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Blogs and Networking
In the middle 1990's everyone started talking about needing a website. Now, the new "must have" is a web log or blog. While blogs can come in all shapes and sizes, a blog is just a very simple way to publish a journal, record of events, thoughts, ideas or whatever the author wants to write about. A blog sits on a website - whether that site is run by you or managed by a company that will "host" your blog.
Blogs started coming into the general public's awareness with a large number of political blogs written during the 2004 U.S. Presidential election campaign. Because of this, you may think blogging is part journalism and part political commentary, and therefore not of interest to you or the advancement of your business.
Blogs can be journalism. They can be political commentary. They can be personal diaries or journals. They can also be way for you to show your uniqueness and build a conversation around your business and professional interests. That is how I use mine.
Because blogs are designed to be easily updated and are already on a website (don't worry you don't need to know ANYTHING about websites or web design to start one), you may find a blog could replace or supplement an email newsletter. They are easier to do, easier to update, and you don't have to worry about emails getting delivered!
If you already have a website, adding a blog can help you get more visitors who are interested in you because you will be writing about your area of expertise. And since the search engines love websites that are tightly focused and updated often, your site can move up quickly in the search rankings.
There are plenty of places to learn much more about the technical aspects of blogs and blogging. Just do your own search on Google (or your favorite search engine) to get the latest information.
How You Can Benefit
Let's say you are an insurance agent. You have expertise in life insurance and a specific set of benefits you bring to your Clients. A blog gives you a platform to talk about the latest ideas related to life insurance and life planning. You can give Clients (and potential Clients) tips and checklists. You can give them new ideas. You can relate the latest news to your products and services. The ideas are endless; these are just meant to be a start.
Of course, if you aren't in life insurance you change the topics - but the premise and the benefits remain the same. While there are many, here are three specific benefits you will find:
Getting to know you. The blog becomes a part of how you brand yourself. If people read it, they should feel like they are getting to know you and getting to know what your beliefs and values are. Imagine your best referral sources sending potential referrals to your blog as a way to help them get to know you deeper, faster. In this way your blog can be leverage - people are even more qualified if they call you or may already "know" you when you they make the referral call.
Making it easier. Have Clients that love you but have trouble knowing what to say about you? Encourage them to send their friends and colleagues to your blog as a way to make the connection. That way they don't have to feel like they have to say the perfect words about your business in order to give the referral.
Keeps you "on top" of your game. By writing about your work and the benefits of your products and services often, you will stay current and fresh. This will help in all phases of your business, but it will also help you in networking situations by giving you something fresh and new to talk about when having conversations with possible Clients and new referrals. It also gives you new ideas to share with potential Clients as you build your relationship with them.
How It Has Helped Me
I started blogging in March of 2004. I have certainly gained the benefits described above. Beyond those, I have made new connections with potential colleagues and collaborators who have found my blog and sent me comments, feedback or questions.
By writing regularly (my goal is 4 entries or "posts" per week), seldom does a week go by that I don't add someone to my network or use what I am writing to make a new connection with an existing or potential Client.
How to Get Started
Lots more can be said about blogging and how it might help you build your network, but this should give you some initial ideas. Hopefully after reading this you are intrigued by the possibilities and would like to learn more.
Here are the first four things I recommend that you do:
1. Start reading some blogs. Do a search in Google for blogs. If you are a chiropractor, search on chiropractic blogs. If you are a graphic designer, search on graphic design blogs. You get the idea. Read what others are doing and writing about. Email them and build your network with these people. Chances are they aren't your competitors and they might be very willing to help you and perhaps even collaborate with you.
2. Learn About RSS. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is one way to "publish" your blog to the world. There are many free RSS readers that you can use to keep track of the blogs you are starting to read. Pick one (there are many) by searching for "Free RSS Reader" in your favorite search engine.
3. Read Debbie Weil. Debbie is an expert on blogging for business and she will be a good connection for you.
4. Start one! You can (and will want to) build a strategy and a plan later, but if you see value for you, jump in! Go to http://blogger.com (what I use) and get started in less than five minutes for free.
ŠKevin Eikenberry 2005. Kevin is Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group (http://KevinEikenberry.com), a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. To read his blog go to http://www.kevineikenberry.com/blogs/index.asp or contact him directly at (317) 387-1424 or 888.LEARNER.
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