Do you want to connect with influencers in your industry? Most small businesses do because a positive mention can make or break a new product launch. There are all kinds of influencers. And there are different influencers for different platforms. For example, I have a huge following on my blog and on Twitter and LinkedIn. These days, micro-influencers with a very engaged audience or email list are just as valuable as top influencers who are getting paid thousands per tweet, Youtube mentions, or pictures on Instagram. If done well, it’s one of the best ways to grow your audience and brand. It can also majorly hurt your brand, and this is true of small and big brands. Often corporations will hire PR agencies to approach influencers, and I can say personally that this is not always the best way either.
So, how can you get the attention of some of the top influencers in your niche? Don’t start with the A-Team, aka celebrities, without a serious budget, the B or C Team might be easier to get a response and quick win. Try these steps to build a relationship with an influencer you are ready to approach.
- Get to know their brand: What audience do they serve? Do they do free product reviews? Watch the content on their blog. Follow them on at least two or three social media platforms. Comment and share their posts, engage in Tweetchats, leave comments on their content. Do this for at least a month before approaching them.
- Make your interaction memorable: Flattery goes a long way. It’s best to share influencer content by saying why you like it, relate to it, or expand on the point in it as you share it. Record a quick video about why you like it. Be sure to tag them in any content highlighting their work. Don’t just say ‘nice post’ or give it a heart on FB or IG—anybody can do that, and they may never see it.
- Look for ways you can help them. Can you help them create content? Book media appearances. Engage their online audience, sell more products, book a major speaking gig, build a following. Give them exclusive access to industry data, offer tickets to a conference, international trips, etc. You could offer to feature them on your podcast or ask if they’re interested in being interviewed on your blog. Don’t discount offline opportunities too. If you’re giving a keynote or workshop presentation, you could mention the influencer as a case study, and send a bunch of new followers to them. These are all things that could get an influencer to pay attention to you and your brand.
- Be worthy of their time: Just like when you go on a job interview, influencer engagement is a two–way interview. They will check out who you are before engaging or responding to you. Showcase your expertise, if you can. When a new person approaches me, I immediately go to LinkedIn to see who they are and why I should care. Make sure your blog or website is tight. Have great photos of your products. Pay attention to your social footprint too. Share things of value on your social media pages.
- Being an influencer is how these people make a living: It’s important to note that freebies are rare for top influencers. These people have spent years building up a following. They will not just give you access to their audience because you ask nicely. It must be a win/win.
- Build a rationale: If your brand is unknown, it will be a lot harder to get influencers to look at you, so build a case and educate them on your email pitch. What is your brand story? Did you do a crowdfunding campaign to fund your product development? Who else has reviewed it? Do you have any customer testimonials? What do experts say about it? How are you better than your competitors?
- Find the best way to get in contact: Some influencers will have their contact information on their page. Others use their team or a google voice number to screen people. Some people may require more work to get in contact. I have many social media accounts, but Twitter and LinkedIn are really the best ways to reach me in social. While I use Facebook a lot, I don’t engage in business connections there. I use IG, but not that much, so sending a personal message there could be missed for weeks.
- Make a serious offer: Write a personalized email or LinkedIn note. Make them a solid offer. Are you going to give them a sponsor fee, your product to try, your software for a year for them to use, or an affiliate link if they drive sales? You need to make it worth something to them. In other words, you need a budget to spend or something they need or could benefit from.
- Send a testimonial. Everyone with a website wants more sales conversions. A great testimonial will go a long way to help build a business. You can write it for their sales page. Offer an audio or video testimonial. Keep it easy on yourself. Nothing is more powerful to convert new business than a sincere unsolicited testimonial.
- Don’t ask for links or reposts: You should not email an influencer with whom you have no relationship and ask them to just add a link to a previously published blog article. That is a major no-no. People are very unlikely to edit existing content, especially for a brand or product they have never heard of. You do better asking to write a guest post or sponsoring content on their blog. Also, if you have already published a blog or infographic, do not offer it to an influencer as content for their blog. I certainly would never publish it. Seasoned bloggers will only publish original content.
- Stay in Touch: If an influencer does a piece or video about your product, thank them and keep in touch. Find out what they are doing next and offer to promote them too. You want to build a long-lasting friendship, which takes work.
- Don’t be surprised if your target influencers don’t respond: I get hundreds of emails a day like most influencers, and everyone wants something. Some influencers have hundreds of thousands of social media connections on multiple platforms, which means they can’t respond to everyone. Be patient and strategic.
- Don’t get discouraged: Make sure you have realistic expectations and don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t get back to you. Do not Iash out in frustration or anger at an influencer in public or online; remember they have a lot of power. One time on Twitter, someone had reached out for me to share a contest entry to help them get votes. I never do this kind of promo, but when I didn’t respond, they said in an open tweet, “Hey SmallBizLady, How about you do something to help a small business today and share my ……” You can imagine, this was offensive, and when I did respond that I actually help small businesses every day, the person realized what they did, and I got a huge apology. You don’t want to be this person.
- Don’t keep reaching out – take no for an answer. If an influencer doesn’t respond, it means one of two things: they are very busy or not interested. I personally try to tell brands and others that I’m not interested but not to keep sending spam emails. Two attempts to contact someone is plenty.
- Treat them like a person: Don’t start the relationship asking for a favor. Look for an opportunity to relate personally. If you see online they are a huge football fan, and you see they are sad or happy about their team; a well-timed funny meme or GIF could go a long way to build rapport. People do business with people they like, know, and trust. Do your best to figure out what they care about and they just might do the same for you.
Social media is all about giving to get. The more you give to more likely you’ll get the attention of the influencer you are targeting. Don’t be creepy and call or email too much, be human. Don’t stress if it takes a minute for the person to get back to you. Build these relationships before you need them, and they will last.