Off-List Networking: Success Behind the Scenes of an Internet Discussion Group

You can use internet discussion groups to build relationships and your business. Nancy Roebke shares her story of discussion list success.

Bob Cortez, Moderator of HomeBiz Discussion List, wrote me with a question all of us moderators wonder: "Is networking through email discussion lists like mine worth the time and trouble? Do you have any tips for list members or struggling moderators on how to make the discussion productive and profitable?"

I can so relate to Bob's question. Email discussion lists have been a key to my online success. The income I make today is a DIRECT result of being both a moderator and participant in email discussion lists. Participation came LONG before being a moderator.

There are many articles on how participating actively in a discussion list can grow a business. today. I want to talk about something else: How working behind the scenes, through private posts, can make a big difference in how the list perceives you.

Networking in public forums has its challenges. You have to learn how to get into the small groups that tend to form within the large group (and this is different for each list). One of the best ways is to have someone help you with introductions. But what do you do when the same thing happens to you on a list where there is no in-person contact and no "gatekeeper" to make a way for you?

Here's what happened to me on the very first list I joined with the very first post I made. I posted to a list on a controversial topic that had come up. My post reflected very personal material and involved using a member of my family as an example of why I felt the way I did. I got a response back from one member of the list saying I should run quickly from my opinions and that the member of my family was a "lunatic" for expressing the same sentiments. This response was posted to the list and not to me privately. I was embarrassed, surprised, humiliated, confused- you name it, I felt it. It was all I could do when that post came out not to walk away from that list--and all other lists-- because of that one response.

Just seven months later, I had become one of the "old" list members. My name is recognized by most list participants, I have gotten business and right now sit on the Board for a major project that is underway on that list.

How did the change occur? Here are the steps I took to get from that post to reaping the benefits of list participation:

1. I sent a private post to the sender of the offending post. She never responded.

2. I received several private posts about how unkind the post from the other member was and I responded with thank yous to all of them. In those posts, I asked questions about the businesses of the people sending me these kind posts and began to build relationships with them.

3. I never posted a rebuttal publicly on the list. Many other people did, and I also would respond privately to them and ask about their business.

4. I waited a while... probably a month or two before posting again--and this time I picked a topic that I knew a lot about and positioned myself as the expert in that field. I got a few responses and always posted responses publicly that would help THE GROUP MEMBERS.

5. During my waiting period, I sent Virtual Postcards to everyone who introduced themselves, welcoming them to the group and offering myself to them as a friendly ear if they needed it. In these postcards, I also asked for info about their businesses. This was one of THE best relationship- building tools I used.

6. I would post information I had found on the Internet that might be of interest to the group. I also posted a few humorous posts. These always got me private responses that I would also answer in the manner above. These mass, non- specific, non-threatening posts were probably what started my name recognition within the group.

7. I read posts from other members and when their opinions or presentations mirrored my own, I would send a private response of encouragement to them. I was building a circle of like-minded individuals . I noticed over time as I read their posts that these individuals also only posted to the list with similar information to mine..

8. From this work, I was invited to join the Board of a significant project underway from this list. This was a direct result of the responses I made to the like-minded members of the group.

9. I did not get involved in any controversy or flaming on the list--not even to make an "enough is enough" post about it, even when I felt that way.

10. To this day, I only post to the list with general info or on a topic I know a lot about. The rewards from the list from my behind-the-scenes work more than make up for the rude welcome I received from one member.

The answer to the challenge is in the relationship-building steps that I took. A list has a lot of appeal because of the volume of people it exposes you to. But the chances of building relationships with all those people are slim and none. The chances of building relationships with a person, one person at a time are very real, and well worth the effort it takes to do so.

Nancy Roebke is Executive Director of Helping Business Professionals Find More Business. She says..."Learn to Network! Increase income, cut costs, and put an end to cold calling. Get our FREE series of articles that teach you the secrets of successful networking. Today!"


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