By Gina Badalaty, Published October 25, 2014
Now that you’re blogging, it’s time to get professional about your networking. There are a multitude of opportunities to connect with like-minded bloggers, brands that fit your niche and products that suite your audience. This guide will tell you all the things you need to know to get started with events to build your blog business.
There are essentially 3 types of venues: conferences, expos and niched events. Each has a different feel.
These are training events meant to draw people from a particular niche or interested in a common subject and they tend to pricy. There are plenty of conferences for bloggers.
Expos are events where brands gather to showcase their products to the general public or conference attendees and offer samples, coupons and/or swag to visitors. When they are part of a blogger conference, they are usually included in the ticket price with brands expecting to build relationships with bloggers. Standalone expos tend may have small fees. New niched expos geared toward the general public can give you a leg up on pitching yourself to brands that need visibility.
At last year’s Gluten Free Expo, which was still new, I made a number of great relationships with brands that had not yet working with bloggers.
Private blogger events take place all over the country.
Some coincide with large conferences and most are invitation only. How do you get invited? Generally from either blogger marketing groups, such as Influence Central, or bloggers you know. Bloggers sometimes need to carpool, share expenses, or find a sub when they can’t attend an event. Last winter, another blogger invited me to carpool to the Family Game Summit event. It showcased dozens of Activision’s latest games as well as information on safety for kids gaming online. I got to review a number of games, well as offer up products for my holiday gift guide.
Selecting the Right Event
Between travel, lodging and tickets, events can be costly. Consider the following when choosing the best networking events for you:
Conferences feature sponsors who supply everything from swag to the food. Pick ones with brands you’d like to work with.
Sessions and speakers:
Is there someone you really want to meet or something you want to learn about?
Smaller conferences allow you a more intimate venue for networking. A brand new conference may have also lower attendance, which may allow face time with the speakers. At the very first She Streams conference (which is now defunct), I met Mamavation’s Leah Segedie, and now I work for her.
Nearby Niched Events:
See if the conference is holding its own expo or if a group is hosting a related event nearby.
You can also bundle your event with that vacation you’ve been waiting to take, to save time and money.
Now that you’ve selected your event, let’s learn how to engage brands, reps and bloggers.
Networking With Brands And PR Reps
Sometimes you will be chatting with people directly from the company, but often you’ll meet the brand’s PR reps. Here’s what to do around the event.
Get to know the brands.
While it can be overwhelming to go to a large expo, I recommend that you search out the top 3-5 sponsors that you would love to work with and get to know them very well by following them. Research them in great detail in press and in their feeds, and look for relative news that might affect them, especially if it plays into your niche. For example, Silk recently announced it was removing carrageenan from its products. Food allergy bloggers can capitalize on this news when they meet with Silk’s reps.
Prepare your elevator speech.
Everyone needs to have a 15-30 second speech about what their blog is about, what makes it unique and why people read it. Be sure to fit in which of their products work for your audience and why.
Share your successes as fact.
Every week, I write about food dangers and toxins in our environment every week, researching the facts from the most reliable sources I can find to get to the bottom of controversies and creating pinnable images for my job at Mamavation. My best posts have gone viral. I didn’t tell you that to brag but to showcase my experience; brands need that information. State it as fact, don’t gush and don’t be too timid either.
You can stop at every single table, but if you hit your top picks first, you can get to them before too many other bloggers have.
Offer teasers on how you can help them.
Share ideas on how to help them, but keep in mind some brands steal bloggers’ ideas while hiring someone else. Just give a teaser. If you have a great idea to promote their product, wait until they engage you with a contract to detail it.
Bring lots of business cards and a one-page media kit.
You probably won’t hand out the kit, but just bring it just in case you are asked.
Timely follow up.
Do not wait too long to follow up, but not the next day either. Give it a few days or a week, especially if you are going to write a post about the event first. You can then include them and tag them on social media, before contacting them. Refer to your notes when writing.
Don’t hassle them.
If you’ve sent 2 or 3 emails and have heard nothing, and are still sure you have the right contact, they are not interested. This does not mean they will never be interested, and PR reps can turn over a lot. You can certainly ask them why they have turned you down for something, as well, so that you can address the issue.Simply let it go and wait for the next event with this brand.
Be a professional.
Always live up to your commitments. Once engaged, follow these best practices for working with brands.
Networking With Bloggers
For bloggers, most of the above applies, but with a more casual approach. In addition, these tips will help:
1. “What’s your blog?”
Just strike up a discussion with this question. I’ve yet to meet a blogger who didn’t want to talk about either her blog or project. Don’t be shallow though. Take care to listen, note the blog, look it up and be ready to jump in and help if you think you can. Always mention if you recognize their work!
2. Listen more than you speak.
All bloggers all want to be heard. Briedly tell the blogger what you’re all about and then listen to their story and ask questions. You’re more likely to find common ground that way – or learn that you’re not a good fit. If so, it’s ok to politely move on.
3. Help them out.
Can they guest post on your blog? Do they need guest posts? Just like with brands, after you get home, share and favorite their social media posts and comment on their blogs.
4. Build relationships.
Don’t just think about yourself. This means helping bloggers bigger than you AND reaching out to new or small bloggers. You will build friendships as well as professional relationships.
5. Don’t forget them.
Keep in touch, keep promoting them and keep saying “hi”. Attend their Twitter parties. Share and enter their low entries contests. Tag them with things you know they’d love. Give them a shout out on your blog. You might want to build a G+ community and create a Twitter list for bloggers you’ve met at conferences, and do connect again in person at the next conference!
Bonus: Pro Tips To Improve Your Networking
Take a photo.
Ever look at a business card from a PR firm and forget their product? One way to remember faces is to snap a photo with you, the rep and their product. I did this at Blogger Bash to remember who was at what table in the expo. Try to capture their badge to remember their name especially if they’ve run out of business cards.
You had a great conversation with this person – but you also had 20 other great conversations. How can you remember the discussion? Bring a fine sharpie and write a note on their business card.
If there’s no room, you might want to bring small, white stickers to stick over unessential information for notes.
Organize cards and events.
Separate or code business cards from bloggers, brands and reps. if you’re going to multiple events at the same time, sort events. One blogger I met brought a small hole punch and put the cards on individuals key rings labeled with event name.
Unless otherwise noted, dress business casual – and bring a sweater. Conferences rooms get cold! If it’s an event with dancing and/or cocktails, you can dress a little fancier. You could be standing for 8 hours or more, so wear shoes that allow your feet to hold up. Make sure that you have the necessities you need (smartphone, mobile charger, business cards, media kit) easily accessible and have room to carry home small items and info sheets. A tote or messenger bag is helpful, with a wristlet or holder for cards. Some bloggers keep business cards in their lanyards for easier access.
That is everything you need to network like a pro when you attend events. Share your creative ideas for keeping organized at events.