The blogosphere is made of people!

Ryan Anderson has a similar observation to the point I was struggling to make in my follow up post to Tuesday's Social Media & PR meetup:

"I go to a lot of events where I don’t know anyone, but I’ve always found that events with bloggers who I’ve “met” through comments or just reading are always much easier... We are a group of like-minded individuals, who are accepting of each other by virtue of a membership to a group, which we earned through a ritual of writing and reflecting and of sharing our insights with other bloggers."

He's right on the money with this. At any gathering of bloggers I've attended, trust and mutual respect are the default state.

As Ryan notes, there is certainly something of a cultish tone to these thoughts - with many bloggers acting as true believers and keepers of the Cluetrain flame. There's a difficult, clique-ish undertone in there -- a concern that has been raised in the past. Maybe it is a bit like a religious congregation, as Ryan suggests.

Perhaps, though, our natural willing acceptance and instant sense of connection with fellow bloggers is inspired as much by what we have collectively rejected as by what we all agree upon.

Petty political oneupmanship, secrecy, conscious self-promotion, rigid adherence to sanitized and saccharine corporate messages: none of these old behaviours sit well on the shoulders of people who choose to blog with integrity - even those people whose job it is to scrub and prep those same corporate messages.

Sure, there are a lot of people and corporations who've chosen to hop on the blogwagon for self-serving reasons, but the clearest benefits of blogging accrue to those who approach it with absolute openness and authenticity.

This is one of the reasons why fellow bloggers, meeting for the first time, can make such strong and easy connections with one another. Once you've opened up some central part of who you really are online, it's a great deal easier to find that immediate kinship with other people engaged in doing the same kind of thing.

"When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn't have such a tight rein on "your people" maybe they'd be among the people we'd turn to."

Ack. I'm making it sound like an AA meeting or some kind of Born Again thing, I know. Not surprising, perhaps, given the tone set by the Cluetrain's channelling of Martin Luther's original 95 Theses. As Luther was rejecting the "business as usual" of the Catholic church, so the Cluetrain rejected the "business as usual" of the last quarter of the 20th Century.

The thing is: this stuff works. Tuesday night's meeting was a case in point: a room full of people from fiercely competitive PR agencies, yet at no time did it feel like anything other than
a gathering of friends.

I was consulting with a company in the commercial lending space a few months ago. They'd started to blog, and had seen a handful of warm and friendly comments coming in from their friends in the business - but inbound traffic wasn't really picking up the way they'd hoped. So we had a conversation about the importance of outbound linking - un-selfishly directing attention away from oneself as a means of providing value to your readers. The more outbound links they added to their blog posts, the more their Googlejuice grew.

This is one of the paradoxical things that makes blogging so different from typical corporate online marketing efforts. The standard corporate website is all about pointing inward at the wonderful products, solutions, services, and successes of the company concerned.

Successful, highly-respected blogs, by contrast, thrive by the simple act of pointing outward, at things other than themselves.

Think about Boing Boing - consistently ranked within the top three highest-traffic and most popular blogs worldwide. And what does it do? Point away from itself to "wonderful things" elsewhere. Only rarely do the Boing Boing contributors post about their own extra curricular interests and activities.

It's karma, baby. Karma. You reap what you sow.