The Butcher, Baker, Blogger series is becoming a monthly habit with me. This month, the 3rd month anniversary of the Food Bloggers Network, I'd like to talk a bit about networking. Now, I don't claim to be some sort of networking guru, but I've noticed over the years that many people either don't recognize the value of networking or don't really understand how to do the work inherent in networking.
Yes, networking is work.
What does networking mean to you? I believe the best definition of networking is the following: "a process where you develop long term relationships with others for mutual benefit."
Many people think that the introduction is the important part. They show up at a networking event or join a networking group and then think, "OK, someone will come up and talk to me or email me." But that doesn't involve the work part of networking. The introduction is only the first step. The follow-up is what turns the introduction into the long term relationship.
Let's take a look at three hypothetical bloggers: A, B, and C. All three join the Food Bloggers Network. Blogger A joins, never posts an introduction, doesn't update the Member Listing, and rarely joins in the conversation. Blogger A will not find much value in the group because no one knows who Blogger A or what he/she is all about. It's as if Blogger A doesn't exist because no work is being accomplished. Blogger B doesn't post an introduction, but does update the member listing and sometimes joins in the conversation. Maybe there will be some interactions, and it's better than Blogger A, but Blogger B is only putting in a minimum amount of work. Now let's talk about Blogger C. Blogger C posts an introduction that lets people know who he/she is. Blogger C not only updates their member listing, but goes through the list, follows the other members on their Twitter or Facebook pages, and says something such as, "hello - I found your page through FBN. I'm looking forward to connecting." During the week Blogger C contributes in well-reasoned and thoughtful ways to the questions being raised as well as asking their own questions when appropriate. Now we're getting somewhere! Blogger C is working the networking.
Turning On the Work vs. Turning Off the Networker
I should start this section by saying I've never personally seen a Food Bloggers Network member make the following mistakes.
It is absolutely critical to maintain a well-defined balance between being involved and being pushy. The vast majority of reasonable people instantly recognize that there is a difference between following people and spamming. But a small minority of folks I meet are under the misapprehension that if they list their blog on everything they do you'll be enthralled and become an instant convert and proselytizer to their cause. There is a big difference between saying, "hi! I'm pleased to meet you!" and "hi! I'm pleased to meet you! Since you clearly think I'm the most awesome thing in the world, you should follow me at themostamazingblogever.com."
Yeeeaaah... nooooo.... I was just saying hi... but thanks.
Say hello. Be normal. Be natural. When someone tweets you about a great instagram pic you posted say, "thank you!" not "thank you! You should read the post here: themostamazingpostever.com."
Yeeeaaaah.... noooo..... I was just complimenting you... but thanks.
Picture it differently. Let's say you went to a cocktail party and were introduced to your host's friend, "Oh hi, I'm Jessica. I'm also friends with Jane; nice to meet you!" Which would you respond with: A) "Hi! I'm Sally. Isn't Jane great? How did you meet her?" or would you say B) "Hi! I'm Sally. I sell a product. You should buy my product."
Big difference, right? Even though you're working, it needs to grow naturally through a long term relationship leading to mutual benefit. The sentence after "hello" is not a long term relationship. You have to work the network to build the network.
It's called Social Media, not Robot Media
While we're on the subject of networking please, please don't install bots and if you use them - stop it. Right now. Go uninstall them. Why? Well, let's consider the subject:
Raise your hand if you've ever followed someone on twitter, received an auto-reply saying, "I'm looking forward to teaching you great cooking tips! Follow me at themostamazingblogever.com!" and then, this is the kicker - actually clicked through and followed that person.
No? You didn't?
Why not? Because it's really annoying. If I like what you have to say (the 3 C's of good blogging: content, content, content) I'll follow your page. But if I'm just checking you out and you start off as lacking authenticity? Well, it gets you unfollowed pretty damn quick.
Even worse? Following someone just to get followed and then having your bot unfollow them. Did you follow that? I've noticed a new trend where I'll get followed, go to the person's twitter page to check them out and think, "yes, I could get down with what you're saying." I click follow and their follow count instantly tabs up one while their following count instantly tabs down one. Wait? Did I just see you unfollow me before my very eyes? Man, you didn't even give me a chance to be witty or creative! Just, "you are the weakest link - goodbye!" Do you really think I'm going to continue following you after that or even have a good opinion of you?
Yeeeeah.... noooooo..... but thanks for trying to trick me into inflating your follow numbers.
The Moral of the Networking Story
There is a lot more I could say about networking and working the work, but I've leave off here for now. The moral of the tale of networking is this: be yourself. Be genuine. Be sincere. Be active. Be proactive. Be helpful to others. That is how you build a network of individuals who will, over time, want to help you succeed.
And to my Food Bloggers Network members & friends - thank you for sticking with me on this ride. Happy 3 months.