Weekly Travel Writing Tip 7: Networking
"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
If what you create is good, better or maybe the best, do you still need marketing?
Eventually you will be discovered, right?
Maybe, if you're lucky, your career will boost without having to do anything, although I guess chances are quite small.
But it happens.
And then what? Now that you have been discovered, in the ideal world you have been asked by some publisher if they can use your material to create a book and pay you 25 percent the of profit, this doesn't mean that you can sit back and relax. You will still have to go to meetings, readings, gatherings and I-don't-know-what-else-ings. You need to make publicity, do marketing, network.
As you are reading this, I guess I may assume that nobody has yet offered to publish your work, maybe you haven't started writing yet. So I won't be telling you how to act on publisher's parties or how to present your book to critics. Partly because I also have no clue about that.
So let's start with the basics.
You have written something, created a blog and now you want people to actually read it.
WiKi told me that marketing is "the process by which companies advertise products or services to potential customers". You are the company, your product or service is your blog and your "customers" are everybody who's connected to the Internet.
All you need is a marketing strategy.
The billboards on Times Square or the commercial time during the Super Bowl are probably a bit out of budget, so you start telling the people around you about your blog. Mommy and Daddy, friends at school or colleagues at work, the girls at aerobics, the guys from the bar and the kid with the iPhone on the subway.
The next day you will have a look at your Google Analytics and your hits will have increased, but a couple of days later you'll notice that you're back where you started.
Does your writing stink that much?
Of course not, your marketing stinks. Your range of "customers" is not as broad as you expected. You might want to focus on everybody who is connected to the Internet AND has and interest in travelling. These are the ones that will come back every time you've written a new article or blog post.
Old fashion marketing would advise us to create an advertisement in a travel magazine or buy a banner on a travel website, but cheap as we are - let us pretend you are as cheap as I am - that is still way out of budget.
And that's where networking comes into play.
A network is some kind of connection between a group of people, often based on interest. And lucky you, we're right in the middle of the explosion of social networks. Think of Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, only to name the most popular ones.
Even if you're not familiar with networking, you probably have heard about Facebook, maybe already posted a picture of yourself? Maybe even a video you've found on YouTube? Why not post links to your blog? There you go, free marketing!
Now the bad news, Facebook networks are very often based on persons instead of interests. The connection between you and your Facebook friends is who you are, You've known these people for years or just met them and exchanged e-mail addresses.
If you go through your friend list and pick out the people who are also interested in travelling, you may not get above five to ten percent.
If you want to build a network with the purpose of marketing, you're way better of with Twitter. Twitter connections are almost always based on interest. That's why lots of your "friends" will be people you've never heard about, but who are interested in what you have to say.
A good example of this is shown in Worldhum's article Twitter Tips From 25 Tweeting Travelers
Other great advantages of Twitter are the possibility to "retweet" the things someone said. This happens when you tweet a link to your blog post, someone in your network retweets it to their network, someone else retweets it to yet another network, and so on. Secondly, next to following people, there's also the possibility to follow lists. For example you've been added to a list of "people who tweet about backpacking in Luxembourg", then people following that list can read your tweets and retweet you to their network and someone from their network retweets it and... I guess you get my point.
If I would consider Twitter as the number one place for starting a network, the solid number two will be commenting on other blogs. About every comment utility will ask for your name, e-mail address and website. Which means that with every comment you make, you create a direct link to your website.
Now you have two options: Either you start spamming every blog you find with random crap only to create the links, or you actually read the blog posts and try to post an intelligent comment.
Guess which one will provide you with returning readers.
An advantage of this kind of networking is that you will attract readers who are familiar with the importance of commenting. It's always hard to receive the first comment, but once you have it, others will follow quickly. If you're lucky, someone starts a real discussion at the bottom of your post.
I also suspect some bloggers for commenting on their own posts - under an other name of course - just to get the discussion started.
Does this work?
Is it legal?
Do I do this?
I also find it hard to receive comments but I don't want to create a false sense of popularity. If you want to do this, be my guest, but don't forget you're tricking the people for whom you write in the first place.
Once you've created a solid network with Twitter and by commenting on other people's blogs, you can take a step to the next level, which is cross-promotion.
Even though two persons can write about the same topic, their audience will always be slightly different. Then you can get some kind of agreement to get both audiences together. The philosophy of you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. I'll write something about your great blog post if you write something about mine.
A prettier way of doing this is by guest posts, when another blogger writes a post for your blog. He or she will then mention this to their network, and his or her friends will come to your blog to read the guest post. And probably also read some of your posts.
These are only the basics of professional networking, but they should at least get you started.
If you have other tips, please let me know.
If you want to share your networking experiences, please let me know.
If you want me to write a guest post on your blog, forget it! Nah, just kidding, please do let me know.