3 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Networking Skills

Promoting websites online, just like in the offline world, is about finding the right people with the right resources and having them help you get the word out. By yourself, you are nowhere near as effective as when you have a network of contacts and friends working together to help you promote your new venture.

Social NetworkHow do we do this? There are three key steps:

  1. Building the network
  2. Making the right contacts
  3. Leveraging the network

This article discusses the above topics and shows you how to build a network of contacts you can use to get more traffic to your website. That’s not the only purpose of such a network – you can use a network in various ways – community intelligence, resource pool, business opportunities, and much more.

In short, if you want to learn how to build your social network of contacts, this article is for you. Read on…

The Big Networking Secret: It’s Easy

Now before we get to the list (I don’t mind if you scroll down, but this next bit sets the foundation for it), let me explain what I mean by “it’s easy“: using your personal social network to promote your website is quite difficult if you don’t have many contacts / the right contacts – saying that social networking doesn’t work because you don’t have influential people on your list is a cop-out. Similarly, you cannot expect to build a list of A-list contacts overnight – building a network of useful contacts takes time; relationships are cultivated and trust is built through reciprocal actions over time.

So what’s easy about it? If you remove the unrealistic expectations and instead focus on the basic principles that can help you build large, influential social networks over time, you’ll find that it’s a relatively simple and straightforward process.

Networking is as easy as making new friends. If you can make new friends, then you can network. But making new friends does take work. So it’s not magic.

At any time, you’ll find successful entrepreneurs using the help of their contacts and friends to launch ventures with brilliant success – there is a method behind this ‘magical’ approach, and you don’t need to buy a $999 course to teach you this method.

The right advice (say, something like this article you’re reading), some common sense (use your own judgment or just ask for help) and concentrated action and commitment will get you more than what an expensive course can teach you.

Alright then – with that out of the way, it’s time to get to the list.

1. Make New Friends By Helping Others

The basis of an effective social network is a steady stream of new contacts – a network doesn’t have any impact unless there are enough people to make a difference.

The habit of making new friends and helping others out without asking for anything upfront is one that takes time to cultivate and your adoption of this habit depends on how you treat others. If you’re naturally outgoing, you’ll find it easier to get in touch with and contact new people. If you don’t have any hangups towards helping others for free, then you’ll be one step ahead when it comes to sowing the seeds of a new relationship.

Find New Friends

This step will stump you but in fact it’s the easiest of them all – simply flock to those places where people of similar interests are hanging out, and make a point to participate in the general discussion. An example of such a place is Performancing, where I and many others have flocked to over the years, gradually become a part of the community and now find new opportunities each day.

The leading blogs in your niche are a good way to get started. Forums (for networking) are a personal favourite because of the amazing returns although they require more commitment and personal involvement to make it work.

Also, remember that in such new communities you’ll find avenues towards other communities as well – it pays to pick and choose those communities where you can find the right balance between value, investment and fun (it doesn’t HAVE to be a chore, you know).

Help Others

Make it a point to provide helpful information / advice / support to at least one person each day. This is a major stumbling block for people because of the personal investment this requires but once you realise multiplier effect that’s attached to each ‘effort’ of yours, you’ll be surprised at why more people aren’t doing this.

Just help others. Quite often you’ll hear people voicing their problems / concerns in public forums / communities that you’ll be frequenting – if it takes a few minutes of your time to point them in the right direction, do it right there and then.

Invest in others. As they grow and build up their resources and their own networks, your own network will be growing as well thanks to their efforts.

It’s also worth pointing out that extra attention (bordering on stalking / invasion of personal privacy) will freak people out, so if you just *love* to help people, you might want to tone things down a bit.

2. Selective Networking: Kiss Ass

Ryan explains this far better than I can in his article, so let’s listen to what he has to say:

I call it selective (back)networking and here’s the idea: the internet is just like any other human network. There are hierarchies of authority. If you want to be successful, you need to move up the hierarchy.

The key to building a (back)network is to intentionally and selectively seek out people who 1) have power and leverage 2) are smart and capable and 3) are fair in their online relationships. By building up a social “backbone” of good friends in high-places, you’ll be able to execute your plans a lot faster, realize profit a lot quicker, and avoid burn-out a lot easier (ten shoulders are better than one).

“But Ryan Caldwell, you’re already successful. What about those of us who are just getting started?”

Suck up and kiss ass.

That’s it. That’s how you get into my good graces. Start doing me favors and I’ll send some love your way. Ask me to do you a favor before you’ve proven your worthiness to me, and I’ll ignore you. Completely and utterly ignore you. But if you’ve got something to offer me, something that I truly benefit from…then you’ve got a friend.

This isn’t easy advice to follow – especially if you’ve skipped step 1, where you adopt the mindset of making new friends and helping people. On the other hand, once you realise the value that networking brings to you, the natural progression is to go after the right contacts.

Identify Powerful Contacts

Why do you think people bend over backwards when it comes to internet celebrities like John Chow and Matt Cutts? These people have an influential, authoritative voice in the blogosphere. When they talk, people listen. When they point, people follow.

Your end game is to have people like these on your side, so that they point to you and people (and traffic and revenue) start flowing in your direction.

Identify the powerful contacts in your niche (and in niches related to it) – then figure out how to get in their good books.

Make Yourself Valuable First

As Ryan says, you have to prove your own value to people who are vastly more influential than you – this translates into building your own online worth by playing with the smaller fish first. It’s a step-by-step process – you won’t shoot for Darren Rowse if you can’t get into Deb‘s good books, so work your way up the ladder by gathering momentum.

Chris Garrett’s excellent article on ‘Positioning’ is a good intro into how to make yourself and your website more valuable.

3. Learn and Practice the Art of Following Up

It’s one of those things that you learn from experience, although recently a friend (and new influential contact) Steve Amoia drove this point home when we were talking about building a network of contacts in the footballing world.

The basic idea is this: every time you ask your network (or a contact) for their help, follow up by thanking them for their input, giving them as much credit as possible and by reciprocating the favor when asked for. If you want to by cynical about it, then consider that people don’t mind helping as long as they see a benefit in it – whether it’s the other person stoking their ego or a reciprocation of that favor or even a monetary benefit.

Learn what your contacts value and when following up, reciprocate in a way that they will appreciate the most.

And to borrow from Nick’s excellent “increase search engine traffic” article:

Be generous – if you respect your network, and work hard to be part of the community surrounding your topic, the rewards can really pay off — never abuse it, it tends to backfire in all kinds of horrible ways.

Wrapping Up

Online marketing is about people and long-term results, not about algorithms or short-term gains. If you start investing in your social network now, you’ll reap the benefits many times over in the future.

11 thoughts on “3 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Networking Skills

  1. > About the Business cards, how do I distribute them ?

    That depends on your personal situation. If you visit fairs then you should leave cards everywhere. You can also leave some flyers at the press room.

    Every place related to your niche is interesting.

  2. Well said ahmed. All three points are excellent. I just started blogging, I will try these things and see how they work out for me.

    About the Business cards, how do I distribute them ?


  3. Personal conversations are of course the best way to network. But it is only a one-to-one situation and I think ‘tools’ like flyers or cards are helping to spread the ‘news’. Esp. for the more shy of us.

    If you go to a pub why not leave some promo info? Many pubs here in Hamburg have free postcard stands or business card sized ad stands.

  4. ryan – try creating some really cool business cards, a la moo.com or those with gapingvoid.com cartoons.

  5. Markus…funny thing. I’ve never been able to get the business card / flyer thing to work. I find that it’s much better to have a conversation.

  6. Making new contacts and helping others for nothing makes it more easy to have quick contacts.Instead of having any war with your niche-opponents its better that you make friendly relations with them.Even if you see Johnchow and Shoemoney as two competitor in any programs they both are good friends.Thats how they both get benefited.

    Good Post.

  7. I really like this article. SU is a good place to develop these skills. But I’m not sure the folks there with the influence want to trade anything. There seems to be a view that trading favors for stumbles is not a good idea. Everything should be judged on superior utility or aesthetics. But I bet many of the top stumblers have their friends too and trade with them. They just won’t come out and say it.

  8. Excellent points. I think networking is underrated in online business. However, offline business people understand the importance of networking.

    I remember in my business classes in college the professors would always talk about the importance of finding business mentors by befriending those more experienced than us. As bloggers, we should do the same especially since the web is becoming more socially-oriented.

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