Get More Value from Blogging, part IV: Connecting with People

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Get More Value from Blogging

Paul Gillin invited me to do a tweetchat on the professional and personal value of blogging on March 3, 2011 (2pm-3pm EST, #infoboom). When I brainstormed some of the things I’d like to talk about, I ended up with a big list: not just the value I get from blogging, but also tips for how you can build that too. I hope you enjoy this blog series!

A blog is an incredible way to connect with people. It helps people get to know who you are, what you’re interested in, what you’re good at, who you know, what you’re working on, and any entity till they got to share. Reading a blog, people can find out what you have in common with them, how you can help them, and how they can help you.


1. Introduction

People like getting to know people. When you make a new acquaintance, you might look them up on the Internet to find out more about them. Likewise, people look you up to find out more about you. A blog can be like your self-introduction. Your about page can include a short biography, and your blog posts can provide further details for people who want to know more.

Make it easy for new acquaintances to find your blog by adding it to your e-mail signature, business card, and social networking profiles. That way, people can read your blog to build on a brief introduction. As a result, a prospective client or new acquaintance might discover common ground with you. It speeds up the process of introduction, and simplifies getting to know people.

Don’t count on being anonymous or obscure. If you have a blog that you’d rather people didn’t read, you might have a problem in the future. Even systems with privacy controls can disclose data through programming errors, accidents, or malicious use. Before you post something, think about whether you can deal with the consequences of sharing it. Don’t let that scare you away from sharing, though! People are generally good, and they probably won’t hold minor mistakes against you.

Tips:

  • Add a short biography to your about page. Keep in mind that this may be seen by both professional and personal contacts.
  • Add your blog URL to your e-mail signature, card, social network profiles, and other places people might check.

2. Deepening the connection

How do people go from being acquaintances to colleagues or friends? How can you develop a chance conversation at a networking event into a partnership that last years? Shared experiences and personal knowledge go along way to deepening that connection, and you can help that along through your blog.

I find this aspect of blogging really helpful. It’s difficult for me to e-mail people to stay in touch, because I don’t want to waste people’s time. I’m often pleasantly surprised to hear from people who have kept in touch with me anyway by reading my blog. I appreciate being able to read other people’s blog posts and status updates as a way of finding out more about them without getting in their way. The conversation might grow in this low-key way until it becomes a friendship.

Tips:

  • Post regularly to give people reasons to come back.
  • Make sure that it’s easy to subscribe to your blog through feeds or e-mail.
  • Keep an eye out for people who regularly comment on your blog or talk to you about what you’ve written, and invest time in learning more about them.

3. Appreciation

A thank-you note is good; a public thank-you, done well, is even better. When you share what you’ve learned from people and your appreciation for how they’ve helped, that builds your relationship with those people, inspires others, and reflects well on you. It also helps people confirm what they’ve helped you learn and to share that with others – a great way to pay mentors back.

Tips:

  • Use your blog to show your appreciation for people. Be positive – don’t use it for passive-aggressive “appreciation”!
  • When someone takes the time to mentor you, share your lessons learned if possible. That way, your mentor can check it and share it with others.

4. Reaching out

A blog gives you both a reason and a way to reach out to people. If you’d like to talk to people but you aren’t sure how to start the conversation, you might write about those people on your blog. For example, you could share what you’re learning from them her even from a distance, and what you might want to talk to them about. Many people regularly search for their name, and they might come across your post and start the conversation. It’s an interesting way to meet book authors, thoughtleaders, and other people active on the Internet.

Don’t expect a response, but be ready in case people reach out. Who knows? Maybe you can even ask a question, and maybe people will share a quick answer. It can pay to ask.

Tips:

  • Show your interest, but don’t be creepy. Yes to admiration, no to stalking.
  • If you reach out to people through e-mail, you can mention your blog post about them as a way of sharing what you’ve been learning from them.
  • Look for something of value that you can bring to the conversation, even if it’s a really good question. Don’t reach out just for the sake of getting an e-mail from an A-lister, and don’t beg people for a link back from their blog.

5. The great conversation

Around the world, lots of conversations are happening through blogs. Someone posts an idea. Others write blog posts linking to the first post and sharing their thoughts. Yet others write blog posts following up on those posts. Along the way, people comment on blog posts, share their reactions on Twitter and other social networks, and talk about posts in person or through e-mail.

Participating in the conversation is so much better when you have your own blog. You can write longer posts in it, and you can build an archive of your thoughts. If people think your thoughts are interesting, they can explore your blog to find out more. If your thoughts are sprinkled in comments on different blog posts, it’s harder for others to get that sense of you.

You’ll still want to reach out to other people through commenting on their blogs, of course. Many blogs can automatically detect blog posts that link to them, but it’s nice to leave a comment summarizing your thoughts and thanking people for the inspiration. Don’t make your comments all about you, though! When you’re commenting on people’s blogs, it’s like you’re chatting in their living room. You wouldn’t want to make the conversation all about you. Read comments on other people’s blogs to get a sense of the etiquette. Blatant self-promotion doesn’t work well. Focus on adding value to conversations on other blogs, and link to a relevant blog post if you’ve written about something in more details.

Tips:

  • When you read a blog post that inspires you to think about it, write a blog post and link
  • Look for blogs on topics you’re interested in. Read the comments for a while to get a sense of what the discussion is like. Try posting a few comments. When you find yourself wanting to say more, post those thoughts on your blog, and link to it. (But nicely!)
Series Navigation« Get More Value from Blogging, part III: Sharing Makes the Blog Go ‘RoundGet More Value from Blogging, part V: Communication Matters »