When it comes to blogging, there's a lot of advice out there about networking. Most of it focuses on the in-person kind (parties, meetups, hangouts, lunches, etc.), but that's not always an option. Sometimes, your only choice is to network remotely. That can be for a variety of reasons – from social anxiety to physical disability to just living in a part of the country where no one else in your industry happens to be. But even if it seems impossible or difficult, you can network too. You just have to go about things a little differently. Please note, this isn't the quick and easy guide to networking. It's hard to cultivate meaningful relationships instantaneously. But if you're interested in the long game, this post for you.
3 Ways to Network when In-Person Isn't an Option:
I know you're thinking this sounds obvious, right? But it's incredibly important. This kind of networking doesn't mean emailing people to ask if they'll talk about your blog (that's a pitch). Instead, you want to use email to introduce yourself and plant the seed for a connection that may blossom years down the line. Give your name (again, it sounds obvious, but don't assume people will just know who you are). Explain why you're getting in touch (have you met before? do you read their blog? do you have a tip that can help them?). Then follow-up. Regularly. Don't pester, but when you come across something this person may be interested in, send it along. Once again, it's really important that your first email not be a pitch (i.e. a request for a favor or coverage). Rather, focus on finding common ground, and, just as with in-person networking, allow things to develop organically from there.
Yes, I know this seems obvious too, but stay with me! Social media is awesome for both staying in touch with people and making new contacts. While many bloggers recommend LinkedIn as a networking platform, I prefer using Twitter. Not only is it informal, I also believe it's more conducive to conversation. One great way to get started (and something every fashion blogger should be doing anyway) is building Twitter lists of people you're interested in connecting with. When the people on your list tweet something interesting or noteworthy, share it. Or tell them you enjoyed it. Note: this isn't a “tit for tat” thing. You shouldn't expect a follow or even necessarily a response. The goal is to start building that connection, and, in doing so, create an opportunity for more contact later on. As with email, it's important that your first tweet isn't a pitch or a request for a favor (no asking people to RT you or visit your blog, for example). Nothing turns off a potential networking contact faster, and it's hard to go back once that happens. Instead, be demonstrative with your support and look for organic openings to have a conversation. And while I'm focusing on Twitter, the same advice applies to Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram as well.
Some experts believe that blog comments are on their way out, but they're still a viable way of networking and building a budding professional relationship. While I can't speak for every blogger, I definitely notice when the same name or email address appears in the comments section of my site, and it makes an impression on me when those individuals take the time to share honest insight, advice, and feedback. Without even using the word “networking,” they've built a relationship with me, and I'm more likely to notice if they send me an email or approach me via Twitter. If you can start a genuine conversation with a blogger in their comments section, it's easy to segue that interaction onto another medium. But, of course, you have to be genuine.
As a quick aside, most of the bloggers I'm in contact with now are people I first met through social media. As a niche blogger who lives in Seattle, I don't have the same access to in-person networking events that many of my colleagues do. And that access is further undermined by my own introvert tendencies. I've found that it's easier for me to introduce myself and be helpful to other bloggers…as opposed to selling myself aggressively in their comments section or via Twitter. People can tell when you're interested in them vs. when you're interested in what you can get out of them. Strive to be the former, and you'll go much farther.
What are your remote networking tips? How do you stay in touch with people or foster new relationships when you can't see them in-person?