Networking, just saying the word used to make my skin crawl and turn me into one hot mess. Fast-forward 13 years and that initial hesitation and fear have dramatically subsided, it’s actually something I genuinely enjoy. Since working in one of the most sociable industries, media & advertising, I’ve learnt to overcome the nerves and most importantly, change my mindset to see networking in a positive light, an opportunity to be precise. I now prefer to use the word connecting, it sounds more soulful and humanistic, which it should as it’s all about meeting like-minded people right?
‘Connecting’ today is somewhat different, there is the traditional face-to-face kind and then there is on-line, whether it’s via social media, blogs or websites. Face to face contact accelerates building trust where as on-line breaks through any geographical boundary. Both are independently valuable, however if you have the opportunity to combine the two, it becomes extremely powerful. As building relationships are a fundamental to any successful business or blog, I’m thrilled to share with you my top tips on conquering the fear and How-To steps to connect in-person & online.
Some shared thought starters
- Be authentic & sincere
- Have the best intentions. Your newly found relationship should be mutually beneficial
- Do your research on whom you’d like to connect with and learn more about them
- Look at people within your niche as well as neighbouring niches, blogs or businesses that may share a similar reader demographic or customer base
- Treat everyone on the same playing field - don’t be the fan or alternatively come across as superior
- Let the relationship grow naturally as you build trust, mutual respect and understanding.
- Embrace the ‘spark’/bond if it happens or be prepared to move on if not, no relationship should be forced
- Most importantly, have fun!
- Have confidence – It’s only natural to feel a bit nervous. Acknowledge the nerves, accept them (don’t beat yourself up) and move forward.
- Whether it’s listening to Whitney’s “I’m Every Woman”, wearing your favourite red lippy or in my case wearing HIGH heels, choose your ammo & walk into a room with full confidence and a smile.
- Being prepared & doing your research will help ease the nerves too
- Timely – pick your moment
- Introduce yourself as an equal (because you are!), not as a ‘fan’. This actually makes people feel quite uncomfortable. It’s totally okay to acknowledge their work, but follow through with your own thoughts & ideas on the subject. Think about what you may have in common & strike up a conversation!
- Start by asking lots of questions – the conversation will then naturally open it self up and eventually lead to more involvement from you
- Know your ‘Elevator pitch’ - I promise this is not as scary as it sounds. It’s being able to describe your blog or business within a couple of sentences, simply & succinctly. Practice on your loved ones. You’ve heard the Albert Einstein saying, “If you can’t explain it to your six year old, you don’t understand it yourself”
- If all else fails, spot a fellow lone ranger and together meet new people
- Exchange business cards or social media accounts and say you’d love to stay connected
- Follow up post meeting
- Be proactive and leave thought provoking comments on blog posts and/or websites
- Reply to all comments left on your blog – these people are already highly engaged in your work
- Social Media – Follow & actively participate in conversations
- Mention other bloggers/people in your social media
- Request to interview or ask if they’d like to contribute a post (with links back to their blog/business)
- Email – keep it friendly, short & succinct. You can use your ‘Elevator pitch’ here too. Get straight to the point as early as you can, avoid waffling as most people will first skim over an email received from an unknown sender
- Check spelling, tone & language and then check again. You can use tools like this too.
Over time I’ve come to realise that most people have felt the same trepidation and are genuinely over the moon when someone reaches out to say “Hi”. So why you ask is connecting so important? Hopefully these benefits encourage you to get proactive & start reaching out yourself:
- Establish a supportive network whom you can learn from, share ideas & knowledge
- Build credibility & raise your profile amongst wider circle/niche
- Potential collaboration on future projects
- Increased confidence
- Increase your customer base/readership via comment backlinks & social media activity
- Exposure to more opportunities
- New friendships with like-minded people
Remember the goal is to make valuable mutually beneficial connections, not an infinity of meaningless ones.