How to Connect with Influencers in Any Industry
Recently, I shared tips to help you find influencers in your industry. Now I want to show you what to do once you’ve identified an influencer you’d like to connect with.
In just a moment, I’ll share five of my favorite ways of reaching out to influencers. But before I do that, let’s take a quick look again at the importance of influencers.
Connecting with industry influencers is a smart business move. These relationships can help build your own credibility, as well as increase your visibility within a target market. These connections can also boost your confidence and increase the value you bring to the table for your clients.
Plus, most influencers are pretty awesome people … and couldn’t we all use more of those in our lives?
“While it may seem like a long shot to fill your network with the best and brightest, it's not rocket science. It's about giving much more than you take, and always looking to be of service to everyone you meet.” ~ Lewis Howes
The first step is finding the best and brightest influencers. If you haven’t already done so, read 3 Easy Steps to Finding Influencers in Any Industry. Once you’ve found the influencers you want to connect with, follow this plan to start building a relationship …
1.Become an Active Follower on Social Media
You can’t connect with someone you don’t know, and social media is a good place to start getting to know someone. So, follow your industry influencers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other social platform they spend time on.
But, to really connect with influencers, you need to do more than simply follow them. You need to do more than just passively consume their content.
You need to become an active follower and actually DO something with their content.
What’s the difference between passive consumption and active following?
- Like/Follow/Connect to the influencers’ social pages/profiles.
- Read their posts.
- Watch their videos.
- Listen to their podcasts.
- Leave thoughtful or insightful comments on the influencers’ content.
- Ask follow-up questions that help them expand on the content.
- Publicly share the influencers’ content with your friends and followers.
Who do you think an influencer would prefer to get to know better — a passive consumer or an active follower? Which would YOU prefer?
Being an active fan for an influencer helps build the kind of mutually beneficial relationship you’re trying to establish.
TIP: Use Twitter lists to help organize whom you’re following on that platform. Be sure to both Like and Follow influencers’ Facebook pages, so you’ll see their content in your News Feed. Use other platform-specific tools to make sure you don’t miss any of your influencers’ content. Or, better yet, set up streams on Hootsuite to easily track and engage with an influencer’s content from one central dashboard.
2.Feature Influencers in Your Content
Featuring an influencer in your content is a win-win proposition for both you and the influencer.
For them … their expert status is affirmed by every third-party mention they get, and they also receive exposure to your audience.
For you … you get some reciprocal exposure to their audience as well, and you “borrow” some of their authority by association.
“Authoritative quotations provide mental shortcuts to acceptance … so take advantage of the authority of others to build your own.” ~ Brian Clark, founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital
So, how do you feature an influencer in your content?
The easiest way is simply to quote them in articles, social posts, and memes. Like I did in this article with Lewis Howes and Brian Clark, or like this:
Let the influencer know you’ve quoted them by mentioning or tagging them in your social post. Or, use a hashtag of their name, like this: #GuyKawasaki
Quoting an influencer is the easiest thing to do, because you’re simply “copying and pasting” (with proper attribution, of course) what they’ve already put out there.
The next level of connection is a bit harder, but also infinitely more powerful …
3.Get Their Participation in Your Content
Their participation could be an interview for a podcast or video, maybe a cameo appearance on a webinar, or something as simple as a written reaction or answer to a question you’ve asked.
Whatever the participation looks like, make sure it provides value to them, as well as you.
“Don’t go after a connection so that you can ask that person for something. You need to be giving. Be sincere and helpful. If you don’t have value to provide, then don’t reach out.” ~ Lewis Howes
This step is not for the meek or the faint of heart, but it’s not really as hard as you might think, either … especially if you’ve been actively sharing and engaging with their content.
If you’ve been commenting on their blog and social posts (especially live streaming broadcasts), and if you’ve been retweeting them and sharing their other social content, then your name is going to be familiar to them or whoever is managing their social presence.
And, if your name is familiar to them, you have a better chance of getting a positive response to your request.
You can make that request by messaging them (or their page) on social media, or by sending them an email if you have access to their email address. Be direct and concise. In this case, short copy is definitely the winner!
4.Collaborate on a Project Together
Collaborating on a project together is perhaps the ultimate level of connecting with an industry influencer.
It could be co-authoring a book, co-presenting a webinar, or co-promoting an online event.
I did that last one.
Two years ago, I hosted an online summit for small business owners and entrepreneurs that I called “18 Ways to Build a Better, More Profitable Business and a More Fulfilled Life in 2015.” I got 18 influencers in marketing, networking, productivity, sales, and more to join me in giving away downloadable free gifts (lead magnets) to our attendees.
The collaborative element of the event was not just the experts providing the lead magnets and use of their names, although those things even alone are huge. I asked each of these influencers also to co-promote the event to their own lists.
The value I provided to the influencers was the framework of the event, swipe copy they could use to co-promote it following a simple promotional time line, and, of course, the email addresses of all those attendees who opted in to receive their gift.
I’ll admit, my heart was racing when I sent emails to Mari Smith, Ilise Benun, Christine Hueber, and Sally Hogshead to invite their participation.
It was beating even faster when I received responses from each of them!
Here’s the email I sent:
I was super excited to get a “Yes” from Ilise, Christine, and Sally. They all participated in the event. Sadly, it didn’t fit into Mari’s promotional calendar, because I didn’t give her enough advance notice. But I’ve made note of that for next time!
I believe these successful, busy experts said “yes” because I offered value and because I made it easy for them to participate.
And, if it worked for me, it can work for you, too!
5.Strike Up a Conversation at a Live Event
Industry influencers often are invited to speak at live events. If you’re trying to connect face-to-face with influencers, go to these events!
Tweet your key takeaways and insights from their presentation. (Remember to use the event hashtag if there is one, as well as the influencer’s Twitter handle.) Do a Facebook live video broadcast to share your thoughts, and mention/tag them and the event in the description. They’ll notice.
You might even run into them in the hallway, the elevator, or — dare I say — the bar. Be prepared with a few well-thought-out questions or other ice-breakers, and strike up a conversation!
They might even let you snap a photo of the two of you together. This is a photo of me and Brian Clark at AWAI’s Web Copy Intensive in Austin back in 2013:
Brian and I first met in 2012 at AWAI’s Bootcamp in Delray Beach, where we discovered we have a mutual appreciation for Pinot Noir. It was great to re-connect in person again a few months later.
Final Thoughts …
As you connect with influencers, remember this: They may have impressive reputations and seem larger than life, but you probably have at least a few things in common. And at the end of the day, they’re people.
So, treat them as such.
Respect their time. Be polite. Provide value.
Do so, and you’ll connect on a deeper level and actually build a relationship.
And, you never know where that could take you.
How have you connected with industry influencers? I’d love to hear your stories and experiences! Please leave me a comment below.
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