The Networking How To


There are two major types of networking that a webmaster can do when starting an adult or nn website.  One type of networking is online and can be done via message boards, email, instant messagers and other means.  The other method is real life networking which can be done at official conventions as well as more impromptu gatherings.  Both types of networking can greatly benefit both newbie, as well as experienced, webmasters.  Generally online networking is the basis for more indepth real world networking as the less personal online meetings tend to allow for a free flow of information without as much apprehension as can accompany a real world meeting....

Online Networking
Message Boards
Message boards can be the best networking tool especially for newbie webmasters who have no existing relationships.  There are many message boards, some that cover very general topics and are very large, to very specific boards that only concentrate on one subniche with a broad spectrum in between.  The largest message boards that cover more general topics such as are great for meeting many webmasters and getting a feel for who has a great deal of respect in the adult community.  The big boards can also be used to identify smaller boards that are more specific.  Large message boards tend to be very active so using the search options can yield information on any number of topics you might be interested.  The more specific a message board is in its content the less active it might seem but they can more than likely offer the best networking opportunities because you can make a larger impact and ask very specific questions that allow you to become visible to the readers of the board.  The key to networking on a message board is to be yourself and not to expect everyone to love you the instant you become a member.  Just like in the real world when meeting new people you must take time to get to know them and let them get to know you.  One major tip is to not ask every question you can think of in your first post on a message board but to utilize the search options and determine what information has already been discussed so that if you have questions after that you can show you are truly interested in the board and taken the time to research your questions before asking them.  One of the worse things you can do when joining a message board is to alienate the existing members and make them feel that you are only there to take and not to share your own ideas so it is a good idea to temper your questions with honest discussions and ideas of your own.  Another great thing about message boards is you can quickly identify who has the most respect on the board and generally that also means the person deserves that respect so you can attempt to make more personal contact with those individuals and if they are willing to help you in a more one on one environment you can gain valuable allies and sometimes get respect simply by association.  Realize also that message boards while a great place to meet people and discuss ideas are generally not where the most important business is discussed so don’t expect to broker great deals on a board especially big ones.  Another aspect of message boards is that most offer the use of private messages which can be a stepping stone to contacting a person via a more personal method and using private messages allows you to discuss more sensitive ideas that you might not want to disclose publicly while still using the board as common ground to ensure the receiving webmaster knows you  are interested in the topic.

The Heron approach: I have used message boards to greatly enhance my own network of people that I can consult for anything.  The key for me was to gain access to a smaller developing message board and help to build it into a vibrant community, that message board is, which has given me some of the best working relationships.  I am also a member of and find that is the best message board for me to keep up to date with any new developments in adult in general and to help me identify people whom I might want to try and network more in a personal setting.
Email and Instant Messengers
Both email and instant messengers (IM) are slightly more personal than message boards and allow you to directly interact with specific individuals.  Instant messengers include ICQ, AIM, etc. but ICQ has been the webmaster standard for many years and is the most widely used IM so if you plan to be a webmaster I suggest you get ICQ.  When using email and IM to network it is always useful to first have been introduced to whom ever you are contacting by a mutual acquaintance or have made yourself known to the person on a message board.  If neither of those have happened try to remember that like when meeting someone in real life for the first time it is always better to err on the side of more professional than to come off like a real moron.  Also remember that first impressions are often the ones that people remember so if it is the first time you greet a webmaster via IM or email it is usually best to identify yourself with whatever name you use and identify what sites you run as well as why you are contacting the person.  It might seem a bit excessive to include all that info but unlike when you chat with your friends this new person has no idea who you are and more than likely gets many spam emails and IM’s daily so you need to be sure that your message is not confused as spam and appears to be meaningful to the person.  Also do not expect an instant friend when first contacting a person, generally it is a good idea to discuss something that you know the person has done just to break the ice and show you know something about them.  Simply jumping in and pumping someone for info will usually leave that person feeling used and unlikely to help you in the future so it is even better if you can offer some advice or ideas to improve the other persons sites.  Even if you are a complete newbie and think you have nothing to offer an experienced webmaster you can always surf their site and check for spelling errors and broken links, even something as simple as notifying the owner of such a problem can break the ice and make you seem sincere.  Most webmasters conduct more important business on IM or email, some webmasters prefer IM for the more instant communication and some prefer email for the more formal aspects associated with it.  Either way be aware that if you want to discuss serious topics that IM or email is more acceptable than posting on a message board, also be aware some people prefer phone calls rather than online communication so don’t be offended if they ask you to call them.  The other aspect of using email and IM for networking is the fact that your messages can be lost or deleted accidentally so if you don’t receive replies it might be wise to resend a message but always be respectful and mention why you are resending a message as sometimes webmasters simply chose to ignore contact from people they don’t know and you never want to seem like you are spamming them by resending messages multiple times that they have already received.  Finally when you are talking with a person via IM it is always a good idea to let the other person know when you are leaving and it never hurts to let them know that you appreciated their taking time to talk with you and that you would like to talk with them again.  Doing that then leaves the door open for future discussions and in time can create a more casual interaction.  Simply disconnecting from a discussion or letting it die out can leave the other webmaster confused about why you left and might make them less likely to talk with you in the future.

The Heron approach: I basically follow all the rules discussed above, and as mentioned I was blessed with being in the ground floor of developing a message board which has provided me with the contacts that I know and primarily discuss ideas with via ICQ and sometimes email.  ICQ is my own preferred method of networking and allows for both instant discussions as well as leaving messages to people who are offline.  When contacting a new webmaster for the first time via ICQ I usually try to demonstrate in my initial contact how our talking together will make them money so that they then have an interest in continuing a dialogue with me.  Having a large ICQ contact list is a real asset to me as I can almost always count on having knowledgeable friends online anytime to assist me with any problems I might have and to bounce idea’s around with.  I have used my contact list many times to setup projects, do background checks on people, create a buzz on message boards, setup real world meetings, and so much more.  To say that ICQ and email have helped my networking is a vast understatement. 
Real World Networking
There are many adult webmaster conventions every year and all over the world.  The conventions vary in number of attendees, focus, amount of seminars, location, etc.  You can usually find a convention that fits your own personal networking preferences, depending on if you network well in big crowds, structured meetings, small gatherings, etc.  The best site I have found for listing conventions is at: which gets updated all the time not only with future conventions but also with pictures from past ones. 
Some basic thoughts about networking at conventions for newbie webmasters.  You should pre-network before even going to a convention, meaning you should search your favorite message boards for threads about the convention and see what other webmasters are planning.  Then you should decide who you want to be sure to meet at the convention and contact them directly via IM or email, depending on if you want to setup an actually meeting to discuss an important topic with them or if you just want to be sure to meet them and say hi to solidify that you are interested in doing business with them in the future.  Besides pre-networking you should consider getting business cards made, even if you aren’t selling a product but running a freesite, a simple card with your alias, contact info, and website name will be very useful to you at the convention when meeting other webmasters.  By pre-networking you set the ground work for how you will actually network when at the convention.  Knowing where the people you want to meet will allow you to plan your itinerary accordingly.  The other way to experience a convention especially for the first time is to not go with the idea of doing much business but go to get a feel for the atmosphere and if that is your plan then consider going to every party, every seminar, etc so that in the future you will know what is happening even if you don’t manage to see it all.  The same basic rules apply to the actual networking at a convention that apply to any first time meetings you have in business.  However in adult the rules can be relaxed especially for the people that have attained certain levels of success but again it would be wise to err on the side of professional by dressing and acting in a business manner.  It should however be noted that at most conventions the parties can get crazy and at a party it is ok to meet new people and do small talk about the business but do not expect any big deals to be made at parties.  Also consider that like message boards a convention is a great place to meet people and discuss ideas but generally the big deals are done behind closed doors or outside of the convention entirely.  One main reason for going to a convention is simply to show you are serious about the business and to help solidify yourself in the eye’s of your fellow webmasters.  After a convention you should do some post-networking as well by going through the business cards you were given and contacting those people that may useful to you and let them know that you would like to continue whatever it was you discussed at the convention.  Also consider contacting the people who threw any parties you attended and let them know you appreciated it. 
Internext is considered the largest of the adult webmaster conventions in term of number of attendees, the Miami show in the summer is usually smaller, and the Vegas show in the winter is normally double the number of people.  Both shows are great to attend simply for the sheer number of webmasters you can potentially meet however that also makes it hard for you to make an impression.

The Heron approach:  I have attended a number of conventions and personally feel that they are the pinnacle of networking for an adult webmaster and put you in a class above the other webmasters that never attend.  I employ the basic rules above when attending and find it is beneficial to plan to hang around with a small group of webmasters that I know very well so that we can pool our contacts and introduce each other to different webmasters we might not otherwise meet, plus having buddies around makes the experience less hostile however it also means I have to work harder to be sure I don’t isolate myself with only the people I already know but take the time to go and make new contacts.  Conventions can also be very fun and I am always sure to enjoy myself at parties and consider that it is a semi vacation.
Impromptu meetings
These type of meetings are usually started on a message board and organized by a small group of like minded webmasters that have a specific idea to discuss, or they all simply want a vacation.  Also they can occur when large adult companies release new products or move to larger offices and want to show it off to everyone.  I have helped to organize a number of these type of meetings and have found they generally occur because webmasters are a tight knit group who end up counting their competition as friends so that when they want to have fun it becomes easier to simply contact webmasters.  If you are invited to such a meeting or find that one is occurring near you it is a great way to have indepth meetings with other webmasters that you more than likely have a lot in common with whether it be the geographical area or similar sites or something else.  Usually these types of meetings can accomplish a great deal and help the webmasters involved to create a very close bond that then can translate into increased business for everyone.  One of the great benefits of these meetings is the bonding that occurs that then can be carried over into conventions and online which really can make that group of webmasters a powerhouse of ideas and innovation.  While these meetings can be very professional generally they are more relaxed than a convention and do not require you to dress up.

The Heron approach: I have attended a number of these such meetings and found that they are the best networking experience.  The bonding experience alone is worth any plane ticket because once you have spent any amount of time with a small group of like minded people you will then feel very comfortable with them.  These meetings have given me some of my closest online webmaster friends and also helped me to find out things about some webmasters which made me re-evaluate doing business with them and saved me money over time.

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