Building Traffic through Networking
This post is a little aside from my usual development topics but it's something I've found very interesting. I've often wondered how people like Jeffrey Zeldman, Dave Shea, Molly Holzschlag and (insert your favourite web professional here) have achieved success.
I believe it comes down to passion. You must be passionate at what you do. Jeffrey Zeldman wasn't the first person to use web standards but he was one of the most passionate. Dave Shea wasn't the first person to use CSS but his passion launched the CSS Zen Garden. And Molly, well, she's passionate about everything. Becoming an advocate for something is a great way to get noticed.
Get to know people
But I also believe another great way to get noticed is to network yourself. There are sites like LinkedIn or Orkut that are supposed to help you do that but it certainly hasn't been effective for me. What has worked is starting up a conversation with someone. It might be in person, via email or via instant messenger. The key thing is the conversation. You're establishing a deeper connection.
What does that deeper connection accomplish?
First of all, it just feels nice to talk to people who share the same passions and interests. Even better, though, is that people start coming to you. They start telling other people about you. They start linking to you. And you do the same for them. We often forget that the online world is much like the offline world. There's no entitlement. I've sometime felt entitled. "Why are they so successful? I know just as much as they do!" But one of those things that I've learned is that it's often who you know and not what you know.
People have often asked me why I joined the 9rules network. While the site referrals are nice, the more important thing (and the thing I least expected) was the connection to other passionate people. Suddenly there was a community that helped each other and did so willingly and for free. It might be a subtle thing like a site critique but it was also more overt things like getting linked on blogrolls or in articles (the best links of all!).
Now, this may sound clique-ish and I can certainly see why you might think that but I believe that a clique serves to exclude. Whereas those of us who blog (including those in 9rules) serve to include. We want to share with everybody!
So, are you passionate?
You might be happy to find out that 9rules is about to open the doors for another round of submissions. If you have a blog (about anything -- it doesn't have to be about the web) then I definitely recommend getting your name in. In the meantime, if you ever want to chat, my door is always open. You can also expect to find me in Austin for SxSW 2006 where you can be sure I'll be taking the opportunity to strike up a conversation or two.
Ha! I love this post. Well done, and so true. Passion is key, getting to know people is key, reaching out is key, and allowing people in is also key.
I got a bit of guff from certain people who poke fun at 9rules, and thought I'd gone to the dark side when I joined. Actually, it was largely a bottle of Tequila with Scrivs and Mike that loosened me to the idea, but along with Matthew Oliphant they said that despite the fact I don't run ads, and that I already had pretty good traffic and standing, 9rules would be beneficial.
And they weren't wrong. Not one bit. More passionate people visit, and my relationships with people - some of whom had been involved with 9rules for some time - has improved even if we don't speak to one another very often. There's comraderie, support, a network of talented people I can call on for a wide range of insight, entertainment or actual work. So I'm with ya, 100%.
Keep up the passion, Jonathan, and since I see here you will be at SXSW, I'm going to hold you to that hug (if you'll pardon the pun).
I think networking is especially valuable for a young industry like the web. Being a standards advocate can be a lonely task if you aren't in touch with all the other standards advocates :)
It's why conferences are so important. Sure, you hear about cool idea and everything... but more importantly you get to meet like-minded people, trade stories, buy drinks, swap business cards. Try to keep in touch later on.
It keeps us refreshed, reminds us that we are part of something. Most recently for me was WE05. Anyone who left WE05 without feeling part of something big and something good.... I don't know. They must have been asleep.
I'm trying to ramp up my web presence again - last year I had a decent amount of traffic and some good search engine rankings.... Since then I've moved house three times and my site hosting and blog posting ability has suffered.
The point is that once you've got a foothold up, keep going, don't slip, because otherwise you'll lose all your hard work before you've got a chance to consolidate it.
Great post. I've been in the painful process of discovering pretty much all the points you touched on over the past month or so. I think you nailed it with the whole idea of entitlement. So, wanna chat? ;-)
What a great post! I think some of us shy away from talking about "networking" because it's often a synonym for "schmoozing" which feels insincere. But it doesn't have to be that way. I find that I want to make these connections just to share common experiences, get advice, make friends, and have fun.
We can really reward each other for our passion with encouragement -- something that we may not necessarily get from our jobs unfortunately. We have to do this to save ourselves from burn-out. All this hard work is worth it, we just have to remind each other of that sometimes.
So Jonathon, I hope I have a chance to meet you at SXSW, I'll give you a shirt -- I'm printing them up right now just to give out at SXSW for fun!
Sally - I know what you mean! I only ever got into "networking" when I realised it was just consultant-speak for "chatting with people"... *that* I can do! :)
I really know what you're talking about. I always love striking up conversations with people if for no other reason than to be friendly.
But there is also another way striking up a conversation has gotten me "farther" if you will.
I was browsing the old css reboot when I happened on minimology.com. I really loved the site and sent him an email of appreciatation for doing what he was doing.
We quickly got to talking and long story short, we're pals. He even gave me hosting for my new site. Good tips.
I'll chime in a bit late here and say that networking is very key. Before 9rules, I had all the same passions, but nobody really took note of them. After I joined, I started getting emails from other like-minded individuals, and now we've "networked" to the point that we're going to launch a site soon to help the Church understand the benefits of web-standards (bandwidth costs, ease of updating w/ CMS, search engine, etc).
nice tips..this should really be helpful