Networking has been a buzzword in job hunting and career-changing for at least 30 years. It can be defined as exploiting any connections one already has to make more connections that will expand and enhance a career search, or promote a business. Back in the 1980s, in the era of DOS, fern bars, and pussycat bow ties worn with skirted suits, it required imagination, self-knowledge, confidence, and courtesy, to use networking successfully to enhance a career search or promote one’s self or one’s business. These same characteristics are needed today, although the face-to-face element is less significant. Let’s look at the ways one can accomplish networking to promote a blog or website using the tools and resources currently available.
Where did this idea of networking arise? In the Reagan 80s, when the MBA was newly fashionable, masses of young people pursued business who might not, in an earlier generation, have had such opportunities. Their families and communities did not necessarily possess the advantageous business connections satirized in the movie The Graduate. The protagonist in this 1960s film is drawn aside by a family friend and advised to go into ‘plastics’, an industry wherein, presumably, this gentleman might be able to offer a good word on behalf of the clueless graduate. That sort of pre-positioned contact is a privilege of the privileged. The rest of us had to make our connections. This writer believes that the changing demographics of business were at least partly responsible for the growth of networking. This was when, for example, gatherings and events began to be planned purely for business networking.
Today, similar democratization is occurring for those who have an idea, a skill, a product, or a message to share. Thanks to the internet, bloggers, small businesspeople, and consultancies can start and even survive on the web alone. But can they thrive? Can they grow and reach the maximum audience just by being out there? This is where networking shines.
First things first
Just as in the dinosaur era, you should start with a careful self-assessment. You cannot present yourself effectively in person or via the web unless you know what it is you do well and what your goals are.
Then consider all the people you know. These are folks who are most likely to give you a sympathetic and enthusiastic hearing. For example, let your email list know that you have a blog, or business, or cause, to which they can connect.
Use social media
Social media are your best and cheapest avenue for widening your circle. Setting up a page on Facebook for your blog or business is a bit different from setting up a page for a person. You can be discoverable, but you don’t “friend” others in the same way you do as an individual socially. However, there is nothing to stop you from (politely and non-intrusively) asking all your personal Facebook friends to visit your business or blog Facebook page, like it, comment, and follow it. This gives you a chance to communicate with potential supporters/customers.
If you have a Facebook page, it is easy to have a Twitter account as well. Just be very cautious about what you post. Keep it professional, useful, and less than frequent, or this can become a burden on those who choose to follow you.
LinkedIn, as impressive as it seems, has been so cumbersome to work with that it may not be helpful. It is irritating to many people to be recruited to join LinkedIn, and it is very easy to click on the wrong button and end up sending out hundreds of solicitations without realizing it. However, if you have the logistics of LinkedIn licked, it is another wonderful way of alerting people that you are blogging and ready for readers.
Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest all offer opportunities to place your blog name and website link in front of others. Just be aware that users of these social media are not necessarily coming there for an ad. Connect, don’t merely promote. Find others with common interests and expertise with whom to share information. If you start a compelling discussion thread, others will check it out, add their two cents, and notice that you have a blog of your own elsewhere.
Find potential allies
Search out the Facebook pages, LinkedIn, pages, Twitter accounts, and websites of anyone with a similar set of concerns. If you have a product to discuss, consider that anyone who produces the constituent parts of your product may be interested. That is clever networking.
Any individual or organization that discusses a rival idea or product is also potentially interested, and more importantly, their readers may be interested. If you follow the blogs of others and comment politely – identifying yourself as a blogger on a similar topic – you may garner new readers yourself.
The rules of thumb for networking are the same on the web as in person. You are asking the other person to extend your reach. If they are not interested in your blog or business, then you hope to convince them to send you on to someone who might be. This is so easy now because they only need to forward a link to your blog or website, with perhaps the notation “this looks like it might interest you”. Courtesy, imagination, and a clear sense of what you have to offer yourself will help you to exploit the ever-expanding resources of the web to extend your reach.