Networking vs. Not Working

Engagement vs. Content Cannons

At Ivy we always warn people about loading up the marketing and PR cannons and firing them at the bloggers and influencers.  We have some news for you!

The bloggers get 500+ press releases a day and numerous pitches (war stories in another post) that they pay absolutely no attention to. We find many companies who think of their influencers as just another name in a contact list. If you are a big enough company there is a good chance, some of the bloggers may pick up your press release.  But is that interaction? Is that engagement?  Is that building a relationship with an influential person that can recommend your company on many levels?  Heck no!

When you truly build a relationship with someone, you know many details about them and they know details about you. If you like that person, you are happy to tell others about him in great detail. That is a recommendation and it is priceless. So how do you get to the point of someone recommending you? It closely follows the principals of networking.

Networking vs. Not working

There is a great article by Nigel Ashford called The Art of Networking: Key Concepts that outlines the key principals of networking. Reading it, I realized that he was outlining some of the key principals of blogger relations as well.

Marketers tend to think about what they can get bloggers and their audiences to do. That’s one-way thinking. You can give and get back and here is how to do it.

Dispersed Knowledge

We all suffer from limited knowledge. We hear in our classes again and again that “I can’t keep up with it all.” Ashford says “…everyone you meet has some knowledge that could have value or interest to you. Your goal is to find out what that knowledge is.” When you have a conversation with someone you can ask questions and see how it relates to you. Having a relationship with your influencers that goes beyond email and twitter means you get more knowledge.  We can text or tweet bloggers we work with and only get a few word answer – not uncommon. If we call them we usually talk for half an hour or more and we almost always discover a new way we can work together.  I learn more true knowledge from them. And hopefully them from me.

Key takeaway: Spend some time to communicate and you will be amazed at what insights and ideas you come away with.

The Strength of Weak Ties

Mr. Ashford writes, “It is people you barely know who may be of the greatest value to you.”  Screw Klout scores. Hate them. You can’t rank influence. It is fluid. Not to mention that they keep changing the algorithm. People will find a way to game the system.  Influence is qualitative as much or more than it is quantitative. Example: We always run into marketers who talk about being reviewed and talked about by Robert Scoble. He’s a fantastic guy who is super smart and well connected. But when I have a super geeky enterprise tech company tell me that we need to talk to him I raise a Spock-like eyebrow. Why Scoble? By and large, from what we’ve seen, marketing people read Scoble, not enterprise tech people.  We have had huge success and great content created by up and coming bloggers who work in tech whom no one is paying attention to. We’ve also helped make them successful by getting them the content, access, and experiences they wouldn’t have had.

Key takeaway: Find the little guys with great content that are up and coming. Help them become more successful as they help you.

Reciprocity

Ashford says “Successful networkers are those who give as well as those who benefit. International studies on why fellow workers cooperate with each other show very different styles. For Americans, the principle is reciprocity, the belief that the other person would help them if asked. In China, cooperation depended on orders from an authority figure. The Spanish help those they like. Germans cooperate if it conforms to the rules. In America, reciprocity is the key ingredient. Avoid people who are takers but not givers.”

Key takeaway: I can’t add anything. He is spot on. Do as he says and mind the cultural differences.

Structural Holes

This is a biggie: “Filling in structural holes is the term for when one connects people who should know each other but do not.” When you get so blinded by the company task at hand and you don’t help your influencers connect with your network (with no benefit to you) then you are missing a HUGE opportunity and should be drawn and quartered. You have influence too. Over the years we’ve made countless introductions between influencers and people we know without regard to personal gain.  You will get back tenfold what you give. Not every connection will be a hit but like building a karma bank, it will all come back to you in unexpected ways.

Key takeaway:  If you aren’t making at least five introductions a month with your influencers you aren’t practicing reciprocity. Guess what?  If you don’t, your influencers won’t either.

Articulate Commonalities

Just because a blogger has the audience you want, do they necessarily create the content that is relevant to what you are trying to do?  Find out what your influencers’ interests are so you can see if there is a place where you are relevant to each other. We work hard to find out what areas grab the influencers’ interest and then see if we can help them achieve their goals in that area.

Key takeaway: Find the sweet spot where you both have common goals or likes. This is how relationships flourish.

Thanks to Nigel Ashford for inspiration.  As mentioned in our previous post – platforms aren’t people. Engage and network. Leave the content cannons to your competitors and you will see how your expended efforts decrease and your company’s influence increases. 

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