How do you feel when I say the word “networking”?
A little anxious? Maybe pressured? Mildly panicked, even?
I have some good news for the introverts (greetings, my people!): a huge amount of modern networking actually takes place online.
That’s right—no more awkward networking events, no more immediately forgetting people’s names and desperately trying make it through the conversation without them figuring it out, no more fumbling for your business card and dropping it in the complimentary spinach dip.
(I can’t be the only one who can relate to that, right?)
The point of modern networking is pretty much the same as traditional networking: you want to get your name out there and make connections with others in your field or with potential customers. But the cool thing about modern networking is that much of it is completely intertwined with marketing and many of the effects are amplified. If you make a good connection with someone who has a lot of followers, and they decide to share your blog post or promotional deal, then you can get your stuff in front of hundreds or thousands of eyeballs at once, via a source that they already trust.
That’s some damn good free advertising!
Because I’m a generous person who wants you to succeed, I’m going to share with you four simple ways to master the modern networking game (with a little bit of marketing advice thrown in, just for fun).
Share. You’ve just written an amazing article and want as many people to read it as possible. After you publish, a kind stranger shares the link with their followers, complimenting your work or urging them to check it out. You feel pretty good about that kind stranger, don’t you? You may even decide to share one of their articles as a thank you. Sharing the work of influencers you admire is a great way to be that kind stranger in their lives, and maybe get some reciprocal attention in return. It’s also a great way to provide value to your own followers, who will likely be interested in that content.
Engage. Sharing other people’s work is great, but engaging with them is even better. And it doesn’t take much—we all have so many digital connections these days that not only is it not necessary to exchange long, rambling emails in order to make a connection, but literally no one even has time for that. You can build fantastic professional connections organically via social media with just a little bit of effort (and a lot of payoff).
The ground rules: it’s definitely not necessary to like, share, and comment on every post or tweet. No one wants to be That Guy. No one LIKES That Guy. Don’t go overboard with constant, generalized compliments. Instead, try to engage in a thoughtful way. Comment on specific themes or ideas addressed in their piece or link to another relevant and interesting article. Ask intelligent questions. You want to be a part of the conversation, not the chorus.
Guest-posting / guest-hosting. What’s just as good as creating content on your own site? Creating content for other people’s sites that will lead their audiences back to yours. Guest-posting on other people’s blogs or guesting on their podcasts can help you reach new audiences who may never have heard of you but fit your target demographic. And it helps out the blog or podcast owner as well, as they get some great content out of it.
Where should you be guesting? Start by making a list of blogs or podcasts relevant to your field, then narrow that list down to those which feature guest contributors. You can either reach out to them immediately, or work on building a relationship first through following them on social media, sharing their posts, and engaging with them. Having them guest on your own platform is a good way to reciprocate and benefit from their expertise as well!
Co-promotion. The ultimate in quid pro quo, co-promotion is a way to market multiple brands at once, ideally in a way that makes total sense to audiences. For example, one of my clients runs an incredible multi-day webinar series for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners. Her series features multiple lesson modules taught by different brands that sell their services to that market, such as graphic designers and marketing consultants. The brands benefit from being introduced to the webinar host’s clients, the webinar host gets promotion from the brands who advertise the webinar to their own followers, and the clients benefit from the expertise shared in the modules. Granted, this is a pretty sophisticated and involved version of co-promotion, but you can start a lot smaller and still get great results. Co-promotion can be as simple as offering a free advertising banner on your website in exchange for ad space on another website. You could offer to put together a few swag bags for an event in exchange for being mentioned on their promotional materials. You could host a contest or giveaway on your site for another company’s products and have them share it with their followers, or vice versa. If you want to be really lazy about it, you could just recommend each other via #FollowFriday tweets and call it a day.
The important thing to keep in mind when scouting out co-promotion opportunities is to make sure that the brands involved are a good fit. Reach out and network with people who run brands or websites which would make sense positioned alongside yours. Promoting your artisanal bacon double cheeseburgers on a fitness site is most likely a waste of your time, but promoting your ethically-made yoga clothing, organic grocery delivery service, or workout tracker app would be a great idea. Co-promotion works best when it serves all parties, including the audiences.
Co-promotion is one of my favourite marketing techniques because I only co-promote with people whose work I legitimately enjoy, which means that I’m generally networking with people who are passionate about their work and genuinely delightful human beings.
Of course, it is beneficial to make it out to a few in-person networking events each year (if only to enjoy the free brie and puff pastry), but digital networking should play a significant role in your marketing strategy. The ideas listed here are only the tip of the iceberg—I highly recommend carrying a small notebook and pen for when inspiration strikes and you come up with your own modern networking ideas!