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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!