Back when launching my first blog in April 2005, Twitter did not exist and Facebook was just appearing on the horizon, so I did not have the luxury of social media to promote my content. Nowadays, many businesses are putting all of their time and effort into building their presence on social networks but neglecting other strategies to promote their business and this is a big mistake.
For networking to be successful you have to put at least an hour a week into participating in discussions on blogs, forums and on high-profile websites. The trick is to find where your target audience “hang out” and network with them, build relationships, add value to the conversation and prove that you’re knowledgeable.
Online networking is split into three groups:
• networking to attract your target audience
• networking to attract media attention
• networking with potential collaborators
Networking to increase readers
Networking online can be just as powerful as offline, the challenge is to find out where your targeted audiences are. Let’s pretend that you organise walking tours in London: Firstly, write down a list of local blogs and websites that focus on the city.
Then once a week, go on to the websites that you’ve identified and answer and ask questions in the comments sections. Add value to the conversation and this will make readers interested in finding more about you.
What’s important is that you do not come across as a spammer, so read the community guidelines on these blogs and websites to make sure that you are not breaking any rules. When leaving comments or responding to posts, use your real name, but link to your website within the comments section, or create a signature within forums.
This will help send people to your website where they will hopefully sign up for your newsletter, book any tours that you are running, or become regular readers.
Networking to attract media attention
The saying is true; it is not always what you know, but who you know. Nowadays most journalists are on Twitter, so create a list, and add all of the journalists that write about your niche and over a period of time chatting with them, ask questions, respond to their questions, and build a relationship.
You will also find that a lot of journalists and writers have their own blog, so, read their content and add comments. When you have built up a relationship then approach them with ideas for future features, or, send them a link to a blog post that you think would be really helpful to them.
Networking with potential collaborators
Networking with people can open doors – in November 2008, I organised an event, where I brought bloggers and travel companies together for the first time. This event ran for five years and was one of the most popular events during the World Travel Market in London.
The event wouldn’t have been possible without collaboration with Kevin May, who I first came across after leaving comments on the Travolution Blog while he was an editor. Over the years we both worked hard on improving the event and it’s a good example of collaboration that worked well within the travel industry.
To create a successful blog you will have to learn new skills, like search engine optimisation, understanding social media, and the technical side of running a website. Networking will make it easy to find people who can help you with your skills gap and vice versa.
Going back to the Travel BlogCamp, at the time I wasn’t a very good public speaker, but Kevin has those skills – my area of expertise was organising the event and finding sponsors. Sometimes, collaboration is the best way forward rather than struggling on yourself, or not launching the great idea you’ve had because you don’t have the skills.
Hope you found this post useful (please share if you did) and over the next couple of weeks, you’ll find more content about networking online and offline – as it’s essential to the success of your tourism business website.