This is the fifth post in the “Content Connections” series.
I’m here to tell you a dreadful truth about online business and marketing.
While you can, in fact, make money in your underwear, there are limits to how antisocial you get to be.
The web isn’t really made up of algorithms. It’s made of people. In all their frustrating, imperfect, and complicated glory.
Don’t get me wrong. Systems are smart. Automation has its place. Creating functional processes will do a lot for your project or business.
But at the end of the day, you still have to deal with people.
One of the most critical aspects to building an audience for your business is making high-quality connections with other web publishers. From SEO to reputation management to growing traffic to your site, connections matter.
Which leads us to today’s topic. Here’s how you can make high-quality connections with bloggers and other content publishers in order to find a wider audience for your own content.
You don’t have to suck up or turn into some weird networking-addicted phony. Here’s what to do instead:
The 3 Foundational Building Blocks
Before you can start making connections, you have to build from a place of strength. Make sure you have these elements in place before you start reaching out, or you’ll find that your networking takes you in the wrong direction.
1. Build something worth talking about
Influential people — whether they’re celebrities, business leaders, or web publishers with large audiences — virtually always have one thing in common.
They have a lot of people coming forward who would like to engage their attention.
If you’re known for doing something interesting and useful, it makes it a million times easier to make the connections you want to make.
- Josh Kaufman created the Personal MBA to empower professionals to educate themselves more effectively, quickly, and cheaply than they could with a traditional MBA. That’s remarkable.
- Amber Rogers created GoKaleo to help women recognize the predatory tactics of fitness and diet gurus, get off the self-hatred bandwagon, and think critically about health, nutrition, and fitness. That’s remarkable.
- Adam Baker and Grant Peele produced the documentary I’m Fine, Thanks, showcasing the lives of dozens of people who have worked to free themselves from complacency and traditional assumptions. The film inspires and challenges viewers to take a hard look at their own lives. That’s remarkable.
None of those people has any trouble making connections with influencers … because they’ve done something that lots of people will want to know more about.
Do something epic — even if it’s epic on a micro scale. One great project will open doors you didn’t even know existed.
The simplest way to do something epic? I bet you know the answer to this one. And yes, a genuinely interesting blog absolutely counts.
2. Be a good egg
Anyone can get social media attention by being an ass. And, as we have seen again and again, many do.
But making an ass of yourself only gets you attention … it does nothing for your influence.
All of the networking advice in this post depends on you being a good egg.
Be positive. Share content that’s helpful. Put your best foot forward. Make more friends than you do enemies.
It’s fine to hold some controversial opinions. In fact, next week we’re going to talk about how that can be a great way to stake out a remarkable position with your audience.
But if you pick fights 90% of the time, you’ll become known as someone who only knocks down. You need to be known as someone who can build.
Be nice until it’s time to not be nice. ~Dalton’s Rule #3 from Road House
3. Be interesting
Everyone likes to hear “I love your work.” But if that’s the sum total of what you have to say, the conversation fizzles fast.
(There are a few influencers who can spin your love of their work into an hour-long self-appreciation monologue. Thank goodness, these people are pretty rare.)
Have a point of view, think critically about your topic, ask interesting questions, and stay informed.
No matter how crowded your topic, there’s always room for someone who can think and speak intelligently about it.
The 3 Places You’ll Create Connections
Now that your foundation is set, you need places to actually get out and find your influencers.
4. Spark the connection on Twitter
Right now, Twitter is one of the best venues for sparking connections with content publishers. It’s not as popular with the general public as Facebook is … but it’s often more popular with bloggers and content creators.
Remember your foundation. Be helpful, be charming, be interesting, and point to remarkable things. (Including remarkable things created by other people.)
Twitter works because it’s easy to find your favorite influencers and it’s a low-risk environment. It’s relatively easy to approach even folks with large audiences … just “@” them.
It’s also a noisy environment, so it can take some time to make yourself heard. Don’t let that worry you. Get out and start putting your friendly, useful face forward.
5. Deepen the relationship on Facebook or Google+
Twitter is great, but 140 characters is a pretty significant limitation.
At some point, you’ll want to deepen connections by going further with the conversation on a platform that supports that. Depending on who you’re talking with, Facebook and Google+ are two great venues right now.
(Although for your influencers, it may be Tumblr or Reddit or a particular online forum. Focus on the principle, not the platform.)
Longer-format platforms allow for more complexity and better continuity. Contribute to a conversation worth having. Remember your foundation.
6. Do some serious deals in meatspace
“Meatspace” is the cyberpunk term for what
boring normal people call the real world.
You can make some amazing connections online, but if you can swing it, always try to take things face-to-face at some point.
Conferences are a great way to solidify lots of connections over a couple of days. Meet for coffee, or a drink, or breakfast. Have conversations in hallways.
When you get a chance to meet face to face, take it. It often creates a whole new level of engagement that can last for years and yield surprising benefits.
The 3 Don’ts
It wouldn’t be a good list post if I didn’t throw in a couple of warnings. There are a few things you can do that will make your efforts at connection much less successful.
Avoid these three in particular:
7. Don’t whine
Oh, you’re a blogger? What do you complain about? ~Julien Smith
It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of constant whining and complaint on social media.
Whining, as any parent can tell you, is profoundly irritating. And so often, what feels like “making conversation” to us comes across as whining to the poor suckers on Facebook or Twitter who are reading us.
We all need a little pity party sometimes. Call a friend and ask her for coffee (and give her fair warning that you’re in a whiny mood.) Don’t make a habit of dumping your bad day all over your social media connections.
8. Don’t gossip
If you don’t have anything nice to say, come over here and sit right by me.
Talking about others behind their back is so seductive. Most of us do it, and most of us secretly find it rather delicious.
But it’s dangerous.
When you tell a long, unflattering story about someone I like, you’ve damaged your ability to connect with me. And you may have no idea you’ve done it.
You’ve also taken a very real risk that I’ll run back and tell my friend what you’ve been saying.
Your career (and your psyche) would be better off if you simply never talked about anyone when they weren’t present.
That goal’s a little lofty (and I’m far from there myself, trust me), but try to get into the habit of thinking twice (or three times) before you share a juicy story. The reputation you save may be your own.
9. Don’t squee all over your shoes
I stole this phrase from the lovely and remarkable Pace Smith.
The thing is, I know where you’re coming from. I’m a fan girl too. I’ve got my own heroes, and I have to fight that urge to babble when I meet them.
But if your hero is worth your admiration, she probably gets a little weirded out when people treat her as something Better-than-Human.
Again, it’s great to let people know you’re enjoying their work. Enthusiasm is a lovely quality. Step #3 can be helpful here. If you’re geeking out about the topic (rather than about the person), you can often find some common ground.
And one last point …
10. It doesn’t always work the way you thought it would
Way back when I started my first blog, I secretly imagined that one day I was going to have tea & crumpets with Seth Godin every day.
Turns out I can’t really eat crumpets … all that gluten’s no good for me. Also, possibly more to the point, Seth just wasn’t all that interested. (To be clear … he’s always been very nice. Just not daily-crumpets-level nice.)
On my path, one of my goals was to some day develop a good working relationship with Seth Godin. Things didn’t work out exactly how I had visualized. But a bunch of other good stuff happened on that path, and I did end up building great working relationships with lots of other amazing people.
You have to follow the path you’re actually on. Which sometimes bears only slight resemblance to the one that was originally in your head.
The plan is nothing; planning is everything. ~Dwight Eisenhower
Do have goals. Do have some folks in mind that you’d love to create professional relationships with.
Then do a bunch of epic stuff, be a good egg, know your topic, and make yourself useful, and see where the real path leads.
It’s going to go somewhere good. Just be ready for a few interesting twists.
This is part five of the Content Connections series
This post is part of a series on making connections with other web publishers — the kinds of connections that will serve your business.
It’s the other half of content marketing — what happens after you’ve created something worth reading.
To get the full series, just stay tuned here at Copyblogger. If you haven’t already, why not subscribe by email so you’ll be sure you don’t miss any of the posts.
You can read the first four posts here:
- What Michael Phelps’ 19th Olympic Medal can Teach You About Smarter Online Marketing
- Score More Traffic, Subscribers, and Buyers by Discovering Your Second Customer
- How to Win a Zero-Sum Game: What to Do if Competitors Won’t Link to You
- The Granola-Munching Hippie’s Guide to All-Natural SEO
Awesome Flickr Creative Commons image by clairity