Finding The Sweet Spot In Networking With Bloggers

Two posts on the subject of networking with other bloggers caught my attention this weekend. The premise of both is that you’ll be better served working to network with non-probloggers than you will working to network with probloggers. While I completely agree with the advice, I think it’s incomplete. Bloggers come in many more flavors than pro and non-pro. They sit along a spectrum of popularity and influence and there are many points along that spectrum where you can and should try networking. Even better there’s a sweet spot along the blogging spectrum, which will give you the greatest return on your networking efforts.

The first of the two posts, Why It Is Better To Network With Non Probloggers was written by Rocai from Blogging Mix. The second post, Networking with Bloggers – ‘Lower’ Your Sights and You Could Benefit More, is a follow up to the first post by none other than problogger Darren Rowse.

Probloggers vs. Non-Probloggers

Rocai offers some cons when it comes to networking with bloggers at the top of the food chain. The main points being:

  1. Probloggers already have a huge network. The larger their network the lesser your chances of getting noticed.
  2. Probloggers network with other probloggers not with newbies.
  3. In order for networking to work, there should be a mutual benefit to parties involved. With Probloggers, what can you give them when they’ve got all.

The other side of the argument are the benefits of networking with non-probloggers:

  1. Non Probloggers are still building their networks.
  2. Non Probloggers are usually new to blogging so they need all the support they can get.
  3. Non Problogger are more generous.
  4. Compared to Problogger, Non Probloggers are larger in number.
  5. Non Probloggers are not too picky with whom they network with.

I generally agree with Rocai in the idea that non-probloggers will be easier to add to your network than probbloggers and that ease may lead to quicker benefits. The main reason is simple. Bloggers at the top have more demands made of their time and it will be harder for you to gain their attention. I don’t think less known bloggers are more generous by nature, but because their networks are small and they are less known it’s much easier to grab their attention.

One email in ten has a much better chance of standing out than one email in a thousand.

The Spectrum of Blogging Influence

The world is not black and white. The world is shades of gray. The division of pro vs. non-pro bloggers is incomplete. Where is the dividing line? Is it 10,000 subscribers? 2,000 subscribers? 500 subscribers? 50 subscribers? There really isn’t a dividing line. Bloggers can reside along many different points along the spectrum of popularity and influence.

Darren Rowse has 35,000+ subscribers and climbing on ProBlogger. That’s a lot more subscribers than I have and it won’t be hard to realize Darren can do a lot more for your blog than I can at the moment, Skellie, who is a frequent guest blogger for Darren has 2,000+ subscribers and climbing at Skelliewag. I think it’s fair to say that Darren has more influence at the moment than Skellie, but at the same time Skellie also has more influence than me.

That’s not to say Skellie and myself aren’t good networking options. But when comparing the three of us Darren has the most influence, followed by Skellie, with me pulling up the rear. When it comes to who would be easiest to add to your network that’s probably me. I don’t know how often people email Skellie or Darren, but I suspect each gets more requests than I do.

Every blogger will sit somewhere along a spectrum measuring influence and ease of connection. If you blog you’re on the spectrum too. For the most part the more another blogger can help you the harder it will be to gain their attention.

Instead of seeing a single dividing line think of a long line with one end representing the most influential blogger and the other end representing the least influential blogger. Everyone else lies somewhere in between. While not entirely true you could map another long line on top if this line of influence with the least influential blogger being the easiest to add to your network and the most influential blogger being the hardest to add to your network.

So who you should attempt to add to your network for the best return on your investment?

The Networking Sweet Spot

Consider again Darren, Skellie, and myself. You’ll get the most return by having Darren in your network. I’ve seen subscriber counts triple in a week after a few mentions on ProBlogger. You’re investment will be the least if you try to add me to your network. I won’t automatically be your friend just because you send me an email, but I’ll more than likely notice and open your email.

Bloggers above you in influence will provide greater return, but will require a greater investment of your time. Bloggers below you in influence will provide less return, but far less investment of your time. The sweet spot are those bloggers who are just above you on the influence spectrum. These bloggers:

  1. Have more influence than you
  2. Are not so far above you on the spectrum to make them out of reach
  3. Have a similar brand reach
  4. Have the greatest potential for finding a win-win proposition

A number of years ago when I was still working for others, but not getting ahead, a friend’s mother commented that I was always moving laterally when it came to my career. I would leave a job with one company to take the same job with another. I realized she was right and from then on whenever I applied for a new job I would only apply for one that would equal a promotion for me were I to take it at my current company.

Networking with slightly more influential bloggers is like seeking a promotion.

It shouldn’t be too hard or take too much effort to connect with bloggers who are a little ahead of you in popularity and influence. You may already be spending time in similar circles and may only need to take that one more step to connect. And since they are not too far ahead of you it becomes easier for you to move up to where they are. Where they are is the next logical step for where you should be.

There’s also a good chance they have made the next connection up the chain. If you follow a strategy of looking a little ahead of where you are and making the connections to take you one step ahead you will consistently be moving to positions of greater influence and popularity. Each new new step will yield greater return for what will essentially be the same investment on your part, that of connecting with someone who’s just a little further along than you.

Each step also takes you closer to gaining the attention of those bloggers at the top who can provide the greatest networking return.

Network With all Points Along the Spectrum

The sweet spot is where you’ll get the greatest return on your investment, but you should be working to network with bloggers at every point along the spectrum. Bloggers with less subscribers than you still have an audience that may not be aware of you. The bloggers themselves may also become loyal readers and who’s to say they won’t have more influence than you at a later date.

Bloggers at the top may require more effort and time to gain their attention, but they still provide the greatest return. You might want to look at networking with them as a longer term investment, but you should still be looking to network with them. It might not happen as fast, but it may still happen.

Take Darrren’s word in a comment he left for Rocai:

But don’t give up on us ‘ProBlogger’ types. I can’t speak for others but I do enjoy the interactions that I have with bloggers of all sizes and types

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  1. Agreed; I vote for “all of the above”. Networking with up-and-coming bloggers means more chance to get noticed, more chance to get to know someone, and followed links. Networking on larger blogs means getting seen by more people and potentially becoming part of a community and a recognized voice. I try to stick with blogs where there’s a win-win, whatever it may be.

  2. @Pete – All of the above is the way I see it too. Win-win is always the best approach, but second is giving first. If you give to someone else enough they’ll generally give back to you in time. Maybe not always, but usually.

    @Aurelius – Thanks. I’m glad you liked the post.

    @Rocai – Thanks. I hope I made it clear in the post that I do agree with everything you said. I guess I disagree a little that probloggers aren’t necessarily generous, but otherwise I agree with everything.

    The analogy to a democratic election makes sense. In that case it would make sense to network with as many people as possible and if it’s the numbers your after going after the less known bloggers is absolutely the way. Using your same analogy, though if you can network with a few influential people at a major news source those connections can go on to get many of the people on your side.

    Sorry for the long read, but I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for your post as well. I read it last night and it got me thinking about this one and like I said I do agree with your assessment.

  3. “Bloggers come in many more flavors than pro and non-pro. They sit along a spectrum of popularity and influence and there are many points along that spectrum where you can and should try networking. ”

    I totally concede to that statement. This was by far a good analysis. Thanks for a very insightful post.

  4. You made some good points on the spectrum of bloggers. I failed to realize that bloggers are not just categorized as pro and non-pro. I should have broaden the category.

    What I like most in your post is your idea of “PROMOTION”, that networking with bloggers with higher influence may lead to promotion. This is particularly true in a workplace where you have to get the favor of your bosses to improve your chances of getting promoted. However, my idea of networking can be compared to a “Democratic Election” where in order to become the President, you must get the support of the people. Support from a mayor or a senator may improve your chances of winning but does not guarantee success.

    It was a long read but I’ve enjoyed it. Happy blogging. :)

  5. I’d have to agree there any many flavors of bloggers and many influence levels in blogging. I think characterizing bloggers as ProBloggers and Non-ProBloggers leaves out a lot of people.

    Blogging is like anything else, if you want to get noticed you have to work at it. I’m fairly choosy about where I comment and to whom I link, mostly because I think quality trumps quantity. I’d rather have fewer links to quality blogs than many links to every blog that comes down the pike. Linking to dreck isn’t going to get me anywhere. Plus, if I don’t respect or enjoy the blog or the writer, it doesn’t matter how popular they are, I don’t want my work associated with their work.

    As for the ProBloggers being busier and less likely to need my link or my paltry influence, I can only say this. We all started at the bottom at one time or another. Those people who stay at the top are the ones who remember that they were once at the bottom, and who are willing to lend a helping hand to others.

  6. I’ve thought about this and used site explorer to take a look at linking patterns for a day or two. I’ve come to this obvious conclusion: A-list metabloggers usually sit on top of a BIG pile of inlinks – some over half a million. Most of that link love comes from much smaller bloggers. Bloggers never stop needing the support of the blog linkerati, but when you rely on 500,000 inlinks to keep you on top you’re no longer going to have time to be best buddies with all of your supporters.

    When you compare numbers of inlinks, and subscribers with average numbers of comments one thing really becomes apparent. Commenters are probably the smallest minority of people in the blogosphere. No matter how big a blogger gets you can’t afford to alienate your commenters if you want to have any – statistically there just aren’t very many of us.

  7. David is definitely right … I’m not sure why commenters are so rare, but it’s very true. I think this is the #1 reason blogs remove their nofollow; I’ve been thinking about doing the same myself.

  8. @Kristine – True, though I don’t want to take away from anything Rocai said. I think it can be helpful to make the distinction as long as we don’t lose site of the fact that there’s more to it.

    Quality over quantity is good in my book. I usually comment when I have something to say. I will admit that at times I’ve left a comment just to see if I could connect with the blogger, but even them I’m trying to leave a quality comment on a quality post.

    @David – That’s interesting, though it makes a lot of sense. I look at someone like Darren Rowse and think how many emails he must get each day and how he could possibly find the time to open them all let alone read them. Then again I have emailed Darren and he’s replied very quickly.

    Not too long ago Skellie looked at comments on a blog vs the number of subscribers the blog had. I forget what if any numbers she ran, but it was an interesting post. I can find it if you’re interested and haven’t seen it yet. Her point was that some blogs shouldn’t show subscriber counts because the amount of comments they received gave the impression the blog had more subscribers than it really did.

    True though, that commenters are a rarer breed than you might think.

    @Forrest – Trying to grow comments is certainly one reason for removing nofollow. There are lots of other things you can do also if you want more comments. Asking for them helps. If you end posts with a question or two it seems to lead to an extra comment or two.

    Usually if you can get one or two people to comment more will comment after. I think some people want to comment, but don’t want to be first. Once they see others commenting they’ll join in the conversation.

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