This guest post is by John Preston of My Family Finances.
Have you ever tried to explain to someone how to blog successfully? I have yet to find a satisfactory synopsis of the complicated juggling act that fellow bloggers have trained themselves to perform. I do know that somewhere in the nexus of critical roles bloggers navigate, there is networking.
Some bloggers have no trouble contacting others and reaching out. For many others, networking doesn’t come easy. It’s like a chore that we know must be completed, but we never really feel comfortable performing. Regardless of skill, talent or effort, even the most outgoing bloggers can make mistakes in social networking if they aren’t careful.
Successfully leveraging a network actually requires a little strategy and understanding of how others can impact our own success. That’s why there are six bloggers that everyone should get to know.
How many blogging friends is too many?
19! No, seriously. That’s according to the findings of research on social networks from the Harvard School of Business. The optimal number of contacts in your social web is between 12 and 18. If you have more, you are likely to spend too much time managing friends. If you have a smaller number, you are likely to be missing contacts that play critical roles in an effective network.
Take the study with a grain of salt, of course. Don’t de-friend someone because you list 19 people. However, be cognizant that too many contacts is self-defeating, while having too little is an indication that your network could improve.
The quality of our social networks isn’t only affected by the size of the group, but by the roles people play within the network. Think about your own network; there are those with whom we are willing to share our secrets, but we’d never want to team up on a project with them. Then there are others we’d never confide in, even though we work well together with them.
Over the last three years I’ve found six types of bloggers that have positively impacted my social network. Perhaps you can see similarities between these and your own connections.
Development contacts: coaches and disciples
Finding a coach is a key network accomplishment for new bloggers. Coaches know and understand the blogging basics. They’ll help you navigate your first few months and direct you to smart decisions that will grow your site much faster than if you were on your own. You feel comfortable acting on their queues and trust their advice. Best of all, you get expert advice for free.
Take care with coaches: Make sure that you are learning from your coaches and not just mimicking them. It’s easy to get into a situation where you make yourself a follower instead of a disciple. Embrace the coaches philosophies when they are winners, but look for areas to improve on, and don’t box yourself into a rigid formula.
You aren’t a master if you lack an apprentice. If you are good enough, bloggers will gravitate to you and want to learn how you achieved what you’ve achieved. Sure the flattery is motivating, but disciples also play a key role in the development of blogging coaches. Disciples force coaches to reconnect with the basics. They’ll have to simplify and prioritize the knowledge they’ve learned over the years. As a result, coaches find themselves rethinking and refining their own strategies that have become mundane or overused.
Take care with disciples: In general, a disciple is worth the investment, but you can’t let them dominate and stagnate your own progress. You are in an unhealthy partnership if your blog-fu lessons impede your own development.
Teamwork contacts: collaborators and confidants
If Forest Gump was your collaborator, you’d be Bubba.
It’s lonely in the blogosphere if you don’t have a fellow blogger in the trenches with you. You need someone to share your current experiences, and relate with your immediate situation—whether it’s newer writers finding the time to write posts, or veterans griping about seasonally slow traffic. Collaborators are your sounding board for your innovative ideas, offering encouragement and constructive criticism. They cover for you when you go on vacation. When they have a project, you’re first on the list for help.
Take care with collaborators: You need trustworthy collaborators that won’t use your confidences for personal gain. It’s also helpful to find a few collaborators, because blog friends can easily fill their schedule and become unavailable.
The best part about confidants? They don’t have to be bloggers. They can be your spouse, child, or co-worker. These folks don’t always have to know what you are talking about. SEO could be a band name for all they know. However, they are detached and impartial and that’s why they are so helpful. You feel like you can be honest with them about the good and the bad that comes with blogging. Overall, they are great sounding boards for your blogging ambitions.
These contacts are people from outside your usual blog network, who anchor you to life or other spheres. They provide you an outlet to unload, but may also inspire you to think out of the box.
Take care with confidants: This is a potentially dangerous category, and you need to be careful that you are finding the right people to fill this role. Focus on finding people who leave you feeling positive. The wrong confidant is someone who engages you in constant gossip and backbiting. The occasional gripe is healthy, but avoid those who are trying to continue their teenage vices.
Inspirational contacts: heroes and fans
They probably don’t know that you exist, but your insignificance isn’t a requirement for the role. Heroes are low-contact resources, who are masters of blogging. They are everything that you wish you could be, and you read everything they write. One reason is because you enjoy them, but you also are searching for the knack—the formula of success that they have and you want.
Take care with heroes: Trying to match their success often leads us to failure and disappointment. Sometimes our heroes fall from grace and we are left repenting over our past adulation. Heroes have as much capability to discourage you as they do to inspire.
If you’ve been writing for a long time and have yet to find a fan, this may be an indication that you need to rethink your blog. Fans are the people who follow your writing and comment on every post. Sometimes, you don’t know where they came from or why they come back, but the fact that they are there motivates you. They can keep you posting regularly and influence your content, because you know that you don’t want to let them down.
Take care with fans: Sometimes you have to change things up, and even though it might be the right move, you may risk losing your fan. Often it is wise to let your readership dictate your writing topics, but writing to please a limited few can leave you stagnating in your development.
You’ll find that some people in your network fill multiple roles. You’ll also discover that people might trade or jump into new roles. The important thing is that you are diversified and the people who are assigned to these six roles have a positive effect on your writing.
Are these six people part of your life?
I’m fortunate to have people in each of these six categories within my network. But what about you? Does your network represent all six categories, or do you need to diversify?
John Preston runs the My Family Finances blog at http://myfamilyfinances.net/. You can follow his latest writing by subscribing to his blog feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/myfamilyfinances/rgbo. He is also a weekly contributor for US News & World Reports’ My Money blog.