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Is Your Blog a Networking Tool?

blog-networking.jpgIs Your Blog a Networking Tool? In this post Jennifer Gniadecki from Everyday Networker explores this question.

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked during the Q&A at live speaking engagements is, “So…yeah….I’ve been thinking about starting a blog…is a blog a networking tool?” I thought it was a question that warranted some serious thought. I mean, I hear probably once a day from someone that a blog is a conversation, and networking is all about conversations, so wouldn’t they be the same thing?

You give out business cards at a networking event

While your blog should not only be a business card, it should share all the elements somewhere on there. The things you would share if you were at a real networking event with real people. It should have the answers to the grown up versions of the college question, “What’s your major?” As well as let people find you. It amazes me when I find a blog that is written by an enigma. Especially if there is a service attached to it in some way.

Contact information – It doesn’t have to have your home address and phone number, but if someone wants to talk to you it is best to give them an outlet. An email address or contact form is just fine. When people want to ask you a question, don’t make them go all over hell’s half acre looking for how. Make it easy. You might be awesome and important, but you’re not worth jumping through more than one or two hoops. No matter who you are.

Where you can be found – Again, within the bounds of your privacy. Do you want people that read your blog to connect with you on Linkedin? Twitter? Plurk? Facebook? Seesmic? You have to let them know. You may even want to designate one account or service just for your blog readers so you are able to make your communications with them more targeted.

What you do – The title of your blog might be “Bob – Greatest Artist Ever” but that isn’t going to be enough. Put a blurb or sidebar (or an about page…you do have one, right?) explaining with a little more detail what you do. For example, “I’m Bob – I’m the Greatest Artist Ever and specialize in watercolors and sculpture.”

What you do for money – Let people know what they can give you money to do. Do you take sponsorships? Write reviews? Consult? Have a service business? Paint paid commission pieces? Don’t make people figure out how they can give you money, make it easy for them to pay you if you have something they need/want/desire.

Your logo – If your blog doesn’t have your logo on it, you’re just phoning it in. I almost didn’t mention this one but thought, “Hey…go for the obvious!”

Blogs are conversations, so that means the conversation aspect is networking, too!

No.

A blog is not a conversation. Unless you’re the person at the networking event who talks for up to ten minutes without taking a breath and letting the other person get a word in edgewise. But if that was what you were doing, people wouldn’t read you because they’d think you were a blowhard that didn’t stop talking no matter how good your material.

In reality, blogging is almost exactly like a speaking engagement. I think many people refrain from explaining it that way because they hate public speaking but love blogging. So you couldn’t be a public speaker when you couldn’t be a…you know…public speaker.

But stay with me for a minute. You’re in front of your audience and you talk. You emote. You teach. You say stuff to them. You continue until you’re good and ready to be done. No one interrupts you. No one talks back in the middle of your sentence, and you don’t accidentally sneeze. Only when you are finished does the audience have a chance for some Q&A and feedback (comments!) Your choice as the presenter is to respond to each individual comment or to a few comments at once or answer some questions and ignore others.

A conversation would force you to answer every question you are asked when you were asked. That is the nature of a two-way conversation. A speaking engagement model allows you to have some extra freedom and leeway in what or how you choose to answer. While it is possible to have a reader e-mail you directly after reading something on your blog, this is much more like following up with a speaker than it is a gesture of the, “Hi, how are you today?” that characterizes a friendly, even businesslike, conversation.

You also can’t get a read on any one person the way you can when you’re talking to them one-on-one. You may get a glimpse here or there of someone you might want to talk to more, but really you’re going to get a general impression and a lot of feedback.

While it’s not a conversation, it is a powerful tool to increase exposure, platform, and an overall sense of personal well-being that comes from knowing your message is getting out there. Plus, if you think of it as a conversation you’re much more likely to get too personal. Sure, you can call it transparency, but I call it not wanting to know what color underwear everyone has on.

So, to wrap up, is blogging a form of networking?

The answer is, “Sort of.”

Of course the real answer comes from asking an entirely different question. Ask yourself if your blog (or blogs) are doing what you want them to do. If you were a public speaker (pretend you love to speak in front of a group for this one) would you be happy reading to the group before you what you have written in your blog? Would you feel like you were really teaching your audience something?

Do you slack off on post quality and convince yourself it’s in the name of conversation? Do you tell people a little too much about you personally and claim transparency? Worst of all, if you read your blog aloud to a group…would they stay awake?

Be a good public speaker on your blog, have the pertinent information people need to understand and make decisions about you, and you’ll find it might even be more rewarding than a traditional networking event.

Jennifer Gniadecki loves to talk to strangers. She does this online through blogging at Everyday Networker as well as contributing to the illusion of transparency over at Beyond Mom. You can download a free couple of chapters (no list sign-up required) of her book over at Non-Toxic Networking.

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. Thanks Jennifer for the great tips and thoughts, I too agree that a blog should be a networking tool where you can gain readers. When your readers come back for more they should be able to find your contact info and easily be able to get a hold of you and network with you.

  2. Marie says:

    I always struggle with the personal branding vs. privacy issue. I want to give my readers more information about me in order to round out my image and help them feel a connection to the blog, but I often worry that I’m compromising my privacy in the process. Does anyone else out there worry about this or have interesting ways of dealing with it?

  3. Good advise for the novice blogger..

    Thanks,
    JoAnn

  4. Mike Nichols says:

    Actually, I love public speaking! But your suggestion to make my blog posts like I was speaking really hit home. I went back and read a couple out loud. Though I was trying to present a lot of information, I’m afraid they’re a little on the dull side! From now on, I’m going to read each post out loud before putting it before the public.

    And networking, yes, sorta. I live in a relatively small town, and I look on my blog as a way of contacting a wider audience. I value the conversations, but I value more the contacts I am making. I intend making use of them as my blog and I grow.

    Fortunately, I already have a contact page, and both an About page and an About This Blog page. I don’t have information about what I do for money, and I hadn’t thought about it until you mentioned it. It seems so obvious. That’s a great big “Duh” for me!

    Thanks for a great article. It really opened my eyes to some important issues.

  5. Outstanding post, I hate public speaking. because i am shy to speak in front of others. With help of your blog, you can broadcast what you thought by means of writing. You will receive response for your writing as comments.

    The written content last for ever when compared to spoken words.

  6. Shafar says:

    Thanks for this great article.

  7. Not quite. When I started off mine, it wasn’t intended to be a networking tool. Though now with the increased readers on the site (beyond the reach of my friends), there is definitely a need to network more to increase in the interest and contents on the site.

  8. Evelyn Lim says:

    You said….

    “Worst of all, if you read your blog aloud to a group…would they stay awake?”

    Oh my…I must remind myself to always make my posts interesting! Guess it boils down to exploring creativity to publish above average content.

    Evelyn

  9. Todd Andrews says:

    I think they can be a networking tool, but not nearly as effective as some other networking methods.

  10. As someone who is wired to network and to write, I’m grateful for the blogging medium every day. I agree that it’s not a panacea, though, and is just one column supporting one’s networking platform. Great post!

  11. My blog is an awesome networking tool. I printed up buttons with my logo and simply wear it at networking events. It generates interest and captures attention. It’s an ice breaker and differentiates me. I love it.

    Raza Imam
    http://SoftwareSweatshop.com

  12. Ryan Roberts says:

    Not following Jennifer’s suggestions for your blog is like being a wallflower at an in-person networking event.

    Now I’m off to re-do my about and contact pages…

  13. I am really surprised how many established blogs still have a free theme and a text logo. You would create a normal business with the same branding and logo as 100′s of other stores so why do it with your ‘online business’

  14. @Mike – It’s funny, I always thought I was afraid of public speaking because it’s just this “thing” – people are supposed to be afraid of public speaking…but really…it’s quite enjoyable! Love your blog, btw.

    @Evelyn – Remember sometimes speaking to a group can be more conversational. You don’t have to be a three-ring-circus every time!

    @Todd – From my vantage point (aka my opinion your mileage may vary) the blog is not necessarily the networking tool – it’s the middle ground between people you network with (online or offline) and the phone call or the email that brings them to you for business. No one wants to go from a “Hey, howareya stranger!” To having a barely-warm call to talk about business. Even if the busines is just a cross-blog conversation to raise everyone’s traffic.

    @Tom – I think many people think of blogging as a franchise. Sure there are a bunch out there just like it but you can make it different by the nature of being you. I don’t think that’s a really effective strategy but I think too many people heard how important content was and figured that the other stuff wasn’t important to spend time or money on.

    @A Suresh – Thanks, I’m glad you liked the post. It’s scary to write things when you know they’ll be there forever…and it certainly doesn’t mean we’ll all be perfect every time…but it’s worth a shot!

    @Ryan – Thanks!

    @Raza – Love the idea of buttons. I’m still rocking the plain old business card.

    @Daniel – That’s an exciting place to be, isn’t it? Strangers care what you have to say. A little intimidating but supportive and exciting too :)

    @Shafar – You’re welcome!

    Sorry this was so long and thanks for your patience in reading! I like to try to respond to everyone. It’s that whole networking thing – I’m a conversation-after-the-presentation junkie.

  15. amirulcyber says:

    i think this article give some idea.Thanks..

  16. You mention some very interesting things. I will definitely keep this in mind as I contemplate how to improve my blog.

    I like the conversational tone and the way I reveal things about myself through the promotion of authors n my blog. The one thing I was avoiding was allowing feedback, which was selfish so I will change that. I just did not want negative bashing, etc.

    Thank you for this insight.
    http://swaggiecoleman.blogspot.com

  17. Ref says:

    I think its a little each to their own.
    I’m always a little torn between making a good blog by personalizing it with my own personality. But i don’t like to give to much of myself to people i don’t know.
    You have to find the right balance.

  18. Tony Cathey says:

    Extremely helpful post. Thanks!

    Tony Cathey
    http://www.imablogger.net

  19. Great post! Just today I looked at several blogs and had to scramble for at least five minutes to find out how to contact the blog author! You are right, people should not force readers to jump through hoops like that.

    I am a Virtual Assistant, so internet networking and marketing takes up the bulk of my advertising efforts. I wouldn’t dream of not having my website on my blogs as well as my logo. It’s all about the branding!

  20. Dave Clarke says:

    I see my blog as a way of helping build relationships.
    So yes it is a networking tool. I agree that it is not a conversation. I had not thought of the public speaking analogy so thank you for that insight. Looking back I regularly use the same stories in my blog & in talks & seminars that I deliver.

  21. Lenin Nair says:

    Wonderful! Jennifer, I have almost the same opinion. Blogs should be similar to social networking tools> here is one article that I wrote recently on blogging language and style, in which I explored this question.

    Hope that will be a good addition to these tips mentioned.

    Lenin