How to Start Networking When You Don’t Know a Single Person on the Internet

This is a guest post by Mandy Kilinskis.

networking hand shake

When I joined my company’s marketing team a little more than a year ago, I was told, more or less, to start reading blogs, commenting on them, and seeking out guest posts.

My reaction? Comment-who? Network-where? Guest post-what?

I was new to the marketing/blogging community and had absolutely no idea where to start.

Sound familiar?

Here’s the secret: regardless of your niche, you have to start with good, old-fashioned networking and relationship building. What you know is undeniably important, but so is who.

So I wanted to share with you how I started networking so you can have a place to start your own relationship building. Keep in mind that there isn’t an exact formula to making friends, and that even a year later, I’m still working at networking.

Grab a Little Guidance

Your first option is to try a simple Google search with “[your niche] + blog.” For example, if you write for a knitting blog, your results will look something like this:

Now, this isn’t every single awesome knitting blog out there, but it’s a good place to start. Google has deemed these blogs as the cream of the crop, so other knitting enthusiasts will be flocking to these sites.

knitting blogs

Also ask your supervisor, coworkers, or any business contacts you have what blogs they like to read. As a blogger, you’ll probably be directed to big names like Copyblogger, Problogger, and Chris Brogan.

These are great places to start, but I’ll let you know now – you’re not going to become best friends with Chris Brogan after reading his blog for a month.

See If You Actually Know Anyone

If you’re not completely new to social media, there’s a good chance that you’re already following a couple of bloggers in your niche.

Check out your Facebook subscriptions, Google+ circles, and/or the people you follow on Twitter. I like scrolling all the way down to the bottom of my following list on Twitter and then hitting control + F (or command + F for Apple users) and searching for “blog.”

bloggers on twitter

Christian Hollingsworth and Jeremy Schoemaker were within the first 100 people I followed on Twitter. Considering that they are flanked by college friends and news syndicates, they must’ve made an impact on me when I was just starting out on Twitter in 2009.

Check out the users you find and their blogs. There has to be a reason that you followed them in the first place. Start visiting a couple that you find interesting.

If you are completely new to social media, start adding these bloggers to your Google+ circles, Facebook subscriptions, and Twitter following. Social media is definitely crucial to relationship building!

Leave Some Comments

Nobody is going to know you’re there if you don’t speak up and be heard. So leave comments on posts on these big name blogs and any that you may have picked up from social media. Compliment the author on the post (triple check to make sure you have the right name!) and either pick out a piece that you like or pose a question.

Don’t be afraid! It may seem intimidating to leave your name and thoughts in a comment section, but people on the internet (outside of YouTube) are generally pretty nice. Even if the blog owner doesn’t reply to you, other readers might be able to answer a question that you have.

Also, don’t force yourself to leave a comment if you don’t legitimately have anything to say. Writers can smell a forced comment a mile away. It’s better to be known as someone who comments every so often with insight than someone that just spams every single post so they can get a backlink.

Still nervous to leave a comment? Don’t be. The trick is to get started. All bloggers have been where you are now at one point, and as I said, they’re all generally pretty nice.

Here, if it makes you feel better, I’ll link you to one of the first blogs I ever commented on. Looking back, I cringe that I ever put this in writing. However, it started a conversation with the blog owner, and I still talk to him on Google+ nowadays. This comment was the beginning of a relationship.

Analyze Those Blogs for Other Bloggers

Now that you’ve eased into the practice of commenting, it’s time to really start networking.

Take note of two kinds of people on both big name blogs and other blogs that you’ve stumbled across: the people who leave comments regularly and/or help people in the comment section, and people who are guest posting on a whole bunch of the blogs you’re reading.

Those are the people you want to get to know. As Tom Ewer of Leaving Work Behind has said, you need to network with those around you.

Let me give you a real life example that started right here on Kikolani.

Kikolani was one of the blogs that my supervisor suggested I start reading. After a few weeks of reading it, a guest post by Leo Widrich from Buffer went live. It was about Twitter and blogging, which were two things I knew a decent amount about.

Leo wrote an insane amount of guest posts to build awareness and buzz for Buffer, and I started to see his name pop up on just about every social media blog I read.

Since I totally dug his Twitter tips, I decided to start reading the Buffer blog. I loved the actionable advice in the posts and following Buffer’s progress. Steadily, I started commenting on the posts and sharing them on my social networks.

About a month or so later, Buffer posted a guest post by Gregory Ciotti. And at the bottom with the author bio, Leo added that Buffer was starting to accept guest posts:

I was so excited to have the chance to write for the Buffer blog that I immediately started making an outline of a potential guest post for them. I pitched it to Leo the next day, and he accepted it. Over the course of the past year, I’ve written three posts for Buffer, including my best-performing blog post ever: 7 Ways I Accidentally Got Twitter Followers (and 7 Ways You Can on Purpose!).

Speaking of Greg, he’s also one of the first blogger friends I made online. After that initial guest post on Buffer, I started seeing his name everywhere.

If you’ve read anything by Greg, you know that he’s a no-fluff, all-action kind of writer. Every time I read one of his posts, I learn something. In turn, I leave comments for him and share his posts on my social network accounts.

And he’s been an equally terrific friend back. Greg’s shared some of my articles on Twitter and Google+, left comments on some of my blog posts, and mentioned me in a post. Note: I never asked him to do any of these things. We’re just two bloggers that want to help each other out.

Remember Christian Hollingsworth from earlier in the post? I posted comments on his blog, pitched him a guest post, and I’ve written multiple guest posts for him.

All of these relationships are results from months of conversing via blog comments, social media, and email.

But this is just one way to start building relationships. Here’s another:

Share Your Knowledge

Now that you’ve been blogging for a while, made some new friends, and have a better feel of the online [your niche here] community, you should start sharing your expertise with others.

First, make sure that you always reply to comments on your guest posts. It’s still maddening to me that bloggers take the time to write a great guest post, send it over to another blog, and then abandon it completely. It’s just bad manners to not reply to a single comment.

Second, when you’re in the comments section of popular blogs, many of those commenters ask questions. If there are tons of comments, the author doesn’t seem to be replying, and you have a good answer, feel free to jump in and offer an answer.

I did this in the comments section of a Social Media Examiner post last year. Someone asked about how they could tweet while away from Twitter for the majority of the day. Since the post had over 100 comments, I decided to jump in and offer my two cents.

My reply turned into a multi-comment discussion.

social media examiner discussion

Best of all, David ended up following over to the Quality Logo Products blog and became a frequent commenter. He still tweets out many of our articles, comments now and then, and I have no doubt that he’s driven traffic that’s converted to sales.

And above all…

Don’t Be a Jerk

Nobody likes a jerk. People are going to want to connect with you because they find you interesting, helpful, and kind. Feel free to disagree and challenge, but not in a harmful or malicious way.

Calling someone an idiot won’t get you anywhere. And really, do you even want to connect with someone you think is an idiot?

Believe me, let your kindness and intrigue shine through, and you’ll already be a step ahead of a whole bunch of the internet population.

So are you feeling better yet?

The internet can be a huge, overwhelming place. But by finding some awesome, like-minded individuals and treating them the way you want to be treated, you’ll be creating new relationships in no time.

Have you tried any of these techniques? Are you still struggling in your networking efforts? Let me know in the comments!

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Comments

  1. says

    Wonderful post, Mandy! Networking in person and via the internet has never been my strongest suit, so your post gave me some great ideas :)

    I really liked the one about checking out your Twitter friend’s bios for #blogger keywords. That’s a simple and quick way to begin a search for your next guest post.

    Thanks for all the helpful info, I know it’ll help me a lot!
    amy just posted The Power of Pouch Packaging: Drink Pouches Are Making a Comeback

  2. Bret Bonnet says

    Very interesting…

    As an employer, I plan on printing this blog post out and adding it to my marketing department’s training materials. This post is a real eye opener. Both in terms of how to network online, but also what tools, resources, and guidance an employer should give their employees in order for them to be successful in this regards.

    Social media is very powerful, but as a marketing tool, it’s still relatively new. It’s also so dynamic that what works for one company or person might not necesarilly work for the next. It can be a difference maker and/or a total waste of time and money… It all depends on who you know (as this post points out) and how well you execute your plan.

    SIDE NOTE: I hate how every trade organization makes social media sound like the cure for every small business owners marketing ails. Social Media is arguably the most TIME consuming (but rewarding) form of marketing today!

  3. says

    Hi Mandy,

    It is a lot about really digging in your heels and seeing who you can connect. with. Chances are you’re not going to know people personally so it’s going to be your job as an online business owners to help others become familiar with you, and that’s where consistency comes in.

    I actually spent a few days, looking up and researching blogs and individuals that I felt were important to connect with in my niche and made a checklist. These are the people and blogs I’ll visit, comment on regularly and connect with every day or as much as I can. A lot of networking is about being consistent.

    Liz :-)
    Liz McGee just posted Blog Post Checklist for Publishing and Sharing

  4. says

    Don’t be a jerk – now that’s good advice for life! Haha.

    I’ve only recently started branching out to try and connect with people in my niche. Although I’ve been building websites for a while I only recently started my first blog, so I’m definitely learning a few things about proper networking through trial and error. It’s been a very interesting experience so far and articles like yours show I’m on the right track.
    Garrett just posted Trading with Range Bars – What They Are and Why You Should Be Using Them

  5. says

    There is something funny about reading blogs about blogging and how to start blogging… And the funniest thing? This type of blogs is exactly what I need right now since I am not a professional writer however I need (and love!) to communicate with people about the exact things that I care about (and some would say that I also know about).

    Thanks for the article Mandy, some really good and very practical advice here.
    George just posted Architecture and home design | Invisible and visible design

  6. says

    I don’t BELIEVE in Luck and never want to, but somewhere I feel no matter if I believe or not, the Luck FACTOR does matter.
    Most of the popular bloggers got a lot of hits simply because of a little mention over their works, and a little in their blog means a LOT!
    And the most successful to ever get such a hit is Katrina Padron, who just exploited the Drafting Techique of Derek Halpern.
    But thanks, Mandy for reminding me that Luck is just an excuse for lazy people who don’t want to know what is Hard Work.
    Thanks again :)
    So the blogosphere, HERE I COME! Heee Haaaa
    Kylex just posted Niche Marketing – A Beginners Guide

  7. says

    Wow, Mandy – I must say I am really impressed; it’s a great post!

    One thing I’d add is not giving up too quickly. It might take a few comments to get noticed, and that’s OK.

    Also, love your tip on answering questions when the host blogger isn’t – I think it’s an incredible way to gain credibility and exposure.
    Ana just posted Ana Loves: My Internet Marketing Rolodex

  8. says

    It’s true! “Don’t be a jerk” holds true in all areas of life. :) Networking is one of the most enjoyable parts of establishing a name in your field. Meeting people who have similar interests is always fun, and you may find yourself making connections with amazing people who you can’t imagine not knowing.

  9. says

    Mandy,

    Thanks for reminding me of that interaction! Some websites are great at “sub-discussion threads” amongst the commenters, and that one is one of them. And as you suggest, a great strategy is to pick up some of those folks and engage them. The very fact that they are commenting means they are willing. It’s wht social media is all about!

    One added dimension ot our interaction was that Mandy then went to comment on my blog as well, and it was then that I realized she was from Quality Logo, the site that won the Most Valuable Blogger – Chicago contest of which I was a finalist. I am certain that I suffer “Stockholm Effect”!

    Dave W.
    david k waltz just posted How Cloud Computing is an Example of Finance Principles

  10. says

    Networking is key to success.

    I bet everyone has heard that a million times.

    And everyone that has succeeded, started out without knowing a single person.

    What I love about this article is searching for other fellow people through social media.

    Now, that is how we should use social media.
    Samuel just posted How To Drive Traffic To Your Website!

  11. says

    Mandy, you are so right when you say not to leave a comment if you don’t have something to say. When I first started networking online, I truly didn’t have much to say. But as I became more “educated” and knowledgeable, I found my courage and learned how to contribute my own opinion. So the only other tip I would add is, take your time until you find your voice.
    Suzanne just posted A Financial Advisor Business Plan Template You’ll Want to Use

  12. says

    Excellent post Mandy, It was quite hard for me when I started networking online about 5 years back when I started blogging, I did not know anyone and then I got to meet a lot of great people online. Today, I have a healthy networking and have met some great people, Christian, Adrienne, Bryce, and the list goes on.

    Thanks for sharing your expert opinion.
    Eddie Gear just posted Blog Names

  13. says

    I’m glad you pointed out the importance of double and triple checking the blog author’s name before leaving a comment. I mean, it’s not the end of the world if you overlook the guest author’s name and direct your comment toward the blog owner’s name: stuff happens, and you can always post a follow-up to clarify. But speaking from experience, it’s kind of disheartening when commenters do that because you can’t help but think “Hey, I wrote this!” Haha. Anyway, great tip!

    It’s so much fun to meet new people on blogs, isn’t it? If I didn’t read the comments sections of blogs and follow links, then I probably never would have met some of my favorite blogger friends. :)

    Awesome post, Mandy!
    Jill Tooley just posted Mint.com and Money Management: Is This Free Service Worth the Effort? | A Newbie’s Review

  14. says

    I swear, this is one of the best posts I have ever read on the correct way to network and truly utilize social media as a useful tool for meeting others (especially in your chosen platform).

    So many people seem to treat blogs and social media sites as this strange world where there aren’t real people, which is a rather silly way of looking at it. Someone has to provide the content, and if you enjoy it, perhaps reaching out to that person will foster a kinship with someone that you will have more than just one article in common with. I have met some of the best people I know via the internet. One of the most successful activities I have participated in, when trying to build my own website, was finding others like me, and showing them my genuine interest in what they’re doing, and building a rapport with them.

    I have never understood those who take the time to say nasty things. Didn’t they learn if they don’t have anything nice to say…then to just be quiet? Sometimes I wonder.

    This was wonderful and refreshing and I am so happy I found this today. Thank you.

    • says

      Christy, you are so incredibly welcome and thank you for the kind words about the post! I’m really glad that you liked it!

      Your comment put it perfectly; there are people behind blogs and social media, and they’re generally awesome people that can become fast friends.

      Yeah, I’m not sure what the naysayers of the world think that they’re going to accomplish by tearing others down. It’s bizarre to me.

      Thank you again for taking the time to leave such a fantastic comment. I really appreciated it! :)
      Mandy Kilinskis just posted Tackling Trade Shows Like A Pro: 10 Articles to Ensure Convention Success

  15. says

    Nice Mandy,
    You really write inside feeling of a fresher.. I also face same problem when I started my career in marketing/blogging community. the way you guide us to start for marketing/blogging in our niche is really ultimate a fresher can start with enthusiasm. Networking is essential in marketing as much as your network grow your marketing w’ll also grow.

    Thanks for sharing with us….