You know the feeling.
You’ve worked hard on a new post, a new video or a groundbreaking new product.
You release it to the world. Publish it to all the social networks, share it with your email list, tell your friends … and nothing happens.
The needle doesn’t move.
Sometimes you just feel stuck. You’re doing everything “you should be doing” but not really going anywhere.
You’ve worked hard to get people to notice you and your company. You’ve got a little traction here and there, but it’s not enough. You feel like you’ve paid your dues but you’re not getting paid back.
There has to be a better way.
There is, and that’s where industry influencers come into play.
With a little help from the influencers (and their massive audiences) you can move from obscurity to a firm place on the map. Without their help, your future’s unclear.
But how do you make those initial connections?
Well, the answers are right in front of you. I’m about to share 14 secrets with you to building relationships with the Who’s Who of your industry.
Use with care. Remember that online influencers are people just like you are. Networking is 98% about being a nice person and having good manners. So go ahead and use these “secrets,” but use them with respect.
1. Start cultivating
Pick a small set of influencers (say 4-6 people) to start with.
Subscribe to their blogs (via email or RSS), follow them in Twitter, connect on Google+, subscribe to their Facebook updates, “like” their Facebook page, and join LinkedIn Groups that they own or are actively participating in. If you can, attend a live event they’re speaking at.
Check in on them regularly and start to engage in conversations with them on their blog and via social media. This will prepare the foundation to take the actions that follow.
2. Show your support
Next, become their best supporter.
This might include linking to them (especially with an interesting, well-written post), buying some of their products, sharing their posts and promotions on Facebook, promoting their LinkedIn group, retweeting them (and adding positive comments), being an active blog commenter, and generally adding value in their sphere of influence.
It’s not sucking up — it’s showing that you’re reading their stuff and thinking about it.
3. Become their informal (or formal) “Community Manager”
A very powerful secret to adding value and to getting to know an influencer is to fill a vacuum in one of their communities.
If they have a following on LinkedIn, Facebook, or in a forum (it can be free or part of a paid program), proactively take on the role of an informal “community manager.”
Help newbies get oriented. Create mini-tutorial posts or videos. Help answer questions that might be slipping between the cracks.
As a LinkedIn Group owner, I can tell you that the people who help me with these things in my community are worth their weight in gold. Anytime they contact me, they immediately have my attention. As an added bonus, you’re also building authority and good will with the other members of that community.
4. Connect them to a great resource or person
spying on respectfully connecting with your influencer, pay close attention to their goals and frustrations.
For example, maybe they post on Facebook saying, “Just committed to doing a fundraiser for my son’s Boy Scout troop. Anyone have fundraising tips?” or “God, this new Gizmo D5000 makes me feel like a moron.”
In the first case, maybe you have a friend who’s a rockstar fundraiser, and you set up a phone call for them to talk.
In the second, maybe you dig up a great guide someone wrote for the Gizmo D5000, and you send them a link.
Either way, you’re their new hero. How do you think they are going to respond the next time you ask for a favor?
5. Cover their keynote
This is one of my favorites.
Go to a conference or other event where influencers are presenting. Pick some of the more popular speakers or topics, get a good seat for pictures, and take thorough notes. Then quickly write one or more great posts including valuable information, pictures, and video clips related to the talk.
Here’s an example post from BlogWorld that paid huge dividends for me in terms of visibility and recognition.
6. Offer free consulting to improve their business
Sometimes, the most valuable thing you can offer an influencer is your own time or expertise.
Again, listen for their goals and frustrations, and wait for them to talk about an area where you can help. Then, at an opportune moment, pop in and tell them it’s your specialty, and you’d be happy to give them an hour of free consulting. When would be a good time?
Chances are, you’ll get to have a long telephone conversation where you can prove you know your stuff. Instant connection and authority.
(We shouldn’t have to say this but we will: Don’t offer a consultation in your influencer’s area of expertise, unless of course you are, in fact, more proficient than they are at that topic.)
7. Review their book, product or event
The best time to engage an influencer is at the early stage of a launch when they’re working on getting the word out. That’s when they’ll be most open to an interview or to sharing your review broadly via social media.
Write an articulate, creative and scannable post to make sure it gets a lot of attention and shares.
I’ve seen too many average and uninspired reviews that are just not share-worthy. Take the time to get it right, and then be sure to mention it to them, so they can share it for you.
8. Interview them
If you’re a nice and fairly intelligent person, people can’t help but feel closer to you after they talk with you. And what’s the easiest way to talk to an expert?
Find a good reason to interview them (like the launch mentioned above), or create an event or series like “The Top Architects Interview Series” that would stroke their ego a bit. Ask them for the interview, and if they accept, post it to your site.
Using the strategy, you’ll have helped to promote them and will also have had the opportunity to get to know them personally.
9. Tell them something’s broken
Have you ever signed up for an industry influencer’s program or subscribed to their email list and noticed a glitch? A link that takes you to a blank page or has an embarrassing typo?
Well, most people are too shy to say anything about it. Be the person who steps up and tells them about it (privately). They’ll appreciate it!
10. Give them honest feedback
Too often industry influencers have a bunch of “yes men” (and women) following them. Everything they do is golden, right?
Well, if you find the right opportunity or topic, try providing a constructive and well-thought-out counterpoint.
Do this only if you strongly believe you’ve got something valuable to add. This is a dangerous one, because if you do it wrong, they might take offense. If you’re only disagreeing to be contrary, you’ll just make yourself an annoying pest.
But, if you do it thoughtfully with the right influencer, it can totally set you apart.
11. Create a valuable resource for your community
Have you ever heard an influencer’s say, “If I had time to create [great resource XYZ], I would do it!”
Well, if you have the skills and time, do it yourself. For example, they might say, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a list of all the best posts about [insert fascinating topic]?” Well, take a few hours together all the best posts, publish it on your own blog, and then send them a link.
Do it well, and you might just get yourself a link.
12. Riff off one of their ideas (not rip off)
Ever read On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting for Your Ideas, the popular post by Jon Morrow?
Well, what you may have not realized is it’s riffing off another popular post Brian Clark wrote called The Snowboard, the Subdural Hematoma, and the Secret of Life. Same headline structure, same three acts, same inspirational message.
I don’t want to put words in Brian’s mouth, but I’m guessing he was flattered. Someone taking your art and using it to create their own art is a huge compliment.
13. Become a customer
As Jon says in his guest blogging course, buying an influencer’s program, product or service is a great way to get to know them, especially if it offers you direct access to them.
Be their best student. Take their lessons to heart, and succeed so they’ll want to use you as a case study.
Not only will it help you create a new connection, but it will build your own authority as well.
14. Offer to write a guest post
If you’ve built up some social capital with an influencer or blog owner, consider pitching a guest post concept you know you can over-deliver on.
If they accept, your post will typically get published on their site in exchange for a byline with a link back to your site. You’ll not only get more standing and recognition in the industry, but you’ll be able to develop a relationship with the blog owner/influencer.
Can you go too far?
I don’t want to leave without providing some quick guidelines to keep you from going overboard. Just a few quick tips:
- Only make connections with people whose work you genuinely admire and respect. It will show.
- It’s networking, not stalking. You need to know where that line is. Respect boundaries.
- Be helpful, not annoying.
- Don’t expect an instant return. Networking is about relationships, not exchanging favors.
- Treat everyone with respect. Not just the people you consider “influencers.”
If in doubt, be courageous.
Don’t sit back worrying if someone is going to find you annoying or think you’re a suck up. Get out there and get noticed.
Will you sit up, take action, and march yourself out of obscurity, or will you be satisfied with what could have been?
So get out there and do it!