The four truths of blog and social networks to use to your advantage

Last Friday, Monica O’Brien of Twenty Set wrote about how blog networks sucked and that there wasn’t any advantage to being part of one. I disagree and this post is my response.

Here are the four universal truths about blog and social networks, and how to use them to your advantage:

1. Network means it’s not just about you. Social media by definition is social and is thus a give and take world.Traffic will not magically be sent to your blog, nor will exposure magically occur.

Joining a network – whether that be a blog network like Brazen Careerist, a social network like Facebook or Twitter, or the professional network LinkedIn – doesn’t mean that all of sudden things will be easier for you. Really, it only means that your work has just begun. Hard work.

I mean, I get it. I’ve been there. We think that since we are letting networks have access to all of our writing – words that we have toiled over until 2:00 am and let sit until 2:37 am just to feel motivated and confident enough to even publish – that we should reap grand rewards. That just by giving away permission to our soul, great things should happen. I’ve been there, but that’s not how it works.

It works by not only allowing more people into your world, but by listening to them, hearing them and responding. It works by participating and figuring out how you win with your post and how the community does too.

2. You can’t be found without showing up. A blog network is not your blog. Think of a network as the meeting place – a community house, a bar on a Friday night, the lunchroom at work, whatever. Your blog, in contrast, is your home. You’re the same person – and your posts are the same – in both places, but different people show up and different conversations occur.

If you stay at home, people will find you, but the majority won’t know you exist. Similarly, if you go to the bar and just sit in a corner, that girl is not going to magically give you her number. So you can’t just blog in a vacuum, nor can you join a network and expect that to be the final step if you want to build exposure and traffic. People don’t just find you – you find them.

And that isn’t a theory just for beginners; it’s a commandment for established bloggers. The fact that Penelope Trunk syndicates the heck out of her blog is no coincidence to her success, nor is the fact that Chris Brogan shows up to every social media event imaginable. You don’t stop working ridiculously hard when you’re established. You work harder.

3. Use their network to build your network. A blog network is not promising you a product like cereal, but is selling you on relationships. Before Brazen Careerist started, the sense I had of the Gen Y blogging world was limited; I knew around twenty-five Gen Y bloggers. Now I know and have access to hundreds, not only because Brazen Careerist helped discover those people, but also because Brazen created, inspired and facilitated that particular market to be part of the conversation.

I take advantage of the Brazen network by looking at the community profiles in the same way I look at who my favorite Twitter friends are following, or who my real-life friends and I have in common on Facebook.

And when people comment on a post of mine on any network, I don’t just hope that they subscribe to my blog, I’m proactive. I check out their blog, reply to them, comment on their posts, link to them and begin to build a relationship. I get interested in what they’re doing, because they’ve shown interest in me.

I can’t imagine how I would find these people – those that are interested in my topic – in an easier way. That’s called building community and it’s what social media is all about.

4. Blog networks do give special treatment for two reasons. The first is to attract a lot of traffic from good writers. Want to be featured on the front page of a network? Be a good writer. You could be among the most-hated participants but if you write well, you’ll still be featured.

The second is to reward the people that they have relationships with. This isn’t unfair, it’s smart. Relationships make the world go round. I personally have no idea how blogs are picked to be on the front page, but there’s an easy way to circumvent whatever process the blog network has installed. That is, build a relationship.
Email the community manager if you feel you have an especially good post to, 1) promote yourself, 2) begin that relationship, and 3) make the community manager’s job easier.

I guarantee that a better attitude to success is to ask not what the network can do for you, but what you can do for your network.

Collective truth.