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Build Your Network Before You Need It

Last week I was speaking to a business owner who was in the process of doing some ‘preliminary research’ (his words) into blogging and social media.

The reason that he was thinking about getting into blogging and social networking was that later in the year he was going to be launching a new product with his business and to help create some buzz he wanted to leverage social media and blogging.

My first reaction was that it was a great idea… but it quickly hit me that his ‘preliminary research’ phase was probably 6-12 months too late (if not more) if he really wanted to be effective with blogging and social media in promoting his new product.

Jeremiah Owyang said it great today in a post that he’s written – Build Your Network Before You Need Them:

“Unfortunately, networking doesn’t work this way, relationships take time, getting to know folks requires patience, and people are generally cautious –if not fearful– of Johnny come lately that is asking, rather than giving.”

Jeremiah’s advice to ‘build your network before you need them’ makes a lot of sense. I see a lot of people jumping into Twitter because they have an urgent need to get a message ‘out there’ – however a much better approach is to build your online presence for the day that you need it. I’ve seen the power of this time and time again – perhaps most recently with the launch of the ProBlogger Book.

When I began to interact on Twitter I had no plans to use it as a medium for book promotion – however when launch day came I had 6000 people just a 140 character message away.

Another example was recently using LinkedIn. I’ve never really found a way to use LinkedIn effectively before but have promoted my profile on it (in my blog’s footer) because I knew that there would come a time when it would be worthwhile having connections there. Last week it paid off as I used my network of 600 connections to get introductions to a number of key people that I’d have had no way to contact previously.

In both situations the network came before the need to use it.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Darren – this is right on target. All too often my clients are looking for quick fix silver bullets. I’ve always emphasized that networks take years to build and seconds to topple, so you have to be honest and authentic and human in your networks. It is okay to make a mistake, but not to be a jerk.

    And when people look at the value of social media in 3 years, those of us that are investing effort now may reap the rewards of our time. There is no way to purchase experience and effort.

  2. Louis Liem says:

    That explains why we can’t be six figure bloggers overnight

  3. Tap says:

    Yes, brilliant, and absolutely correct!
    Building your network is the foundation, takes time and usually leads to future success in ventures down the road.
    That’s the beauty of it.

    Thanks for another great one

  4. Abhinav Sood says:

    @Darren, Quite right! That’s how kick-starting my current blog (on blogging) was easier for me than many others…

    The 200+ contacts that I had built up over an year of blogging at one of my previous blogs supported me (big time) then and continue doing it till this date.

  5. Edward Lomax says:

    I agree. Blogging and social media are not quick fixes. Building a network this way is a long term strategy… not a short term tactic. It is not something you “try”, but rather something you commit to.

    Just another reminder to thing long term.

  6. Second says:

    There is no such thing as luck – only preparation meeting opportunity. (Preparation is in this case building of the network as early as possible)

  7. uW says:

    there’s nothing you can’t do with the right group of friends ;)

  8. muhibbuddin says:

    This “stuff” is already forgotten for most of beginner blogger.

    Thanks
    Darren

  9. Ron says:

    Building a network (or customer base) is essential for anything that you want promoted to take off. It is just like starting a business. Many people will tell you that the main reason they have gotten through their first year is because of returning customers that they have acquired through word-of-mouth advertising.

    Think about it. You’re not going to believe some “stranger” when they say that their product is the best. However, if your friend tells you that said product is amazing–who are you more apt to believe? Building strong social ties is an absolutely invaluable asset to anyone (not just businesses).

    Many people get frustrated and give up, simply because they do not realize that these types of things take time. They take for granted (or simply forget) how much time and effort they put into making the contacts (or friends) that they have now. They just want everything to happen right now.

  10. Unless you are the one in a million person that can make mega amount of friends in a very short period of time, then you better plan on a lead time to build your network.

    The Masked Millionaire

  11. SpaceAgeSage says:

    Because the various media move the message faster these days, it seems to be a quick inroad to customers or readers, however friendship, networking, bonding, branding, trust — all that is still a matter of time and customer service. The speed of human nature doesn’t change just because speed of communication changes.

  12. JigaJosh says:

    Right on the money.

  13. bugsy says:

    I have been thinking about this topic for a while.

    Currently I operate a couple small websites, and my main blog is built for a pretty tiny audience in a small region of the United States.

    However, in coming months I’m hoping to launch a new blog (or 2) that would have an audience world-wide, at list english-speaking wide.. (Anyone want to partner up?)

    I’ve taken some time to go through my old contacts using social media and trying to get in touch with these people as I plan to launch a new project. Hopefully launch day will be bigger than in days past.

  14. In the fledgling stages of starting my company I read David Meerman Scott’s “New Rules of Marketing and PR” and “Word of Mouth Marketing” by Andy Sernovitz. I realized that the chances of my company succeeding, once my product got on the market, would be zero if I didn’t get out in the social media world and participate! Thus my blog was born last September. I’m still a year to year-and-a-half away from my product being introduced, and I’m so glad I have made this commitment. The marketplace is so crowded it will extremely difficult for my company to get a foothold, which I have learned first-hand from the difficulty of getting any kind of a readership on my blog. I think – I hope – I’m doing this right; building my network of friends, bloggers, tweeters one at a time, while honestly blogging about my journey as a woman entrepreneur.

  15. Mitch says:

    I’ve built a nice network over a lot of years, but to be truthful, I have no idea how to use it if and when the time comes. Just saying to the network that I’ve done something doesn’t seem adequate enough, so that’s the next step in my learning process.

  16. I think another idea to go along with this is to try and use the same username for all your social networking items. I did not do this for lots of things, and the lack of consistency I fear has cost me.
    On Twitter, my username is that of my personal blog instead of my problog. The only people that know I’m the same person are the people who read my personal blog!
    It’s easy for people to reach out to you when they can assume you are going to have the consistent handle.
    I have a great network, however they are under two seperate identities!

  17. Shanel Yang says:

    I’m a reach techno-phobe. Now, I’m finally convinced to give Twitter a serious look. Thanks, Darren.

  18. Bryn says:

    I just signed up for some social media sites today, one of them being mybloglog which seems to be very popular among many blogs.

  19. Paul Rushing says:

    Wow drives a message home. I have been trying to transfer this same message to an industry that is 10 years behind the curve in it’s online initiatives.

    I keep blogging about it in a vacuum and watch people prostitute what we as marketers have known all along. Contribute before you take in your online efforts!!

  20. Alwitt Qin says:

    Couldn’t be more agree…

  21. This is true and very insightful. Many people forget that lots of success (online and offline) comes from the social ties that you have built over long periods of time.

    One way to build the trust that you need to get people to pay attention to what you’re saying is to be generous when they come to you for advice. I’ve personally tried to make this a habit and it’s paid off big, not only in terms of the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing that you’ve contributed to making the world a tiny bit better. Also, it gives great material for future articles, if writing articles is your focus.

    Darren, this post was a home-run. :-D

  22. Joshua James says:

    Spot-on post! I have watched a lot of local competitors embarrass themselves because they try to use their network before it even exists. Without an element of built-up trust, networks won’t believe the messenger. Meaning following thousands of people, then immediately blasting out promotional tweets will just make you look silly.

  23. Multimastery says:

    Great advice yet again! Relationships don’t happen overnight, encounters do. It is our responsibility as marketers to nurture those encounters so that they can flourish into a mutual beneficial relationships. Great Blog I totally have to bookmark this site Now!-)

  24. David says:

    excellent post – trust building in your network first – yes

  25. Kelvin Kao says:

    Yeah, if the relationships weren’t established, even if you got the words out, people aren’t going to care about those words either… same way you take your friend’s recommendations more seriously than the marketing emails somehow delivered to your inbox.

  26. Lewis says:

    Darren,

    I am loving the ProBlogger book, almost finished!

    I am glad you posted this entry because it is excatly what I needed to hear. For the past 6 months I started to build my network on LinkedIn (and recently on Twitter) and have already created some amazing opportunities and built high quality relationships. I have my own book coming out in 3 months, and I hope to use my network for my new blog coming out in the following weeks (implimenting the tips I received from ProBlogger book and this very blog)

    I have nearly 5000 emails from various nices markets I will be targeting, so I think it will be good that I have built these relationships before I have a product to sell.

    Thanks

    Lewis

  27. Ryan McLean says:

    It is so true that networking takes a lot of time. You can’t expect to do it in a month or two.
    I am trying to give as much as I can on my financial blog, before I ask for much from my readers (though I do ask a little bit)
    Great post

  28. Starfeeder says:

    Great post, bookmarked… great to come back here or link other people too when trying to help them with their social-networking + business questions

  29. aizal says:

    To sum up of all the tips of successful blogging is building the network first!
    Thanks Darren. Precious tips for newbie like me.

  30. Moise says:

    Thanks Darren, great as usual.

  31. You are absolutely right. In order to become become success in online business, we need to use Social marketing sites link Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin.

    But you will not get result with one night, you need to have patience in order to achieve your milestone.

  32. Muscle Post says:

    Excellent advice. Some people look at networking as simply a way to make instant connections with people who can help you. In actuality, there is a lot more to it than this. Neworking is relationship building, and if people think you are using them right away you are never going to build that relationship in the first place.

  33. This post reasonated with me especially because the publication of my first-ever book is months away but I am just starting to immerse myself in the world of social media for the first time.

    One of my subscribers even created the “Stephen Hopson Fanclub” at FB, much to my surprise. When that happened, I realized that could be used as a launching pad for when the book is released down the road. So I have plenty of time to develop relationships between now and the release date.

    Excellent article – build your network before you need them makes a lot of good sense. Enjoyed it! Thanks.

  34. Metro says:

    My experience with business development – blogs included – is that whatever you do today will benefit you 6 to 36 months later or more.

    I read a quote from Lee Trevino, the golfer, that it took him 30 years to become an overnight success.

    Everything takes time.

  35. Todd Andrews says:

    I see this all the time when people look at ways of generating income off tactics instead of first establishing a core strategy. Sounds like they missed their optimal opening.

  36. To go into the blogging realm to see what you can get from it is a mistake. Relationships are a givng organic thing. If you approach blogging as “I have something for you” vs “I want something from you”- you will have a much more powerful impact- as blogging is all about impact, impart, and inform. If you take the time to develop strong relationships, they will eventually prove to be a doorway for potential business that you can walk through- once you have proven your intentions.

  37. Chase Roper says:

    I always try to live with the philosophy that “you get what you give.” Sometimes, you get what you didn’t give, whether for better or worse, so I suppose I live by a lot more than just that.

    I started out using sites like twitter and myspace, and all the rest, to really just meet people and connect with others that do work that I appreciate and am a fan of. After a couple years, I found that I had made friends with these people and now have “connections” I never realized would helpful now. Those people would not have become friends if I my intentions were self serving in the first place.

    Great post!

    Chase

  38. Your network is your community. Continually ask what you can do for them & when you need something they will help out. The value in continually growing & nurturing it is that you’ll be all the richer when you need them (and they need you) – it’s a symbiotic relationship.

  39. Chris W says:

    A great book on building and maintaining your network of contacts is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. “Build it before you need it” is one of elements he touches on in the book and it’s so true. You can check out his blog at http://nevereatalone.typepad.com/blog/ to learn more as well. Lots of great advice if you’re not sure how to go about networking.

    Cheers!

  40. Great post!

    I have been “Twittering” for a couple of weeks, a great medium for getting out a short and sweet message about what I am doing business wise.

    Like all things on the web, time will tell if it is successful in SEO.

  41. Drew McManus says:

    This is an excellent post. I would say that the age of traditional networking is all but dead, thanks in part to blogging and new media. Essentially, making stronger connections through sincerity is the new mantra. to that end, United Airlines published an article in their in-flight magazine by Srikumar S. Rao about this new sincerity based networking. It’s a great piece and it inspired me to blog about it right after I returned from that business trip.
    http://www.adaptistration.com/adaptistration/2007/05/making-stronger.html

  42. Mike Foster says:

    This is great advice and something that is often overlooked. I recently read that when social networking, do not forget the word “social.” Treat other people the way you like to be treated yourself and good things are bound to happen. And the need to build a social networ early and often is invaluable advice. thanks…mike

  43. Though this repeats what so many have already acknowledged I’d like to add that ‘fast-buckerism’ tends to feed the notion that one does not have to build a solid network foundation before proceeding.

    I think this is quite possibly the factor in underestimating the amount of effort required to make new ventures work.