Networking Habit: How to Develop Online Relationships

Networking Habit: How to Develop Online Relationships Even If You’re an Introvert [30DHC]

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You can’t run an online business in isolation.  Instead, you should develop relationships with bloggers and marketers in your niche.

Whereas most entrepreneurs might view others as their “competition,” I prefer a win-win approach where we can help one another.

So how do you form online business relationships?

Through networking.

Even though I’ve built a few successful online businesses over the last decade, networking has never been my strength.  In the past, I took a passive approach where I let relationships evolve organically.  But for September’s and October’s 30 Day Habit Challenge (30DHC), I decided to develop my networking habit.

Here’s how it went.

30DHC for September and October 2013 – Daily Networking with Bloggers and Marketers

Here’s an overview of this habit challenge:

#1 – Reason Why

We’ve all heard this adage before:

[Tweet “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”]

This is an accurate description of what it’s like to run a business—both online and offline.   You can have all the talent in the world, but it doesn’t mean a thing if nobody knows you exist.

As I mentioned before, my biggest limitation has been a lack of online relationships.  As someone who is introverted, I find “networking” to be a disingenuous activity where people push their own agenda.  However, I’ve come to realize that this is a limiting-belief which has prevented me from making friends with people who are doing interesting things.

So I figured, the best way to get over this stumbling block was to form the habit of networking on a daily basis.

#2 – Description

Since networking was an unfamiliar habit, I had to develop a system for how I’d contact people.  I only wanted to talk to genuinely interesting people, so I mapped out a three-step process for finding them.

First, I created spreadsheet that I used to maintain information about people in my market.  Each entry contains six pieces of information:

  1. Name of the blogger/marketer
  2. Website or social media handle
  3. Contact information
  4. Affiliate program? (yes or no)
  5. Initial outreach sent? (yes or no)
  6. Notes (what I like about this person and anything we’ve discussed)

The key here is to organically grow this spreadsheet.  Whenever I come across someone interesting, I include their information in this database.  This is a simple process where I’d post a reminder on my daily task sheet and add the names at the end of the day.

Next, I researched the personal development market.  I started with my favorite blogs and connected with their followers.  This included a number of activities:

  • Subscribed to a number of personal development/business blogs.
  • Checked out the sites of people who commented on their posts.
  • Researched each site to see if we share similar viewpoints.
  • Looked for interesting projects/posts they’ve developed.
  • Did a “light outreach” by commenting on their blog or social media account.

What’s surprising is how long it took to do this step.  Initially, I thought it would take a take a few hours to complete, but it took over 10 hours to add 50 solid contacts to this spreadsheet.  Ultimately, this led to my decision to turn “September’s habit” into “September and October’s habit.”

Finally, for October, I created a simple daily habit:

[Tweet “Email outreach to one person every day”]

Why did I only pick one person per day?  Because I wanted to make this habit super simple to do on a daily basis.  All I had to do was write for five minutes and send a single email.  That made it hard to come up with a justifiable excuse for not doing it.

Each email contained three important elements:

  1. A genuine compliment about something the person has done.
  2. A quick question about one of their current projects.
  3. An offer to help out in some way.

While I included all three elements, each message was different.  The important thing here is I didn’t talk about myself.  Instead, I looked for a way to help the other person.  I feel this is an important distinction because most people view networking as a way to push their own agenda on other people.  Honestly, that attitude won’t get you very far because you’ll be regarded as an aggressive marketer or even a spammer.

#3 – Obstacles

Time was the biggest obstacle to the successful completion of this habit.  I underestimated how long it would take to research the personal development market.  While many people blog about this topic, I don’t agree with a lot of viewpoints.  The point of this habit was to reach out to people I genuinely like.  So this meant researching and eliminating a variety of websites/blogs.

Originally, I planned on developing this habit for September.  But it took two weeks to build the networking spreadsheet, so I decided to delay the actual email outreach until October.

#4 – Results

In total, I did 28 total email outreaches.  Not quite the 31 (or one per day) like I planned for, but still a good start to building a few solid relationships.

That said, I still feel like the email outreach process is a bit contrived.  Sure, there were many times when I’m genuinely interested in getting to know another blogger.  But there were some days when I emailed someone just because it was a daily habit that had to be completed.

#5 – Verdict

Ditch it!

I still love the idea of networking and feel like it’s an important part of building a successful online business.  However, I don’t like having a habit of being forced to reach out to someone on a daily basis.

Moving forward, there will be days when I’ll send a few emails and other days when I’ll send none.  The important lesson here is this habit helped me understand the importance of reaching out to others.  Now, whenever I come across an interesting blogger, I’ll add him/her to my spreadsheet and schedule a time to reach out to that person.

How to Improve Your Networking Habit

If you rely on any sort of online income, it’s important to establish relationships with other people in your market.  The good news is it’s not that hard to form a daily networking habit.  Here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Look for people who create content you genuinely like.
  • Add their contact information to a networking spreadsheet.
  • Send a complimentary email that opens the door for a future conversation.
  • Look for ways to help each other out.
  • Keep adding people to this list and learn from each interaction.

Networking is a skill that doesn’t happen overnight.  It requires continuous practice and a commitment to learning from each experience.  Even though I’m no longer doing it as a daily habit, I now have a simple system for building online relationships.  Simply follow the tips I just outlined and you can be one step closer to building your sphere of influence.

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