We all know that networking is a critical skill for all entrepreneurs, but of course who you’re connecting with matters just as much (if not more) as working to build relationships and step outside your comfort zone in the first place. Influencers are social leaders who have amassed huge followings, making them the perfect resource for introducing your brand to a new audience. If you can establish relationships with key influencers in your industry — people like bloggers, journalists, celebrities, or other well-known industry personalities — you can increase your own social credit, drive traffic to your blog or website, and convert more leads into sales.
Of course, influencer marketing isn’t a quick-fix or get-rich-quick scheme. An influencer may be able to offer your business unprecedented exposure, but like any marketing strategy, you have to approach influencer marketing with some tact to get the most impact from your effort. Of course, the first question every entrepreneur wants answered is, “how do I connect with influencers in my market?” If you’re ready to start dipping your toes into the waters of influencer marketing, be sure to follow the rules of the pool:
No fangirling. Even if the influencer you’re reaching out to is a celebrity or a top industry professional, they still put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. Influencers are not deities, they’re average people — just like you or me — who are really talented communicators. Since you don’t know this person in real life and probably don’t know what common ground you may have with them, it can be difficult to figure out what to say and tempting to resort to freaking out over how totally awesome they are. Resist that urge with all your might!
Sonia Simone offers an insightful alternative to fangirling like a prepubescent teenage girl at a One Direction concert: “Instead of making your content crushes into Gods, geek out with them over your topic… when you talk about the work, it’s interesting. When you talk about the topic, it’s engaging. When you talk about how awesome and amazing and godlike the person is, it’s just awkward.” You may think you’re being flattering, but you’re almost certainly just making the other person uncomfortable — good people don’t enjoy being put on a pedestal like that.
Follow, follow, follow. As long as you’re keeping your compliments in check and aren’t fangirling all over the place, you should definitely follow your target influencer on as many social media platforms as you can manage. This is the first step in building a relationship with an influencer because it is the only way you’re going to find an “in” to communicating with them. Once you’ve followed their social media accounts, you’ll need to start investing time into reacting, commenting, and sharing the content they create. This way, influencers will start regularly seeing your name in response to their work, and they’ll probably start interacting with you organically.
Ecommerce bridal retailer, Azazie, believes that the best way to grow your brand’s influence is to build two-way relationships. Azazie views all of their customers as their best influencers because they are passionate about sharing their own photos and experiences with their networks. Their genuine enthusiasm for the brand shines through. But Azazie makes the extra effort to ensure that their customers know how appreciated they are. The Azazie team not only features their photos and wedding stories on their blog, but they also take the time to interact with customer photos directly on social media platforms.
Add value. When it comes to relationship-building, the truth of the matter is that most people can sniff out a front. If you have ulterior motives for wanting to get to know someone, it becomes pretty apparent pretty quickly, and no one appreciates feeling used. This means you cannot see interactions with influencers as transactional; you’re not going to “get” something every time you “give” something to them. In fact, if you want key influencers to notice you and start helping you build your brand, you’re first going to have to find ways to offer them value — not the other way around. Ecommerce bridal retailer, Azazie, believes that the best way to grow your brand’s influence is to build two-way relationships. Azazie views all of their customers as their best influencers because they are passionate about sharing their own photos and experiences with their networks. Their genuine enthusiasm for the brand shines through. But Azazie makes the extra effort to ensure that
To add value, keep the focus of your message on the other person, personalizing any emails so they don’t appear to be spammy boilerplate material. Offer social proof, letting the influencer know what credibility you or people you socialize with have in your industry, and keep things clear and concise. Most importantly, make sure it’s clear that you aren’t necessarily looking for anything in return from them; in fact, Jason Quey suggests dropping a “no need to respond” comment when sharing any content that doesn’t actually require a personalized response from the recipient, freeing them from the responsibility of answering and adding value with no expectation of a return on your investment.
Brands like Azazie are completely revolutionizing their industries, making it possible for consumers to order high-quality products more easily and affordably than ever before; they wield influence because everyone is looking for a piece of their action. It’s absolutely imperative that you find a way to stand out in a sea of voices vying for attention and endorsement from popular brands and influential personalities.