Social Networking and Casting a Bigger Net

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Those of us who are serious about our businesses have some sorts of plans. Whether it’s a formal business plan or notes written on a cocktail napkin, there’s an idea behind it. As our plans evolve and we start developing our strategy, we identify our niche target customer. Who’s going to buy our product or service? What are the benefits to them?

As we answer these questions and develop our marketing strategy, many of us commit to networking online. We set up our Gravatars, create our Twitter accounts and Facebook fan pages. We look for like-minded people who we have something in common with. Whether we call it our contact sphere, circle of friends or support system, we  start forming online relationships. Networking online can be a very important part of our overall marketing strategy.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable in Your Niche

Lately, I started wondering if I’m challenging myself enough. Sure, I have met some amazing people online and have become good friends with many of them. I’m part of an online community and that’s a good thing.

Lots of us comment on each other’s blogs and like each other’s Facebook pages and RT each other’s tweets on Twitter. All this is good! But how do we go beyond our core groups. How do we build awareness of our business amongst new readers?

My thought is to reach out to someone who is doing things a little differently. My challenge to myself (and to you) is the next time you have an opportunity – (maybe you’re forming a new social group or are looking to collaborate with someone) look beyond your inner circle and invite at least one person who isn’t normally included in your network. Just think of the opportunity. How many new people do they know that you’ll be introduced to? What are your thoughts? Do you have a plan to expand your social network?

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Published by Sherryl Perry

Welcome! If you're looking for help building an Internet presence that fits your needs and works for you, you're in the right place. I blog common sense articles about WordPress, social media and SEO. My goal is to help small business owners and entrepreneurs understand their core business. Together, we can develop and implement business strategies that make sense to you.

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44 Comments

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  1. Hi Natural Tips, Oh – that’s not your name? OK, I’m being facetious here but the point I’m trying to make is that I really don’t know if this comment was left by someone just getting started blogging or by a spambot. (Lots of bloggers would never even accept this comment.)

    So, please, if you are a real person and you’re serious about using social networking to drive traffic to your blog, do 2 things.
    #1 – Start posting with your real name.
    #2 – Set up a (free) globally recognized avatar at http://gravatar.com.

  2. This actually what I’m doing now. I met some very cool people/bloggers like you.
    There are also some benefits going out from our niche and making it more broader, it does help a lot in SEO too.

    1. I absolutely agree with you John. I look for ways to network with bloggers outside of my niche. It’s more exposure and their readers could follow me over here. The key is to add value to the conversation. 🙂

  3. Going out from our comfort zone is surely a must if we want to improve our current level. That’s why I agree that we should not too comfortable with our niche.

    1. I just hopped over to your site Dana and left a comment for you. I hate to admit that I’m still the proud owner of a “stupid” phone but I’ll definitely back to your site when I do decide to buy. That’s another benefit of networking outside of my niche. I now know a guru on tablet PCs. 🙂

  4. Hi Sherryl,

    First time visiting your blog and your post couldn’t be more opportunistic. I love what you said about not getting too comfortable with your niche and branching out. This is one of the reasons how I ended up on your blog because I feel the need to branch out of my core group that have come to syndicate and promote each other’s work. It’s a wonderful thing but as you said, I felt this need to branch out, and explore other amazing blogs that I’m not reaching because I was staying too close to my niche.

    Thank you for the inspiration!

    Janette Stoll

    1. Hi Janette,
      I’m very happy that you found your way here. There’s a wonderful group of bloggers who drop by regularly and I can always count on them to join the conversation. It’s amazing how much we can learn from each other. Now, I’m looking forward to getting to know you better too.

  5. I’ve bee thinking of just this very thing. Staying content is a sure way to become irrelevant. I’m trying more and more to reach out to other designers/illustrators out there, because there is some great talent and pulling together can lead to some great collaborations and even new opportunities. Great post.

    1. Thanks Dennis. I agree that reaching out to others is a great resource to meet people to collaborate with. The connections we have formed are invaluable and we can all benefit from them.

  6. This blog article is perfect timing, I was just thinking the same thing! I’m really big on LinkedIn, that’s where I’m most comfortable. I’ve started utilizing twitter but I have to admit I really don’t know what I’m doing! I definitely need to find the time to go outside my comfort zone and utilize more of the social networking tools available.

    1. Billye, I’ve written a few posts about getting the most out of Twitter. One of my posts was even a poll about whether it helps you or is a complete waste of time.There are people (like me) who drive a significant amount of traffic through Twitter and there are people who believe it’s a huge waste of time. I believe if you use Twitter strategically, it can work really well for you. If you get a chance, this post may help you get started: http://bit.ly/hKUeNP. As always, the comments are well worth reading.

  7. I really learned a lot from reading comments from up to bottom. I like Patricia’s way of widening her circle of friends, visiting her commentor’s website and leave a comments on theirs.

    1. Thanks for letting us know that you enjoyed the comments. I learn from them too. Patricia is a great example of someone who embraces networking online to build awareness of her blog. I believe a lot of us follow her over there. Her blog is a very light read and enjoyable. I’ll check out your blog too!

  8. Sherryl, this post reminds me scientific communities. If you think about brain imaging, for example — in the past, it was used separately for neuroscience research, psychology research and in medicine. Each field developed the technology in different ways and argued about its advantages/disadvantages in its own field. It’s only recently that these scientists and doctors are starting to work together. Imagine how much time they wasted, developing brain imaging in their separate fields! =P

    I hope to continue to connect with and learn infinitely more from many other fields and thank you for the encouragement. =)

    1. You’re welcome Samantha! Thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s great to welcome you to our group here. We can learn so much from each other. Your example of the scientific communities is a great example of the benefits of collaborating with others.

  9. Its actually great to get out of one’s comfort zone for awhile and mingle with new contacts. I have found out that doing so makes me meet new friends and also widen my horizons. Sometimes it has even make me expand my business niche — not a bad move at all 🙂

  10. Networking is very important as you say and so much fun. What I have been doing is getting social by requesting friendships, joining groups and joining in on conversations on different social media sites and blogs. This is why I am such a big fan of CommentLuv, you can find so many new blogs to read and network in from the CommentLuv links, I love it!

  11. This article could be me or probably many like me. I jumped in, got to know some really great people and just recently was introduced to some just outside the circle. My blog and direction are in its infancy and this new group has given me some ideas of where I might want it to go.

    I’m here because of Patricia @lavenderuses; she has done this very well.

    Good to see you and thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Bill. Thanks for letting me know that you found me through Patricia. I found Patricia through Rick LaPoint (who often comments on here). I don’t believe I would ever have found Patricia’s site if I hadn’t heard of her through Rick. On the surface, Patricia appears to be about all things lavender but actually, she’s a great example of someone who understands the core of social networking. Expanding our circles can be a very good thing.

  12. Hi Sherryl

    I have recently connected with a new group of bloggers/marketers who I am learning heaps from. Knew a couple from commenting on their blogs but it has been great getting to know and others in the group better.

    Also, when new people come to my blog and leave a comment, I visit theirs and if at all possible will leave a comments on theirs. That way I am widening my circle.

    I do agree with you it is easy to just be comfortable with the group we know well. But then we could be missing out on some other great connections too.

    Patricia Perth Australia

    1. Patricia, You do an excellent job of widening your circle. I try to do the same thing that you do and check out the sites that people leave links to when they comment. Sometimes, I am so overwhelmed time-wise I just can’t but it is something that I strive to do.

  13. That’s a great idea Sherryl. I know myself that I need to work harder on building up my online social relationships. Sometimes it’s a daunting task you have other things to worry about when building up your business, but to have challenges like these and people behind you actually helps to motivate us into action. I feel that social networking if done right can be a great way for us to reach new audiences and connect more personally with people within our niche.

    1. Building social relationships can be time consuming Josh but it really helps to build awareness of your website. You’ll also find that you’ll meet some wonderful people who genuinely want to help you. We all have our own skill sets and I don’t believe that anyone can possibly be really successful without help. I know several bloggers that I turn to for advice or help.

      Having said this, can I offer one piece of advice to you and anyone else who comments here without an avatar? You will be surprised how easier it is to interact with other bloggers once they get to know you. Gravatar.com is free to use. Just set up a profile with your ID, email address and pic. Every time you leave a comment, it will pull your profile pic. I set my Gravatar up with my Twitter ID and it pulls my full name. Some bloggers don’t accept comments from people who use keywords instead of their name. (I make exceptions on a case by case basis.) Hope this helps.

  14. Agree that we need to expand our networks. One way, of course, is by guest blogging and beginning interactive conversations with people who comment. These may be an entirely new audience for you. Frankly, while networking online is critical, I think we need to remember the adage, “Go online, to go offline.” That is, we still need to develop new business relationships with people we meet face to face. That may be old fashioned, but it works.

  15. I like the idea Sherryl and I need to do more, although I have a group of people I network with who having nothing to do with marketing or the elements of marketing. One person I met on twitter through someone else and does mediation workshops and consulting has been a great help in a product I was developing.

  16. Hi Sherryl,
    I wanted to read this earlier but was exhausted. This is so very true. For anyone reading this comment and who knows me, please don’t take what I am about to say the wrong way. The people in my network (or social network…and they are different) have become my friends. I pay my bills and feed myself through online efforts, and quite frankly, you don’t make any money from a regular visitor of your blog (commenter, etc.) They have the same resources that you do. They can become an affiliate of the 125×125 button banner you’re waiving just as easily as you did. However, the most important thing that it does create, is AUTHORITY. Through this authority, you can extend your reach and others outside of your network will “buy into you”. Great article topic.
    Bryan

    1. Building authority is an excellent point Bryan. I find myself joining some of the same networks simply because a lot of the people that I’ve connected with do have authority and are influencers. On the other hand, I do like to mix it up a little sometimes. Everyone has their own special set of skills and by meeting new people and following them, they will probably never become a client or customer but they just may be connected to someone who will. Thanks for dropping by!

  17. Good article Sherryl. Was actually thinking about how I could turn my life upside down in radical ways today. Would be fun.

    Online Triberr may be a good way, Blog Engage, Blog Interact and other places as well? However, still think Linkedin may be the best place for business contacts.

    1. That’s funny that you were thinking about how to turn your life upside down. 🙂 I like to mix things up a little. I don’t want to get too comfortable here in the blogosphere.

      I agree that LinkedIn is the best place for business contacts but there are still lots of people out there who haven’t discovered that network yet. I just reconnected with someone who I’ve networked with for years. I invited him to LinkedIn years ago and he just never got into it. The only reason he’s on now is because he absolutely could not get through to someone he’s known for years. Her secretary would not connect him. he shot her a message through LinkedIn and voila! Then, he reconnected with me. Some people are just reluctant at first to network online I think.

  18. Thank you Wes and Sherryl. I am living thru widening my circle as you suggest. I read Ari Herzog for techie info about blogging and the internet. Left a few comments. Hooked Wes, and now you too Sherryl.

    BTW Thanks for following my blog. Since I’m only one of 4, I wonder if you have just started following blogspots? I ask, because you don’t have a link to your blog when I click on your avatar. Nice to see who you follow, 2 new blogs I’m going to look at. But you are missing out on drawing a little more traffic here.

    1. Hi and thanks for coming over. I think you’ll find several worthy blogs to follow here.

      I have no idea why my Gravatar did not come up when I left a comment but when you click on my name, you do come to my home page. Its kind of weird that it didn’t pull my picture. I’ve been registered on Blogger for close to a year.

      1. Maybe recheck the details on your Blogger entry. I meant, when you click on your thumbnail amongst my followers – your own blog doesn’t show anywhere. If I click on your name there (at followers) I end up in your Twitter account, which I guess is what you wanted. Perhaps the Gravatar needs sorting on that Blogger page too?

        Your name on the comment, is good to link to your blog. It is the ‘following’ I meant.
        People are visual today, easier than remembering, is it the one R Sheryl,or the 2 R Sherryl.

  19. This is a great concept you have here, Sherryl. We never know what we can get by branching out. Just today, I visited Diana’s Elephant Eye blog that I have been meaning to check out for a long time and I am glad I did. I read about a story of a wild swallow that they rescued and I was positively touched about how compassionate Diana was. I usually just read about SEO, branding, marketing, web and graphic design and blogging, so reading Diana’s story was very refreshing for me. She made me think about opening up myself more. And, now I read this post. 🙂

    1. Wes, This is exactly what I mean by expanding our networks. I Googled on Diana’s blog and loved what I saw. Her pictures are amazing. It is nice to take a break and read blogs just for the pure enjoyment. Thanks for sharing! I’ll check out the link to your post now too.

  20. Hi Sherryl
    I find your comments most interesting. When I first started out in my purchased offline/online business I just focussed on targeting everyone, but I also spent little time listening and chatting with my customers, so naturally many of them came through my doors with a single order then left again. I have since learnt the real value in how to relate to my customers, by finding out who they are and what they are involved in, and how I can meet their requirements, therefore growing the relationships, but more importantly growing their trust so that they are willing to pass on my details to their friends and family.

    I am about to launch a blog on my website, which I know will add an interesting angle to my site, and hopefully widen the “net” to an even bigger target market. I do believe that when you have a target market of the whole “world” this can be a little challenging and even a bit scary, but finding new ways to get uncomfortable in your niche is a good thing I believe. It opens our minds to other people’s ideas and thinking and it keeps your business alive and fresh.

  21. Excellent idea Sherryl. I like to keep my opportunities open because one never knows where their “tipping point” lies. Creating opportunities means stretching our comfort zones and branching out. New online groups, places where our customers might be, in person networking events etc… all seem to work.

    1. It’s amazing sometimes how something will come up in a casual conversation and it will lead to a bigger opportunity. I remember when I first started networking at Chamber events, I was nervous and actually frightened. A total stranger “took me under her wing” and walked me around the room introducing me to everyone she knew. It was wonderful and my first exposure to a true networker. We’ve remain friends ever since.

  22. Sherryl, I like your suggestion to expand your exposure beyond your current box. One way is networking for word-of-mouth referrals. Sometimes, for networking purposes, “weak ties” (casual contacts) can be more helpful than strong ties, because they connect us to resources and information we would not otherwise know about. Close friends tend to know the same people and things we know. I explained this in more detail in a post on my blog:

    1. Thanks Buddy. I don’t believe I had visited your blog before. It’s interesting that your article is written on the same vein as mine. I’d say we’re pretty much in agreement. I tweeted it for you. 🙂

      1. Thank you, Sherryl, for tweeting my article, and for your kind comment on my blog. Your blog is quite insightful. I will come back to read more…