From what I have learned, and in my opinion, networking falls into two categories:
The networking you do in order to increase your audience
The networking you do in order to link with industry professionals
To me, they are inextricably linked – they are both important – and both need to be approached with the same level of care and attention.
We all know networking is important – the big question a lot of us face is: HOW do we network? I like to treat networking as I do making new friends: I invite people into a conversation by asking them a question. I take an interest in them first. Networking is all about building relationships.
How you do this is very much up to you, but one thing holds true no matter what approach you adopt: people will not give you something unless you first show an interest in them. Asking for support simply does not crack it – unless you have already established strong bonds with those people. Learning how to network from a place of really wanting to connect with people, rather than from a place of neediness will totally transform your results.
Successful networking – or networking etiquette is quite simply about being a nice person and not spamming. Treat people the way that you would like to be treated yourself. Do you enjoy receiving long messages from strangers, demanding that you ‘check out their amazing work’? Neither do I.
Keeping in regular contact with your audience by way of newsletters is the perfect way to nourish your relationships once you have made the connection. Personally, I send out newsletters twice a month. To me this feels enough to stay pleasantly present, without having a spammy presence.
Send newsletters out by way of a mailing list service provider such as Mailer Lite or Mail Chimp. Never send out newsletters without a mailing list service provider – Google will flag your email address as a spammer.
Right now, I live in the middle of nowhere, so getting to any sort of networking event is pretty much impossible, but that’s ok because with the internet, the world is literally my oyster.
I love using Twitter to grow my audience and form new connections with people who I think would be interested in my output. I treat it as I would a real-life conversation. I start by introducing yourself: “Hello! Thank you so much for following me, I’m Liz, an electronic music artist, creative coach and lover of connections. I’ve formed a lot of beautiful friendships through music. May I initiate a potential friendship with you by asking what’s your favourite music to listen to?”
A conversation then often follows during which a connection is made and interest is piqued. Once I feel it is appropriate, I then tell the person that I’d love to send them a link to download some tracks for free. And I ask if they’d be interested. If they say yes, I thank them and ask which email address I can send it to. Thank people – always, always thank people – whether it’s for their time or their email addresses.
You might be asking how you get people to follow you in the first place. Good question! The answer is simple: find popular and active people out there, with a similar output to you – and follow their followers. I follow the followers of music artists who have a similar sound to me and who are popular and active on Twitter. When people follow you back, send them a message and initiate a conversation!
When someone follows you back, pop to their profile and if you see something that resonates with you, retweet it. You’re showing an interest in them and what they have to say – and that does good things for building the foundations of the relationship you are wishing to establish with this person.
Subscribe to newsletters and updates that are in line with your message and interest – and use these as material to curate interesting content for your Twitter and other social media feeds. Schedule it into a social media auto-poster like Recurpost so that when people visit your profile, they see interesting content. Combine these with posts about your own creative output. Again, it goes back to you showing an interest in other people first. It sends out a very important message.
This will also help in your quest to network with people within your industry. If they visit your social media platforms, they will see that you have interesting things to say, that you care enough to share other people’s content and that you’re not focussed solely on your own self-promotion.
Most importantly, engage with your audience – if people are commenting, comment back and thank them for checking out what you have to say. If people retweet or like your posts, retweet and like their posts. What goes around comes around.
If I’m contacting an industry pier, it’s slightly different, but the principles always remain the same. I comment on their work, compliment them on it, and if it’s relevant, explain how it related to me or helped me. People like being acknowledged for their work.
Do your research! If you are aiming to connect with professionals with a view to get your work promoted / licensed / seeking representation etc etc – make sure you are contacting those relevant to your style.
When including examples of your work, send links. For music, links to private Soundcloud playlists are preferable. Dropbox also works, or a link to a private web page. Don’t send links that expire and never ever attach large files. When sending music, 3-4 tracks maximum unless they have specifically asked you to send more.
In your initial email, introduce yourself, but keep it brief, demonstrate you’ve done your research by commenting on the company / individual in some way, then let them know the reason you are contacting them. Thank them for their time! This is so important and is often overlooked. A few short paragraphs is all you need.
Keep it simple. People are busy. When following-up, leave it 3-4 weeks at least. Sometimes you can even stretch it to 6 weeks. You want to be pleasantly present, not a persistently buzzing gnat in someone’s ear. And when following-up, be polite!
Don’t burn your bridges by making assumptions about people without actually getting to know them first.
This can also be a good way of determining whether or not you can trust who you’re networking with. More often than not, if the person you’re engaging with is real and genuine, they will be willing and able to maintain a proper conversation with you, as if you were chatting face-to-face.
Avoid following people with no profile picture. Don’t follow people who haven’t been active for long periods of time – and unfollow people if they haven’t followed you back within a week. Sometimes people have bots set up on their profiles that will send out automatic messages or comments to you – if this happens, just unfollow them and if you want to, block them. You can spot a bot because usually the message is totally out of context.
How long you choose to spend networking is, again, up to you. I spend about 2-3 hours a day on it in total – whether that’s connecting with people on Twitter, posting in Daydream Believers or answering / sending emails. I’d recommend a daily habit to keep up momentum, but always prioritise your creative output. I tend to reserve my studio time for the mornings (which for the most part are kept internet-free), then I’ll switch on the internet after lunch and turn my attention networking and doing admin.
When networking, bear this in mind: when we want something so badly, sometimes our grasp on that thing suffocates its chances of ever happening. Yes, we want to network and reach out, but if we overdo it, we will come across as pushy and unpleasant and the door will be slammed in our faces.
Like cultivating a beautiful garden, successful networking requires patience, dedication and commitment. At the beginning, whilst you are still building momentum, it requires a lot of effort and you might be disappointed with the results. Do lot let this discourage you. Do not let this turn you into a pushy networker either. Over time, as momentum builds, you will find that the networking will start to take care of itself, but until then…patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your audience won’t grow in a day either.
Good luck with your networking!
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