Online Marketing Lesson 21: Networking Strategy

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In most professional fields, who you know is at least as important as what you know. Blogging is no exception. If you have a good relationship with many bloggers and site owners they will be more likely to link to your posts, recommend your blog to other people and even help you sell a product or service. In other words: networking is the key. In this lesson, we cover strategies you can use to network effectively online.

1. Genuine Relationships

The first principle to keep in mind is that networking is about building genuine relationships. This means that you should not approach people solely because you think they are rich or important. Instead, you should approach people who you respect and whose work you would be glad to recommend to others. Why? Because networking is about finding win-win relationships. Before people help you, you will need to help them. You must be willing to support and contribute to the people in your network.

Another common mistake among beginner bloggers is thinking that they need to become friends with the most popular bloggers in their niche else they won’t succeed. This is not the case. In fact, a better approach is to network with bloggers who are on your same level. They will be much more responsive to begin with, and it will be easier to find ideas or projects where both sides will have something to gain.

2. Make a List

Let’s cover some practical networking tips now. The first one is to build a list with all the active blogs in your niche and possibly in related niches as well. The size of the list will obviously depend on your niche. If you blog about technology, you probably should have at least 200 blogs there. If you blog about orchids, on the other hand, probably it would have fewer than 20. The important thing is that you make your list as complete as possible because this will be the starting point of your networking activities.

Here are some tools and websites that you can use to find blogs inside specific niches:

Creating such a list is important because it will allow you to map the blogs in your niche.

3. Introduce Yourself

Once your list is ready, you want to introduce yourself to all those bloggers. Most blogs have either a contact form or an email address listed somewhere, so use either to get in touch.

Here is how you could craft your message:

  • Be straight about the fact that you are introducing yourself.
  • Mention that you blog in the same niche, and include the URL either in the message itself or in the signature.
  • If you like the content of the blog, say so and mention that you will link to it when possible.

Here is a sample message to illustrate these points:

Hi XYZ,

I am writing just to introduce myself. My name is M, and I also have a blog in the ________ niche. The URL is ________________. I found your content very interesting, and I will definitely be recommending it to my readers.

Best wishes,

M

Your objective in this step is simply to open a communication channel with the blogger and to make him aware of your blog. Don’t write a long email or he will simply ignore it. Don’t ask for something or he will think you are a lurker.

4. Link Out When Possible

A golden rule of networking is “give before you ask.” If you want bloggers and site owners to link to you, link to them first. It would be a good idea to subscribe via RSS to all the blogs on your list. This will be useful both to keep updated with the trends in your niche and to spot good articles from those bloggers. When you come across one, write a post about it, add your opinion to the topic, and link to the source.

You could also write an email to that blogger mentioning that you really liked his article and that you decided to share it with your readers (include the URL of your post so he can read it). This step will ensure that the blogger will know that you linked to him.

Finally, keep in mind that linking out to quality and related content is always a good thing. Many bloggers fear that by linking out they might lose readers or Google PageRank. This is a myth. Your own readers will appreciate if you point them to useful content, and Google itself encourage webmasters to use external links to enrich their sites.

5. Support in Other Ways

Apart from linking often to people in your network, you should also try to support them in other ways. Examples include:

  • recommending their websites to other people,
  • endorsing their products or services,
  • suggesting them for an interview or award,
  • submitting and voting for their posts on social bookmarking sites, and
  • sharing their posts on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

It is when you give without the expectation of getting something back that people start seeing you as a friend.

One resource that you can use for this purpose is the Help A Reporter Out (also called HARO) email newsletter. Once you subscribe to it (it is free) you will receive messages every day with a list of journalists who are looking for people with specific knowledge or expertise to comment on their upcoming news stories. For example, you might receive a message with a journalist looking for a fashion blogger to comment on a story she is writing for the Wall Street Journal. If you one of the people in your network fits the profile you could send the tip her way, and this could lead to some mainstream media publicity.

6. Share Your Best Content

By now you should be asking yourself: “Well, I will do all that stuff for the people in my network, but when will I get something back?” If you try to help people genuinely as we mentioned, they will certainly notice it and be glad to return the favor.

One thing that you can do to encourage this, however, is to share your best content with them. When you publish one of your killer articles, for example, you could send emails to the people in your network with a link to the article. It is important to not beg for a link back, but simply to mention that you believe he or she will like the article. Here is a sample message to give you an idea:

Hi XYZ,

M from the MNP blog here. I just published a post titled “The 20 Best iPhone Applications for Students,” and I believe you will like it.

The URL is ___________________________

Best wishes,

M

With this approach, the person on the other side will be more likely to read the article, as there is no pressure involved. If he likes the content, there is a good chance that he will link to it. If he doesn’t link, however, don’t get frustrated or pissed off. Just keep working on your blog, and sooner or later that person will link to you.

Action Points

  1. Remember that networking is all about building genuine relationships and finding win-win situations.
  2. Build a list with the all the active blogs inside your niche using the resources mentioned in this lesson.
  3. Introduce yourself and start linking out to those blogs when possible.
  4. Support the people in your network in as many ways as possible.
  5. Whenever you write a killer article that is relevant to those bloggers, share it with them via email.

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