I hear this, or some variation of this, from a lot of people in the online world:

“There are so many cliques in the online world… How do you network yourself with A-listers? …I feel like they’re this little clique and they don’t want anyone else to join… They all just hang out with each other, and they don’t make any room for anyone else… They only promote their friends and big names and people with lots of followers!…”

Talk about a shit-storm of “they, they, them”!

Before I explain what’s really happening with the online cliques, I need anyone who believes any of the above, or some variation of it, to take a deep breath.

Open your heart.

Open your mind.

Let this pour in, because it will be your salvation from the suffering:

The online cliques aren’t doing what you think they’re doing.


Collaborative Marketing

In The Coaching Blueprint, I talk to coaches about collaborative marketing–in essence, it’s networking. It’s meeting people online, and then making choices to mutually support one another’s work. The collaborative marketing model is full of win-win possibility, and it’s my absolute favorite type of marketing.

In TCB, I talk about how to not feel used by that process (namely, don’t support anyone’s work that you don’t feel honestly enthusiastic about supporting, and then don’t throw a hissy fit if others follow suit and for whatever reason, just don’t have the bandwidth or the desire to support your stuff).

Summary: Collaborative marketing works really well when everyone acts like an adult and takes responsibility for their stuff.

That’s what you’re seeing the so-called “cliques” online doing. They’re supporting one another’s work–strategically, collaboratively, and usually with genuine enthusiasm.

In some cases, it’s purely “you scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours” with no real emotion or connection behind it. I observe that when people play that game, they often end up feeling used, for example: Someone who is trying to grow their biz helps out an up-and-comer, and then the up-and-comer blows up and doesn’t have the desire or energy to promote back–and the person trying to grow says they feel used.

That’s the danger of playing that game–that if you were only promoting someone else so that you could get your returns, you might be disappointed.

In other cases–in my case, I’ll tell you–it’s, “I support the work of this person if I a.) have a prior context for them such as having met them in person or have purchased their work, and b.) I have vetted the work myself in some way, and c.) I am not in the midst of one of my own launches, and d.) promoting them would not mean that my networks are getting an overload of sales pitches, and e.) I’m not wiped-out tired and feel like I have the energy to participate.”

I need to feel like I know the person and their work, feel good about sharing it with others, and I’m really, really committed to making sure that the good people who hang out with me on Facebook or Twitter are not getting a bunch of promo links.

I respect them too much for that, and hate it when someone I’m following suddenly starts blasting the shit out of their Twitter feed.

Also, I need to have energy. These days, that’s at a premium.


What’s Really Going On

So I get the frustration of a new or emerging life coach–or anyone else trying to bust into biz–who says, “How am I supposed to build my network if I can’t make friends with people who have large networks because they’re all so closed off to me?”

Again: They are not doing what you think they’re doing. (I mean, sure, maybe some people are, but 99.9% of the time, I don’t see that as the case).

What’s happening is this: Once you start to get a decent following and some traffic, people start emailing, all of the time, asking if you’ll help them promote things.

I recently had a week where I had six different requests, three from book publishers, to review and help promote some new offering via space on my blog.

That’s in one week.

That’s not counting the requests that came the following week, from other people, or those that had come in the week prior. That’s not counting the fifty other emails that need responding to in my inbox each day: from my amazing life-coaching clients; from the lovely people who take a moment to write and thank me for something I’ve written–people I very much want to craft a detailed and grate-FULL response to; from friends and family, both online and off.

That’s not counting the other emails that come through that are purely junk to weed through, or people who leave permanent auto-responders on that give me more email notifications dinging, and more email to weed through (Thank you…NOT).

At a certain point (and this is based on not just my experiences but what online friends have shared with me)the systems just start to shut down. It becomes simply impossible to maintain friendships and connections with the people you’ve already befriended in the online world, PLUS become friends with more people.

So–the online “cliques” aren’t doing what you think they’re doing. No one has ever said to me that they’re “only” talking to certain people. No one is being elitist. If you send an email and are trying to befriend someone online, and they just aren’t very responsive, it is SO not personal.

People are just simply maxing out on the number of relationships that they can maintain, over time.


Promotion Dilution

The online cliques are not saying “no” to helping someone with promotion simply because they’re new on the scene. They’re saying “no” because like the inboxes, they’re maxed out on promotion.

Consider: If I were to say “Yes” to helping promote those six requests that came in during one week, that means that I would completely crowd out writing any of my own content for my blog Monday-Friday.

My blog would change from becoming something that benefits the people who follow it, to becoming a sales platform.

Then the people who follow it would get pissed (understandably) and leave (also understandable).

That means that the power of promoting anything through my blog would become incredibly diluted.

Also, I can’t, nor do I want to, promote everything. I don’t have the desire for it, nor do I have the energetic bandwidth for it.


Nah, I’m not Hot Shit

Ugh, I know. Maybe talking about email overload and lots of requests makes it sound as if I’m saying I’m all hot shit.

That’s not what’s happening, either.

I’m just trying to explain what I experience each week, and what I know some of my online friends experience–it’s just overload, and the line has to be drawn, somewhere.

This is my reality. That’s it. Between five different social media accounts and email and appointments and work, I’m juggling a lot. So are a lot of other people. Some days I’m on top of things, and other days, particularly when this auto-immune thing is flaring up, I’m woefully inadequate to the task.


There’s a Call For You

If you’re listening closely, you’ll see that there’s a call for you to rise, in here.

There’s a call for you to just ditch the limiting thinking that “cliques” are somehow masterminding a scarcity plot to keep people out.

Recognize that kind of fearful thinking as the excuse that it really is.

Instead, start creating your own collaborative marketing groups.

You don’t need people who have a ton of followers to start your own beautiful online revolution.

Just create really beautiful, incredibly useful, exceedingly meaningful work, and share it openly, and start making connections with other people who are interested in doing the same.

Why in the world would you want to give your power over to thinking that other people are what will leverage you to the top of your game?

Honey, if you’ve got game, you’ve got game.

Leverage up through the networks that you have, and do it based on being excited about each other’s work, as well as strategic. Connect with the people who want to work hard, who have a shared vision for success.

And just keep creating the very best work, ideas, and resources that you can create. That’s where your power lies, anyway.