There was, about a week or so back, a really great discussion on the Etsy forums started by Urbanwoodswalker - basically asking why people bother to blog at all, or blog their Etsy shops or indie businesses. It's actually a really valid question - and sometimes I wonder what people do get out of the endeavor even though I'm not new to it.
Inside that discussion Violet'sVintage (her great blog is here) posted something about blogging being analagous to networking - and I thought this was so great I asked her if I could write a post based on this idea.
So yes, the more I think about it, blogging IS like networking and tips which apply to networking apply to blogging.
1. Put yourself out there.
You can't go to a networking lunch, cling to the wall and stare at the floor and expect results. I know it's not easy. Being a wallflower is my natural tendency - this is what's so great about blogging instead of in-person networking. While it's still kind of hard for me to ask someone else "hey do you mind if I write something based on what you just said" or "I love your blog, please consider a link trade with me" it's nowhere NEAR as hard as making those requests in person.
But even if you have to fake it till you make it, with blogging for your biz and with going to a networking event, you have to force your inner extrovert out. What this takes is simple practice till it becomes a skill you've mastered. It may never BE a habit if you're an introvert, but it IS a skill to be learned and which can be learned.
2. Don't be what you're not.
Like lying on your resume, people can usually tell. Don't name drop or name-check people you have no business doing. Because the internet is how it is, who knows, you may actually HAVE that indie band reading your blog. Don't understate and don't overstate - the latter reads like ad copy and no one wants to read that.
I know I just said to find your inner extrovert and channel her, even if you don't think you have one. That's still different from being something you're just NOT. People can tell. Be your best you, but be you. Play it a little edgy if that's you. I like to think of my blogging voice as me with just one cocktail for bravado.
3. Keep it personable, and impersonal.
There are two kinds of indie craftista blogs I hate reading.
One is overly personal: "my chihuahua sam needs an operation on his little toe, Joe and I had a huuuuuuuge fight again, my life sucks so bad, pleasebuymystuff - here's my Etsy shop link"
The other is overly impersonal. You know the kind. You look at this person and their biggest conflict always seems to be finding which pastel shade plate shows off their dinner of yam quiche and dessert of cupcake best. Their children are omnimentioned, but never smeary, sick, or cranky. Everything is SO PERFECT. After a second of jealousy, I usually get a case of the deep creeps. What is all this gingham actually hiding? Who's actually in there, and are they really scary?
BOTH these types of people can be met at the business dinner you're at, armed with your little stash of cards and your eagerness to talk up what you're doing. BOTH of these types of people are not the ones you want to be. Neither whining nor robotic. How do you do that with people you just met?
You ask them about their lives. Or you posit something that may be useful to them. Or you talk about your observations on something, soliciting their observations on same. Music movies and books are a good start, people feel quick comeraderie over these things. The first step leading to my marriage was a fast litmus test on my husband to make sure he listened to the Pixies - he looked dangerously preppy at first blush. Had the answer been no, I'm not entirely certain I'd have felt enough "on the same planet" to get his phone number and give him mine. Shallow, perhaps, but true.
The blog is not the same as the ultra-personal diary blog - it's more the kind of dialog you want to have with people you are work friends with, or people you'd LIKE to know, but don't. The original function of blogging is being replaced a little with social bookmarking like Stumbleupon or del.i.cious but I don't think these megalists will really do the same thing as a blog post about your latest internet find passion. Blog about the sites you love, the blog posts that made YOU laugh, the sites you have in your bookmarks and feed readers. I'm more likely to read things recommended by other people, personally.
4. Don't hard sell, and spread the love.
They'll find your link. Really, if they want to. I definitely post about my latest stuff every so often, with links all over, but mix it up a bit. One of the best ways to get people to look at your own business is to be the brilliant problem-solving mind that matched them up with a recommendation for someone *else.* One beef I have with mutual promotion is that I don't think a lot of indie crafters are genre-savvy about it. I promote other jewelry, but really, if you think about it, it's best for jewelry to be promoted by bag, clothing, bath and body people and vice-versa, no?
Let it come up naturally - it WILL come up - you're at a networking lunch after all. Listen as much as you talk, and be sold as much as you sell. Collect business cards, trade them, keep them. Networking is financial Karma in action. You want to put good vibes and good energy out there for other people.
5. Look Cute
This doesn't mean you have to have Prada or be a programmer, but be sensitive to design and visuals when you are blogging, just as you would not wear clashing patterns or mud-caked boots to a networking opportunity. Default templates are FINE if you are a noob or tired of hacking templates for little payoff, but be honest when you are sizing up those defaults - is this readable, clean, and does it dovetail in any way with my general business identity and the image I want to project?