Connecting with influencers in your niche is the get-out-of-obscurity ticket your business needs for brand awareness, sales leads and customer loyalty. However, not every influencer will collaborate with you just because you admire their work.
Being an active follower of an influencer’s work doesn’t make them indebted to you, but you can leverage on their credibility to manage your brand’s reputation.
For example, imagine having Jeffrey Zeldman (a web design influencer) share your brand’s message to his over 347,000 followers on Twitter alone.
Or having Smashing Magazine (with over 950,000 Twitter followers) think your content, product or service is “worth looking into”:
Just that one message can drive significant traffic to your website and potentially land you more paying clients. According to Tomoson’s study, 50 percent of marketers used influencer marketing to drive sales and generate leads, while 40 percent were focused on brand engagement.
But how do you identify niche influencers in the first place?
Finding influencers like Zeldman in any niche begins with finding the networking site where they are most active. But that is assuming you know who the influencers in your niche are. In case you don’t, there are tools you can use to search for influencers by topic.
In Klout for example, you can search for influencers by topic or industry:
A search for “web design influencers” on Klout shows the top 9 influencers in that niche. Klout uses social media analytics to rate influencers and assign a numerical value between 1 and 100 known as the “Klout Score”. The higher an influencer’s score, the more influential they are.
You can also search for your influencers directly across social networks, from Google+ to LinkedIn to Facebook, etc.
However, identifying influencers is not enough. You must connect with them to help raise brand awareness and gain niche credibility.
Here are six actionable ways to connect with influencers in your niche:
1. Know Your Influencers
Just like with any relationship, you want to know everything about the influencers in your niche. It is vital to get to know these influencers so that your approach is relevant to their brand, not yours.
Start by following them on social media platforms where they are most active. Deliberately consume the content they share, observe when they share and how they share. Read everything you can about them; everything they have written.
Their blog is another useful resource. Use a tool like BlogSearchEngine (a search engine that helps people find blogs and content specific to their industry or topic) to search what influencers in your niche are writing about.
Knowing your influencer is important in several ways:
- It will help you learn about the specific aspect of your niche they are passionate about.
- It will help you find a common ground with them. Most people, influencers inclusive, take kindly to others who share their passions.
- It will be easier for you to identify data, insights or information valuable to them.
This knowledge would help you sustain a lasting connection with them.
Remember, you can’t connect with an influencer you don’t know. While this may require some amount of dedication and patience, it will help you develop valuable connection within your niche.
But knowing them is not enough. Make them know you by offering value.
2. Create Value for Your Influencers
Influencers work hard and long to create value for their audiences.
To connect with them, you should do the same. You have to build something worth talking about. By creating value for influencers; you’ll gain credibility in a short time, regardless the size of your brand.
Here’s how to do this:
- Determine if Your Product is a Good Fit
What is it about your product that influencers will be interested in?
For example, a web design expert who builds outstanding WordPress themes won’t be the best fit to help promote your Joomla templates.
The truth is you have to provide something relevant; otherwise influencers won’t bat an eyelid at you.
- Share Your Influencers’ Content
For example, if you’re a web hosting company, you could connect with web design influencers, WordPress premium theme brands, web design bloggers and share their posts with your audience like Liquid Web did on Twitter:
Also, you can get their attention when you mention them in tweets, refer to their content or recommend their products, as Mike Morucci did with Elegant Themes on Twitter:
He sure got attention.
When you do share an influencer’s content, remember to always reference them.
- Quote Influencers in Your Content
Solve a problem your influencers are also interested in solving. Take time out to craft industry-relevant content, quote your influencers and share the content with them.
For instance, Ethan Marcotte quoted Trent Walton (a web design influencer) in his blog post about pattern-driven web design and gave credit by including a link back to Trent’s blog:
If your content solves a problem, influencers are also likely to share that content with their audience. This can greatly grow your credibility as an authority in your niche.
3. Interact with Influencers
Knowing your influencers will help you create the value they’ll love but interacting with them can either lead to a profitable relationship or ruin all your hard work.
Sadly, brands get it wrong at this stage.
Interacting with influencers is not about bombarding their inbox with unsolicited requests to review your product or mention your business in a blog post, or tweet. While that may be a desirable outcome, it comes short of your intention to connect with a thought leader whose influence can benefit your brand.
A good way to remain relevant to influencers is to interact with them across multiple platforms where they publish their work. Show your appreciation for good content or a product they’ve shared. Maintain a constructive conversation by asking questions when you think they need to clarify a point they made in their content.
Be as polite and tactful as you can when you interact with influencers. Remember, they are also experts in your niche and you don’t want to come off as challenging their authority (even though in some cases, this has its benefits). You only have one chance to make a great first impression, so be sure you make it worthwhile.
For instance, Joel Wolfgang, a freelance web designer, interacted with Elegant Themes on Twitter. He asked a question and also pointed the brand to a blog post as proof. In response, Elegant Themes commended Joel’s suggestion and ceased the opportunity to take the conversation further.
4. Pitch Your Influencer
Whether you’re trying to boost your brand’s awareness or establish and grow credibility, knowing when and how to ask for that big favour from influencers matters a lot.
That’s where your pitch comes in. Ideally, it is best to pitch influencers via email as this allows you to connect with them privately away from the noise of social media. You need to meticulously craft the email you’ll send to influencers.
Although you may have known your influencer, created value for them and interacted with them on social media, you need to carefully craft your email pitch.
Having done your homework, hopefully, you’ve made an impression; begin your email with a concise introduction. Make your salutation personal (e.g., “Hi Thomas”). They tend to have higher response rate according to a study by iAcquire and BuzzStream.
Next, introduce your product or service as vivid as possible in no more than two sentences. Quickly get to what they stand to gain and explain the personal benefits they’ll get. Lastly, make them a clear offer and you could let them know you’re hoping they’ll like it.
Here’s a simple template you could use (and modify):
I enjoyed [your blog post/Google Hangout/Twitter chat] about [topic]. I’d love to chat with you about [your request and its benefits].
Would you be free for [coffee/a call/Skype chat] this afternoon?
Don’t expect an immediate reply. If you don’t hear from them in 7 days, send a follow-up email. Hopefully, this time around, they’ll respond with a yes or no. If the outcome is no, go through the process again.
Start by building your presence on the platforms where influencers are most active. Spend some work hours to fill out your profile completely. Search for and join conversations in your niche. Share useful insights; engage with peers and influencers alike.
Next, step out of convenience. Connect with influencers by attending niche conferences and networking events. Meeting industry players in person is a great way to share common interests and maintaining relationships. The more you dress and show up, the higher your chances of getting noticed.
Do more than just attending, organize a lecture or seek partnership with organizers of such niche events for a speaking slot. This will help you hone your skills and quickly establish you as a thought leader in your niche.
Take a cue from Ethan (introduced above). From sharing the concepts of his ground breaking “responsive web design”product to speaking to web designers about developing and using design patterns, Ethan has established himself as a web design influencer:
Whatever you do, always tighten up your offline hustle online via social media and emails. Doing this will help strengthen your connections.
6. Nurture Influencer Relationships
Connecting with influencers is a continuous process. Establish a working relationship with them by engaging them on their own terms. They’ve their own data on what content works, the best approaches and other vital information. Avoid imposing yourself on influencers like 38% of brands who ignore influencer content suggestions.
Keep the communications with your niche influencers open. Let them know how much you appreciate their work and how important it is to your brand. Use customized email newsletters to keep them up to date.
Seek to provide value to your influencers and not always attempt to get something from them. Give them the respect they deserve by implementing rewards — direct compensation (if you can afford this), free products or service. Don’t be like the 68% of brands who request time and access to a new audience from influencers without some form of compensation.
Stay updated with your influencer’s progress, projects and even personal lives. Learn from them and improve your brand. Give them VIP access to your events, grant them exclusive interviews, product or service reviews. When you put energy, time and resources into nurturing influencer relationships, it creates an emotional investment for your brand.
Even if influencers do not agree to advocate for you, continue to support their work by putting in a good word for them when you get a chance to. Lasting relationships take time to build; connecting with influencers is a circle. The benefits still come back to you.
Influencers in your niche are significant to your business growth. Connecting with them requires that you evaluate them and the value they can bring to your brand. It all begins with knowing them and providing value to them to earn their trust.
You have to interact with them, reach out to them through different means and also maintain the relationship when established. All these things take time and may be difficult to implement at first. Don’t jump the gun; be patient, the opportunity will always present itself at some point.
Remember, influencers in your niche are human beings with all their attendant complexities. Seek their gain before you seek yours.
What are your thoughts? Do you have additional suggestions for connecting with influencers in a niche? Feel free to leave comments.
Article thumbnail image by Igor Kisselev / shutterstock.com