We're back with another Blog Q&A from our new series. If you missed the first two, you can find them here. Today's question is about making online friends and networking, and it comes from a Blog Life student. She asks:
"I just read through the section on networking: "friends first, networking later." This is something I've struggled with for years as a blogger. Is it possible to establish friendships with other bloggers through email, or is it mostly through social media these relationships are forged? And if it's through email, how do you send an email that's not too fangirl or awkward… I just often leave thoughtful comments on blogs in hopes that one day they'll notice me, but connections aren't being made for me that way. Help! What do you guys do? And how do you recognize a genuine hello-let's-be-friends from a because-you're-famous one?"
Awesome question – because reaching out to anyone online can feel totally intimidating sometimes! I still get nervous to email or reach out to people, so I get it. Let me just start by saying that I think friendship and networking go hand in hand. Some people view networking as almost a dirty word, which I can understand, but I don't necessarily agree. It depends how you go about it. If you go through life just using people, then you are missing the whole point – and you're cheating yourself out of some amazing friendships.
OK, so first rule is be friendly. This should be EASY, guys. Just email people, comment on their site or their social media, and say something nice. Give them a compliment. If their work has made a difference to you or you found it useful, tell them so. Another great way to let people know you love their work is to link them or share their work with your audience. Be confident, and it won't come off awkward, I promise. Anytime someone has emailed or left me a comment about how they liked XYX that I did, it totally made my day – there's nothing fangirl about that! It's just plain nice. Just keep your tone confident and casual and never be afraid to email or reach out to anyone no matter how "famous" you may perceive them as being – we're all human at the end of the day, right? :)
I recommend you work to make this a weekly or bi-weekly practice. Don't just follow people online, reach out and give them a specific compliment. They may not always see it, as the Internet moves fast and not all correspondence gets the attention it deserves. But doing this all the time is not only a good habit, it will also increase the likelihood that you will be seen at least some of the time.
OK, so you're friendly and over time you will probably make friends with various people online. Hooray! Now let's say the day comes when you'd like to promote your new project. How can you ask your friends to help without fear? Here's a few tips.
1. Be clear and concise in what you're asking.
There have been many, many times over the years that someone I know from online emails me with a super vague request or a super long email that seems to be asking for some kind of promotion, but I feel like I need a key to decipher it. Don't do this. People are busy, respect their time by keeping your request concise and easy to understand. If you want them to give away a copy of your new book on their Instagram account, then say so. They may say no, but at least they know what they are saying no to. Otherwise they may not take the time to read your super long email, or they may not take the time to try and clarify what you are asking of them.
2. Be polite and, if possible, offer them something in return.
Now likely you are asking your friends for marketing favors because you want to collaborate and learn from them, AND probably your marketing budget is small to ZERO. That's nothing to be ashamed of. We've all been there, friend! But, if you are asking for something, then a very friendly thing to do is offer something in return. You can be specific about this or you can throw out a few ideas and tell them that you'd love to hear their goals right now to see how you can help. If you're not willing to do a favor for them, then you probably shouldn't be asking them for one. But of course this doesn't mean you have to do anything they ask. It's OK to say no; I say no all the time. But, it never hurts to try and explore a mutually beneficial opportunity that you both might benefit from. I truly believe that if we are willing to help and willing to ASK when we need help, we can all help each other make our dreams come true. I really do! So it doesn't hurt to ask, just make sure you're willing to give just as much as you're willing to receive. :)
3. If you don't hear back, only follow up once or twice.
Now this only applies to those times you are asking for things or looking to collaborate in some way. If you are simply sending out your weekly kind words, then you don't need to hear back. Just assume the good vibes are out there and don't worry. You can always send some more love their way later in life, no biggie. But when you are asking to work together, or do some kind of marketing push together, I do think following up once or twice is OK. After that you should move on. I generally will follow up once by the original method I contacted them (email, DM, etc.), and then maybe say something to them on another channel just so they know I'm around. People are busy, so follow ups help oftentimes because it's very possible they saw your request, meant to respond, got busy with something else, and then totally forgot. So a polite follow up is great. But if you follow up over and over again, probably they aren't interested AND you should be using that time and energy to contact someone else or in another way to benefit your overall goals. I have asked people to work with me on many things over the years, and I've gotten plenty of polite no-thank-yous as well as plenty of just plain ol' never-heard-from-them-again. I could spend time taking it personal or staring at my computer screen thinking how to write them again so maybe they will respond – or I can move on. And the moving on is usually the best thing since time is precious for all of us.
Other than this, my only other tip would be that you really should not take anything too personal. If someone doesn't want to work together, this could be for ALL sorts of reasons. So don't take it to heart. There's always more opportunity out there too. One closed door just means it's time to knock on the next one. And above all – be a good person. I think this is probably obvious, but as long as you always remember to give of yourself and to spread love and kindness where you can, you don't have to be afraid to reach out and try to make connections. So long as you do it with love, you're doing it the right way.
If you have any other networking or making online connections tips or stories you'd like to share, feel free! Or if you have any other blogging or business questions, let us know as we're always happy to have more to add to our list for this series. Thanks! xo. Emma (+ Elsie)
Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography + Design: Sarah Rhodes and Mara Dockery. Some questions have been shortened from their original form simply so they fit better within this series's format.