Is 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!
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.