Go Offline to Win Online
If you haven’t guessed the theme of what matters by now in piece 12 of 15 on the series of becoming a top tier influencer, in addition to focusing on creating quality content within ones’ chosen niche, it is vital to expand your visibility by listening to your audience, being in the know, working with your community, performing outreach, and adopting newer social platforms slightly earlier than your peers. Another technique that can set you apart involves a lot of hard work, and thus is overlooked: going offline.
I don’t mean unplugging and hanging out around the house taking a digital sabbatical, although there is also merit to that per Alex Soojung-Kim Pang PhD. No, what I’m going to suggest is getting out and pressing fleshy palms with others in your market and in similar markets.
Nothing beats face-to-face interaction.
If you’re always networking both online and offline you’ll be constantly expanding your web of both opportunities and growing your audience. If you recall to where we discussed the importance of co-citations as a means to imply expertise when appearing next to other experts, the same is true of industry conference photos and blogger round-ups. As easy as it is to dismiss them as cheesy, there’s a reason why these particular pieces keep getting created: egobait increases content spread. When you are seen as a possible expert next to the other industry experts, the probability of getting a speaking engagement improves.
Rather than espouse the obvious benefits of mastering the art of simply showing up, let’s instead look into some examples of where you might go; for this example let’s assume you’re a mid-level online marketer based in the United States (there’s a lot of you in our network; thank you!).
Taking 5 minutes to Bing the answer (you heard me right Googlers) I found 2,414 different meetups that could be potentially interesting to me in the realm of online marketing. There’s just so many! Even if I select just those 25 miles from me I get roughly 50 events that I can check out. This will be very handy later on with the heuristic on which events to attend. No matter your actual niche, there’s almost certainly a meetup for it.
There’s no shortage of online marketing conferences as well; this list isn’t exhaustive, but contains many that I’ve never heard of. Similar to meetups, there are many to choose from; I break these out slightly from meetups though for the purposes of size and scale — in my mind conferences are nothing but big meetups with an attendance fee.
Should I Attend Heuristic
You can’t be everywhere, despite your best efforts, so you need to try to maximize your offline efforts into those areas that can offer you the most significant growth. It isn’t just about how big an event is though; you have to be as targeted on your attendance as you are with your content.
Audience Worth — first, you need to assign a value to increasing your audience size. There’s a lot of ways to go about determining this, and it really doesn’t even matter what method you choose so long as you’re consistent. For instance, GetApp suggests Twitter followers are worth more than Facebook fans, but you could make your own determination on that. After you have a $ figure attached to what your followers are worth, you can gauge how much expected growth is worth to you.
Value of Attending — next, you need to have a rough understanding of the various people that will be attending the event. Mathematically figuring out how much growth you can get from interacting with someone is not exact; it’s similar to how brands choose influencers — Relevance (as a %) multiplied by Audience size multiplied by Engagement rate (as a %) multiplied by Frequency of sharing for other influencers (as a %) multiplied the probability of Getting Help (as a %). It’s guesswork mathematics! Keep in mind that you should be offering as much help as you’re trying to receive, otherwise your efforts are probably going to fall flat.
Cost to Attend — the important filter that comes into play next is the direct cost to attend: travel, lodging, attendance fees, etc. IF this cost exceeds (Value of Attending * Audience Worth), just stop right there are move on. You can try to stay in touch digitally, but if even on your best estimates the event exceeds what you’re going to get out of it, don’t go. This is something I wish more people that attend every conference would ask themselves.
Opportunity Cost — this is such an easy concept that most people seem to forget. Are there other events or activities that occur during the same time that would provide a greater value than this event? Put them through the same heuristic and simply go with the superior choice. In many cases, that might be the event you didn’t expect, such as the online sellers group meetup with 150 people that takes place 10 miles from where you live… It may not sound as appealing as going to the big flashy conference with numerous after parties, but if you’re serious about fixating on audience growth, go for cold hard math rather than what is hip and sexy. Remember, money is sexy.
Your goal should be the ability to meet with people that have the biggest capacity to move your audience forward. For example, I attend SEOktoberfest every year — it isn’t a big event, but it passes my heuristic easily. Why? The Value of attending is significantly high because the entirety of audience is at a level capable of changing each other’s business overnight. Even though it takes place in Munich during a tourist heavy time, it consistently passes my heuristic.
Another event, Ungagged, also passes my heuristic, even though the audience mixture is somewhat different. The pricing, locale, and expected meetings are such that it offers a very good value, compared to what always seems to be a competing interest for my time. In its case, I was able to meet Rob Adler in person, whom not so coincidentally will be running our affiliate program on his Offer Stream Digital network in the next month or so.
I’ll be polite and not list those conferences that wouldn’t make my list; instead we can just focus on an extreme example. Is there value in me attending an intro to SEO meetup with 10 new college grads in Mozambique? As much as I like teaching and helping people grow their careers, the costs of the trip would almost certainly outweigh the rewards, especially when compared to other competitions for my time — there can absolutely be diamonds in the rough and maybe I always wanted to travel to the African coast, but for the purposes of this heuristic it wouldn’t make the cut from a cost value alone.
Now, let’s say my trip was subsidized as often happens for speakers, if it were occurring in September or November, I’d still have to decline because the opportunity cost of missing out on my two favorite conferences would exceed the value gained from being at this far away conference.
If you’re serious about getting better at your influencing craft and want to grow your audience, there’s no excuse to not attend at least a couple events a year, especially if they’re in your backyard. Do it and your path to becoming a top tier influencer will get all that much clearer.
Joe, CEO and Co-Founder of Intellifluence, has close to 20 years of experience in SEO, leading several successful marketing companies and providing expert consultation. He is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Using Influencer Marketing, which is available as an eBook or in print.