So you’ve just started a blog, and you’re wondering how to bring people to your content. You don’t want to spend an arm and a leg, either.

You’ve probably heard that social media can bring in a lot of traffic. That’s true, but you can’t expect the influencers in your niche to discover your content. Influencers are busy. To build your blog quickly, you have to network.

Follow these five steps and you’ll be well on your way.

Be an Asset to Others

“Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books” -John Wooden

Unless you’re recognized as an expert in your field, chances are you’ll start your blog to crickets. There’s no getting around this, and you’ll be better off if you accept it. Too many bloggers can’t accept this slow start and turn to questionable tactics instead, or to outright spam. By and large, the best way to get ahead in the blogging world is to be useful to others. You may find helping people you don’t know counter-intuitive at first. But think about it: without connections willing to vouch for you, how are you going to get people to your content?

You can use Outbrain, AdWords or other paid promotion methods, but is that viable for you long-term? I can promise you this: if you create high-quality, useful content and do social outreach, you won’t have any problem getting your content shared around. The key is to be genuinely helpful. You can use a tool like BuzzSumo to find the influencers in your niche easily enough. But if you bombard them with links to your content, you’re just wasting your time.

Build Relationships with Social Media

Instead, start by favoriting and retweeting their tweets. In other words, flatter them. Over time, you can suggest content to them. Not your content, at first. However, when you add in your own URLs, don’t overdo it. I bet you can think of many other ways you can help your peers. The key is to create mutually beneficial relationships.

Map It Out

If you don’t know how to create a mind map, find out. That should be your number one priority. There are lots of free mind map solutions—and some incredible non-free options—out there. Mind maps are easy to create and easy to use. What I want you to do right now is sit down and create a list of the top 20-50 influencers in your niche. You must forge relationships with these people to get your blog off the ground for free.

If you’ve created this map, you’ll notice you can create sub-branches for each name. Use this space to jot down any notes on these people that occur to you. You’ll want to come back to this mind map and make notes.

What kind of content do these influencers like to share? Have they only shared long-form content? Are there any topics they never share? You get the idea. Arm yourself with knowledge.

Pucker Those Lips

The big people in your niche don’t have a reason to care about you, until they do. What can you do for them? How can you improve their lives? In point one above, I talked about Twitter and how you should use it to lay the foundation. Take that to heart. Never email an influencer if you haven’t interacted with them elsewhere. They will delete your email, and even if they read your message, they probably won’t respond.

On the other hand, you don’t want to look like an Internet crazy, either. You can use a tool like Hootsuite to schedule tweets. Buffer is another good option. If you’re sending @messages, space them out. You can schedule your tweets several days ahead. Find the content they like to share and share it with them. Then retweet them. Don’t respond to their tweets unless you have something to add to the conversation.

Email the Right Way

Once you’ve established rapport with your prospect, move on to the email phase. But even this is filled with pitfalls. Here are the main ways people fail:

  • They don’t do their research
  • They write a novel
  • They focus on themselves
  • They don’t use a call to action

Of the four, the second can be the most damaging. Look, your prospect is busy. They don’t have time to read a long proposal. Your first email should just test the waters. Remember that thing about flattery? Well, it comes into play here, too.

Emailing Influencers

Talk about how much you admire their work, how wonderful their content is and how impressed you are with their social following. Stroke their ego, but don’t overdo it. Obviously, you will have to talk about yourself or the email will be kind of weird. Just introduce yourself and get out of the way.

End your email with a call to action. You want them to do something, right? Your prospect knows you’re after something. So ask yourself, what do you want to show them? Is it your content? Your website? Some tool you’ve created?

Note: If you’re just promoting your newest widget, your email will probably get deleted.

Follow Up

How often does this happen? You’re at a conference and you get a ton of business cards. Some of those cards belong to interesting people, others not so much. You intend to follow up with some, but somehow it doesn’t happen. Intentions are weak. The key, according to Shia LaBeouf, is to just do it.

Productivity guru David Allen cautions that adding short tasks to your schedule isn’t worthwhile because of the overhead involved. Looking for free time in your schedule to add a five-minute call isn’t efficient. Just contact these people.

But don’t stop there. Use a good CRM program so you can track these relationships. The best CRMs will allow you to email contacts directly and setup automatic reminders.

What’s your take? Let us know in the comments section below!Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Los is the Co-Founder of Ambitious.com the leading provider of free, live education for today’s entrepreneur. Featuring weekly live Masterclasses from the world’s top experts to help you live your best life.

He’s also Managing partner at The Collective – a consulting and incubation shop working with retailers and influencers to scale new brands and sales channels.When hes not working hes at the gym or eating tacos at his favorite spot in Orlando.