It took Chris Brogan – an early adopter to the world of blogging – eight years to reach his first 100 subscribers. Since then, he’s become one of the most influential writers and speakers about social media and business. In his newly-released book The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?, co-authored with Julien Smith, he discusses how to make sure your ideas are heard in a crowded marketplace.
In an interview this week at the Inbound Marketing Summit, where we were both keynote speakers, Chris shared some of his top ideas on how to build a network of real value.
It’s Not About You. How exactly did Chris move from his first 100 subscribers to having hundreds of thousands of readers? “The very specific thing I can point to,” he says, “is the moment I started writing for other people instead of myself. It was when I started writing to be helpful, instead of giving my opinion.” For example, he says, you could write a blog post with your take on a new Facebook feature – or, far better, you could write a post about ways that readers can use that new feature. “It’s when I’m helpful that people resonate with it,” says Brogan. “The more I equip you for your success, the more you keep coming back – and bringing someone.”
Build Relationships with “Up and Comers.” In any industry, there’s the top echelon of stars – who are probably too busy to notice you. That’s why Brogan suggests building relationships with “up and comers” who are, say, in the top 50 in their field. “The target is always the person who’s really anxious to get heard and seen on the way up,” he says. “You can build true loyalty in that segment, because they think wow, you knew me when. I do that today. I don’t think of myself as anybody important, but as time goes on and I have to say no to many more things, when I say yes, I most certainly take into account the people who were there before there was any reason for them to care.”
Make Your Networks Horizontal, Not Vertical. “Where everyone does this wrong,” says Brogan, “is they make vertical networks based on either locale or industry. ‘I’m in the auto industry so I should know people in the auto industry.’ Then you lose your job, and you learn how dumb it is to know only one industry.” The antidote, he says, is to build a network that’s “horizontal, not vertical.” Specifically, you should reach out to connectors in other fields that may be slightly outside your orbit, but to which you can add mutual value.
Be Weird, and Be Yourself. “The weirder I get, the more money I make,” Brogan told the crowd at the Inbound Marketing Summit. It was partly a joke – “I don’t mean weird for weird’s sake,” he told me – but also a reflection of his belief that bravery and authenticity should be mandatory in corporate life. He praises JC Penney’s decision to employ comedian Ellen DeGeneres (still controversial in some quarters because of her sexual orientation) as a pitchwoman. Trying to please everyone is a losing battle, he says: “A company has the opportunity, and maybe almost the duty, to be who it really is.”
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on October 27, 2012.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.