords in search engines, increasing your follower base on social networks, and so on. Networking is another string to your bow – perhaps the most powerful one. There are few things that can have such an immediate and positive impact to your blog than being featured by an influential blogger.
How To Network
Before we move onto the specific methods you can employ in order to increase your network, it is important to touch upon how you should conduct yourself. The last thing you want to do is come across as pushy, or even worse, be considered a spammer.
So first of all, be genuine. Understand your reasons for networking and concentrate on how your actions can benefit both parties. Ultimately you want to promote mutually beneficial relationships, and whilst that may not be possible when you are first starting out, you should always have it in mind. Have confidence that you are bringing something of value to the table.
Respect is also extremely important. Respect for the person you are reaching out to, and for their time. If you do decide to contact someone with the aim of establishing a relationship, do not send them a 5 paragraph email! Keep it short and polite.
Finally, although you may be contacting people you look up to, always remember to treat them as an equal. Many people do not like being put on a pedestal, and few are looking to be mentors for others.
Where To Start
Believe it or not, networking begins on your blog. Every reader you have represents a potential addition to your network. When you are first starting out, you should engage with as many people as possible on your blog, without judgment of how they may or may not be able to assist your growth. Selflessness in this regard will lead to opportunities down the line.
Case studies and interviews can be a wonderful way of expanding the reach of your blog. Even if you are interviewing someone who isn’t particularly influential, you are likely to capture their audience as well as your own. But if you are not ready to go down that route, simply featuring someone on your blog is the next best thing (and is of course easier to pull off).
Try to see your blog as a tool with which you can connect to others – your readers and your peers. And the best way to reach out to your peers is to mention them on your blog, or bring them to it.
Take The Conversation To Their Blog
One of the best ways to reach out to fellow bloggers is to leave comments on their posts. Few bloggers do not appreciate this, and it is the most non-invasive way of making them aware of your presence.
There is however a huge difference between posting, “Great work!”, and actually providing something of true value. Results will vary wildly depending upon the time and effort you put into your comments.
And this article would not be complete without mention of guest posting. If you work hard to produce an article of true quality for another blogger, they will surely appreciate it, and be more willing to further a mutually beneficial relationship down the line.
Beyond that, the social networks are perhaps the next best way to engage with bloggers you have not previously spoken with. Going back to your own blog posts, you should tweet out to any bloggers who you mention. There is nothing wrong with “My Post http://shorturl.com/ special mentions to @blogger1 and @blogger2!”. Whether or not they take the time to check your post out, all bloggers like being mentioned. It’s just another way of getting on people’s radar, and that alone may lead to greater things.
On the flip side, you should be going out of your way to promote their content. One of the best ways to do this and get noticed is to re-tweet their blog posts, but with your own comment. Don’t just hit the button and be done with it – tweet out a link to their post but with your own opinion or comment on the piece. Popular bloggers will see their post being re-tweeted tens or hundreds of times, but if you take a moment to make yours stand out a little, it can make all the difference.
Furthering Your Interaction
Now we’re getting into a more advanced level of networking – one that a lot of people do not practice. It is also an area in which you should pride yourself on being selfless. Although your efforts will not go rewarded by everyone you reach out to, the average effect should be positive.
Get to know your fellow bloggers and what they are interested in. If you find an article that you think may be of interest to someone, don’t be afraid to share it with them – through social media or by email. Gestures like this can be warmly received, and if you pick out an interesting piece to share, it can lead to an ongoing conversation.
One of the most beneficial things you can do for your blog is form a database of contacts and regularly keep up to date with them. Say your blog covers 5 specific topics. You could build up a list of contacts, ordered by category, and email the relevant people when you produce a blog post on one of those topics. It is relevant, non-spammy, and will be of interest to the blogger if you have written a good piece.
Taking It To The Next Level
If you use the above methods over a period of time, you will likely get to become familiar with some influential bloggers in your niche. At that point, you may wish to take things to the next level. Typical ways in which you can do this is by talking on Skype, or even meeting face to face.
If the idea of doing so is rather scary, don’t sweat it – you can be a successful blogger without ever meeting another in person. But doing so can be an extremely valuable experience that results in an extremely valuable relationship.
How Do YOU Network?
We all network – at least to a certain extent. It is all around us. The blog comments, the social media interaction, even the humble email – all represent networking to an extent.
So the question then is – what do you do to further your blog’s exposure through interaction with fellow bloggers? What has been most effective for you? Let us know in the comments section!
Creative Commons images courtesy of ItzaFineDay, janetgalore, Spencer E Holtaway, Marc_Smith, Richard-G and luc legay