Do you want to connect with influencers in your niche?
Most bloggers do. But many of them go about it the wrong way.
Forming relationships with influencers is something you really want to get right. Done well, it’s one of the best ways to grow your audience and brand. And hopefully you’ll end up with some new friends too.
But if you approach influencers the wrong way, you won’t get the results you want. In fact, you may even harm your blog and your brand.
Before I dig into specific tips for connecting with influencers, let’s get clear about what not to do.
The Wrong Way to Approach Influencers
Getting to know influencers is never about using a ‘system’ or ‘formula’ to make connections.
Tools are available that let you set up a sequence of emails to influencers, which are then triggered automatically depending on whether or not the influencer opens your emails. And of course they all promise to save you time or give you great results.
If your own blog is reasonably large, you may well have been on the receiving end of some of these yourself. I get ten or so of these every day, and some influencers I’ve talked to get more than 100 a day.
Don’t use these tools. They often cost a lot, and influencers at all levels will have seen the boilerplate emails from these tools time and time again (often with their name misspelt or omitted).
No prizes for guessing what happens to these emails. They’re usually ignored and deleted. And I’m sure you can understand why.
The sad thing is, most people who use these expensive tools to send their emails have good intentions. They’re good people. But they’re potentially hurting their brand.
So let me share some tips for reaching out to influencer that will give you much better results.
Tip #1: Don’t Get Upset if They Don’t Respond
Even if you do everything right, some influencers still won’t respond. As you can imagine, they get a lot of approaches and have a lot of interactions each day. They may have hundreds of thousands (or even million) of social media connections, which means they can’t respond to everyone.
Don’t let that put you off. Make the approach anyway and try to build a relationship. Just make sure you have realistic expectations, and don’t be upset if someone doesn’t get back to you. (Never attack them or call them out on social media for not replying. That’s a fast way to kill any chance of a relationship.)
Tip #2: Don’t be a Stalker
Everything I’m sharing in this post is about being useful: helping influencers achieve what they want, and looking for a win-win situation. So be enthusiastic and reach out, but don’t overstep boundaries.
This is particularly important when it comes to offline interaction. For instance, sending someone a gift might be a lovely, welcome gesture. But don’t choose something expensive, too personal or potentially offensive.
A movie star I follow mentioned they were starting a blog, so I sent them a copy of my book. They really appreciated that I noticed they were starting a blog when most other people hadn’t.
Tip #3: Be Someone Worth Knowing
When you reach out to someone, chances are they’ll dig into who you are before they respond. They might check out your blog, or glance at your social media accounts.
You want your online presence to show you’re genuine and credible. Showcase your expertise if possible. But even if you don’t have any expertise or many followers or readers yet, there’s still a lot you can do.
For instance, do you complain all the time on Twitter? Or do you talk about topics that influencers in your niche will be interested in? Even if you don’t have many followers yet, tweet as if you do. The same goes for your blog or website. Make sure it looks reasonably professional and complete.
Tip #4: Find Out Where Best to Contact Them
Some influencers will tell you the best way to get in touch with them on their contact page. But with others you may need to do a bit more digging.
For instance, they might have lots of social media accounts, but only one or two they actively use. I have a lot of social media accounts, but there are some I don’t use a lot (such as Instagram). I interact more on Facebook, and so that’s a good place to strike up a connection with me.
But that’s just me. Other influencers might be farmore active on Instagram or Twitter. So it’s well worth looking at their accounts and seeing where they tend to be responsive.
Tip #5: Help Create Engagement with Their Content
Most online influencers want engagement leading to some kind of conversion, such as a reader buying a product from them. Most of them are also actively creating content.
You can help them get the engagement they’re after. For instance, if they write blog posts or publish videos, you could comment on those. Don’t just say “Nice post”. Be constructive and add something to what they’ve done. If they’ve asked a specific question, answer it.
Tip #6: Help Build Their Community
As well as leaving comments for to the blogger, reply to other people’s comments. This applies not only to their blog, but also to the social networks they use.
For instance, in a Facebook group you might welcome new members who’ve posted for the first time to introduce themselves. If it’s a Twitter chat, you might make an effort to ask questions and respond to other people who are chatting.
But be careful you don’t go too far. You don’t want people thinking you’re trying to take over the community. If you have the time and inclination to help out a lot, contact the influencer and ask if you can help them as a volunteer. You could offer to welcome new members of a Facebook group, or help prepare questions for a Twitter chat.
Tip #7: Help Them Grow Their Audience
Even if your own audience is quite small, you can still help out influencers. You could share their blog posts, retweet their tweets (if they’re relevant to your audience), and even link to their posts from your blog.
You could also ask if they’re interested in being interviewed on your blog. If they don’t have the time, you might consider running a case study on them instead.
Another great way to help is when you guest post on a larger blog, link to the influencer from that post. A few years ago now, a blogger I’d never heard of before wrote an article for a large business publication that sent me a huge amount of traffic. It definitely got them on my radar.
Don’t discount the offline world either. If you’re giving a talk or presentation, you could mention the influencer. People may well tweet them to let them know.
You could even approach the mainstream media. Back when I’d just started Digital Photography School, a reader who liked the blog emailed the New York Times, who then asked to interview me.
Tip #8: Help Them Sell More Products
If the influencer has something for sale (and most will), look for ways to help them sell more of it. That might mean becoming an affiliate, reviewing their product (or service), or recommending it on social media.
A great way to go further is to send them a testimonial. This is really valuable to them, as they can use it on their sales page. (If they have a podcast, send them a audio testimonial. And if they use video, create a video testimonial for them.)
Tip #9: Help Them Create Content
Most influencers are creating some sort of content. And you can help them with that. Perhaps you have an idea for a blog post they could write. You might even come up with a title and some key points they could cover. Or you could send them a list of questions you’d love to see them write about.
If they have a podcast, perhaps they welcome recorded questions or comments. If you’re good at design, you could create a graphic they could share to promote one of their posts. There are lots of options, so think about what they might find useful and how you could help.
Another possibility here is to help with research. Let them know about a new study or some data they might find useful. You can also help with editing. Drop them a polite, private email if you spot an error in their content, a spelling mistake, a broken link or similar. (But never call them out on these in public.)
Tip #10: Look for Specific Times When You Can Help
There are times when influencers will want something concrete and time sensitive, perhaps in the next week or month. For instance, are they launching a new book, product or service? Are they supporting a not-for-profit project? Are they exploring a new social media network where they want to get more traction (e.g launching a YouTube account)?
When influencers are starting new things or promoting something specific, they’re busier than usual. But don’t let that put you off contacting them, because they’re often open to being approached if you can help them achieve the outcome they’re going for.
Tip #11: Engage With Them on a Human Level
Influencers are ordinary people (honest). Just like you, they have good days and bad days. They also have questions and problems of their own. If they’re asking for help with a particular question or problem see if you can help, even if it’s just by sending them a word of encouragement.
If they’re hanging out on Twitter or blowing off steam, sharing some light-hearted banter, a well-timed pun or a funny GIF or meme can go a long way to connect on a personal level.
Tip #12: Build These Relationships Before You Need Them
I get a lot of requests out of the blue from people I’ve never heard of before. While I’m open to responding and even working with them regardless, the reality is I’m much more likely to want to connect with and help someone I feel I already know.
It’s not a good idea to start your relationship by asking for a favour. Be genuine about wanting to help and connect with the influencer, and don’t get too hung up on where you expect things to go. Many times I’ve approached people with one thing in mind, and something else entirely has come out of the interaction.
Make your approach genuine and personal. And if an influencer doesn’t respond, don’t take it personally. You can politely follow up, or just move on to someone else who might have more time to form a connection.
I’d love to hear your own tips for getting to know influencers in your niche. What have you tried that’s worked? What are you planning to do next, or do differently? Share your thoughts in the comments below.