5 Strategies for Influencing Influencers in Your Space
So you want to influence the influencers, huh? Get Jim Keenan or Jill Rowley to tweet about your product? Or land a quote for your website from Guy Kawasaki or Jeff Bullas? Or maybe just get them to engage with you on social, share some of your content, or even let you write something for their blog or email list? Join the club!
But I don’t mean that sarcastically. The fact is that influencing influencers isn’t all that hard to do, and it’s totally within reach for any business that’s dead set on doing it. Is it time consuming? Absolutely. A huge effort? Certainly. But done correctly, it isn’t expensive, and the dividends it pays far exceed the resources you put into it.
It’s all about how you approach it.
A Note on Approaching Influencers
How you attempt to connect with influencers makes all the difference in the world. Cold emailing them doesn’t work. Setting up Twitter bots or sending them general links via Direct Message or InMail doesn’t work. What it does – at best – is signals that you don’t know what you’re doing. That you have the skills of a two-bit car salesman. That they’re probably best off not engaging you.
Think for a second how you’d like to be approached about anything. Do you respond well to random, cold solicitations from recruiters on LinkedIn? To messages or emails from people you don’t know saying things like “I’m sure you’ll love my simple guide to…”? No, you don’t.
Now imagine if that happened to you hundreds (or even thousands) of times per day. You wouldn’t like it. And frankly, it would indicate to you that the people trying to connect with you didn’t actually want to connect at all. They just wanted something from you.
So as you go through the following strategies, keep this in mind: influence is born out of connection. And you will never connect with someone if you aren’t making an effort to reach them on a meaningful, personal level.
5 Strategies for Influencing Influencers In Your Space
1. Build a social nurturing flow.
The foundation of any influencer campaign has to be social, strategic and consistent. Start by making a list of of the influencers whose attention you’d like. Then, create a dedicated Twitter list and RSS feed that gives you a quick glance at what they’re sharing, what content they’re creating and how they’re interacting.
Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to get started. Start off simply: like and /or retweet a few things they share each week, and share some of the articles they write. This, over time, will start to get their attention and put you on the radar. Then escalate things a bit: comment on a few blogs, respond to a few Tweets naming them specifically, etc. Start adding value to their efforts. Once you do this, you’ve effectively become an evangelist to them (sharing their content, engaging in their communities), and it’s much more natural to strike up a real conversation with them and ask them for a favor.
2. Flatter them while broadcasting their message.
A Sales Guy’s Jim Keenan gave me a good piece of advice a few months ago: think long and hard about what you can do to get the attention of the people you want to talk to. As we all know, flattery in business gets you everywhere, so it makes sense to leverage the channels and messaging you already own to get connected with others. Take Sales Prodigy for example. They used the content marketing assets they had to build out this fun, meaningful piece of content that played well with their audience while being highly flattering and interesting to the influencers they meant to target. And their results spoke for themselves: every single one of the influencers mentioned engaged with the content and the brand, opening Social Prodigy up to huge audiences they hadn’t been able to reach before (and an ultimate acquisition by Hootsuite).
Use the resources you have to build something just for the influencers you want to target. Be respectful and fun (of course), and create value for them by sharing their name and message with your audience. They’ll be much happier returning a favor than they would if you asked them for something out of the blue.
3. Leverage your network to connect with them personally.
Contrary to what you might think, all of our industries are quite small – especially when it comes to the upper echelons / C-Suite. Leverage your connections to get a personal intro from a mutual contact to give them a way to contextualize you and your relationship to them. Doing so generally warms them, helps you to get beyond the feeding frenzy of people who want to connect with them, and, at the very least, puts you on their radar.
Just be sure, in situations like this, that you have something real to say. Jumping through a series of connections just to ask “will you retweet my blog post” is a big no-no, especially when other people’s reputations are on the line for making this connection. Concoct real mutual value before you consider proceeding in this route. Otherwise, you stand to do damage far more significant than an ignored email.
4. Play Dumb
Though it’s not popular to demonstrate weakness or a lack of understanding in business, doing so strategically can make you appear genuine while appealing to both an influencer’s ego and their commitment to a given community / issue. Going about this can resemble your nurture strategy, but rather than making comments / statements on the content you’re sharing / engaging with, you should start asking questions directly of the influencer surrounding issues that they’re known experts on.
Though it doesn’t work all the time, this “dumb” approach allows them to engage you as a kind of student and take the question / answer session to a more private venue where they have the opportunity to share their knowledge. Engaging this way – and then applying the knowledge they give you in a way they can see – forges a strong bond between the two of you that becomes leverageable as you grow out your influencer strategy.
5. Social Micro-Targeting
The least direct (and often supplementary) way to go about influencing influencers is through micro-targeting. Simply put, create a piece of content you think would be supremely interesting / engageable / shareable for your influencers of choice, build out one of these, and let Facebook get your content in front of them.
In addition to the likely engagement and share, doing this also generates an obvious foundation for for future conversations. That way, when you take advantage of another influencer outreach strategy, you have something interesting and relevant to talk about!
The Bottom Line
Influencers are people like you and me, and they have to be engaged like it. Don’t cold-message them and expect the world. Instead, try a combination of warming tactics that engage them in their own thinking, help them broadcast their message and reach new audiences, and be genuine yourself. Doing that, you’re much more likely to get what you want in addition to making a strong, helpful contact and (possibly) a new friend.
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