Pay attention, be genuine and be engaging. In return, your connections will soar. Photo by Shell de Mar.
Dale Carnegie, author of the wildly popular book How To Win Friends and Influence People once said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Though he proclaimed this in 1936, the sentiment is as true today as it was then. I know it’s easy to make excuses with so many social media platforms to keep up with, let alone blogs. And we all have so much going on. But those 30 seconds you spend leaving a positive, insightful comment can really make someone’s day and make a lasting impression.
We all have different reasons for wanting to make connections. Sometimes, we come across a blog that’s incredibly cool and clever and think, “I want to befriend whoever’s behind that.” Other times, we notice someone in our industry that’s beyond insightful, not to mention hugely successful on their own terms and we want advice. Or, perhaps we need a favor or a recommendation. Our reasons for wanting to form online connections are different but no matter what our motives are, they should always come across as genuine and welcoming.
So, how do you make lasting online connections?
1. Help others through your content
This is going to sound like common sense but hear me out. If you’re a blogger and your content is all about you all the time, you will have a set amount of admirers. But, if your blog is about you but also aims to help people in a genuine way, whether that’s offering them advice or teaching them something new, your audience will be a lot more varied, and your reach more widespread. Do you have an area of expertise? Create a weekly or monthly series around it. The more you’re able to help people, the more they’ll be drawn to what you’re doing and in turn, keep you in mind when opportunities arise.
2. Put yourself out there
If you’re cowering in your bedroom and afraid to make that first that first move (even if it’s leaving a comment on someone’s blog or twitter), if you’re terrified to send that first introduction email, nothing’s going to happen. If you want change in your life, you have to create it. If you want friends, you have to open up. If you want industry connections, you have to find them. A big portion of my closest friends were made directly through blogging (you can read about that here) and starting a blog is a great way to share more about yourself (and draw in like-minded people) without sounding braggy. With blogs, you can create articles around a general theme instead of boasting on Facebook, “Hey, look what I did today!” which is almost always a turn-off.
And when it comes to email introductions, just hit send already! The worst possible thing that can possibly happen is no response at all. And that’s what you have now. So put yourself out there!
3. Contribute to the conversation
If you regularly leave comments on blogs and social media platforms that are genuinely adding to a conversation, it might take some consistency but they will get noticed. Likewise, if you get mentioned in an article, leave a quick comment of thanks and recognition. Use your manners and be gracious! These little tokens of appreciation do add up — create a memorable trail across the internet.
4. Help those who seek help
If someone writes a blog post or tweets about their quest for a specific item, send them some options (Kat is a total pro at this). If someone tweets looking for shops and restaurants to visit on vacation in a new city, offer up some recommendations. You can never go wrong by being helpful.
5. Link to content you love
Every week, I link to articles I find valuable and get the word out. Sending a chunk of traffic bloggers’ way is one of my small ways of giving back to those I respect and admire. I’ve actually become friends certain bloggers through regularly linking to them. A lot of the articles that you’re reading (including this one) might only take five minutes to get through but probably took the blogger a few hours to write. Link back to content you find valuable and show bloggers some love!
6. Attend every industry events
It’s not easy putting yourself out there but you’ll make valuable connections by showing up to industry events with an open mind (and a stack of business cards). Even the biggest bloggers can appear supremely confident on-screen and still be total wallflowers in person. If someone is standing around by themselves, make that first move. Talk to bloggers in the same the way you’d talk to a friend — always remember to play it cool! The second you start flailing your arms around and proclaiming, “Oh my god! I’m you’re biggest fan!” and smothering them, it becomes incredibly uncomfortable and you’ve just moved yourself down a level.
Think of it this way: If you were to run into a celebrity at the bar and casually strike up a conversation, they may engage you. If you squeal, try to hug them, snap a million photos and go on and on about their biggest accomplishments, you’re treating them as less than human. Would you treat your closest friends this way? Playing it cool takes practice but I promise, it will get you a lot further with the people you admire!
7. Stay consistent but not creepy
If you’d like to connect with someone, take it easy. Kat once said, “If it would be weird in real life, it’s weird on the internet” and she had a point! Comment regularly, show an interest and interact with the tweets of the people you’d like to connect with but don’t come on too strong. I know this is vague but if you have to ask how much is too much, you’re probably crossing the line! When interacting for the first time, think of how you’d act on a coffee date when meeting a new friend. Keep your interactions light, casual and conversational in the beginning.
8. If you’re asking for something, follow the golden rule
If you ever need a favor (and we all do at some point), always, always, always offer something in return! People will remember that small token of appreciation forever. I’ve sent Amazon digital gift certificates, bought dinner, coffee, offered design discounts, written testimonials and more in exchange for a favor. Everyone loves to feel appreciated. Even a simple “thank you” or a handwritten card can mean the world on a bad day. I have stack of handwritten thank you cards from past Blogcademy graduates sitting on my desk and each showcases their personalities beautifully. It’s inspired me to upgrade my thank you card arsenal as well. Sometimes giving thanks takes a budget no larger than a stamp.
Always be genuine, charming and humble. Above all, be yourself and doors will open.
If you’re searching for even more advice, these articles are extremely helpful:
1. Modern Etiquette by Grace Bonney of Design Sponge
2. Collaborations That Work… by Kat Williams
3. Email Etiquette for the Super Busy by 99U
4. The Best Goal is No Goal by Zen Habits (because sometimes, the best connections happen naturally)
View more of the Blog Log series here.
It’s your turn: How do you go about making connections in an authentic, non-slimy way? What’s been the best thing that’s come about from you taking that chance and reaching out?