Influencer Marketing 101: How to Build Strong Relationships with Leading Influencers

 ·  20 Jul  ·  4 Comments
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Every business owner sometimes needs support, such as useful advice from a professional, an acquaintance with an important contact, or help with increasing your brand awareness and product visibility. It’s impossible to do everything on your own!

Luckily, there are people in your niche who already have a wide audience and enough authority to influence their audience’s opinion. And instead of marketing directly to your end customers, you can reach your target audience through those individuals. This is what is known as “influencer marketing,” and it has become a very  effective marketing tool.

But it would be a big mistake to think that influencer marketing consists of simply reaching out via email or social media and asking for help.

The strongest relationships are built step by step, from simple communication to extensive collaboration. And it takes a long time to find the right influencers, get on their radar, approach them, and then nurture that cooperation. But it is totally worth it.

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family, much higher than any other forms of advertising (even if they don’t know them personally).

Let’s discover how to create well-established and mutually beneficial relationships with industry influencers, step by step.

Step 1: Finding the Right Influencers

The first thing you should do is to find key influencers in your industry. But the challenge is that the people you consider to be influential might not have the same effect on your audience.

So, you need to find out who your audience follows online (and in turn, who will engage them the most). Thanks to several tools, you don’t have to guess who they might be; you can identify them using data. You can quickly find the most popular people who specialize in a particular topic, find their social profiles, and get detailed statistics about their content’s performance.

For example, BuzzSumo allows you to find the most popular content on a particular topic and get information about its author, publisher, and social shares. You can even get a list of people who shared it.

influencer marketing buzzsum

Klear is also handy for finding influencers on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and blogs, and you can search by location and by their skills.

influencer marketing klear

Step 2: Getting on the Influencers’ Radar

The key to building relationships with influencers is simple:

Get them to notice you before you need something from them.

Some people wrongly assume that you can just reach out to an influencer and they’ll do your bidding.  Nothing is further from the truth.

Most influencers receive hundreds of requests for help per day, if not more. And even if they’re willing to say yes to most of them, there’s not enough time in a day for them to act on those promises.

And so, most influencers have a selection process for reviewing and granting requests, one that can typically be summed up as:

Only working with people they care about.

That means your first objective is to get noticed and then become someone that influencers care about. If an influencer already knows you as a longtime fan, you’ll have a much better chance of convincing them to collaborate with you.  

The easiest way to pop up on an influencer’s radar is to use social media. Follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn at least. If they’re active on other networks, find them there as well.

Start sharing their posts and social media updates, add your own comments and start discussions. A single retweet won’t be enough—it will immediately get lost in the flow of other shares. Do this regularly and consistently, but don’t overdo it. It’s easy to simply retweet everything they say, but to most people, that won’t look like normal behavior. It looks either spammy or psychotic. Instead, share and mention only what’s relevant to your business.

Next, comment on their content. But to become visible, your comments need to stand out. Avoid those endless generic comments like “great point!” or “so true!”—instead, add your own insights, ask questions, or expand upon the influencer’s advice.

How can you make your comments more noticeable?

  • Do not repeat what other commenters say.
  • Provide some additional information or interesting examples.
  • Start discussion and ask questions—a dialogue is a surefire way to show up on an influencer’s radar.
  • You may even want to disagree with the author—if you have a different point of view, an effective debate might be memorable.

A clever comment will catch their attention. And once they connect it with all your social media activity, you’ll have a great foundation for making a connection and then building a relationship.

Step 3: Connecting with an Influencer

Once an influencer knows who you are, it’s time to make that first connection.

However, you shouldn’t simply jump the gun and email them with a request. Instead, make a plan and define everything you need to tell them to hear “yes.”

Start by deciding what you want to get out of your mutual cooperation

You know, “let’s do something together” probably won’t cut it for most influencers.

When you reach out, you should have a well-defined vision of what you want to get out of this cooperation. Do you want them to share your content? Take part in an expert roundup? Agree to be interviewed for your podcast?

TIP: Since you’re trying to build a lasting relationship, make your first request easy to complete. Don’t take more than a couple of minutes of the influencer’s time. Later on, after you’ve forged a solid connection, you’ll be able to discuss bigger projects. But to start with, try to keep it small.

Define what you can offer them in return

To be successful, your relationships with influencers should go both ways right from the start. In other words, do not only focus on what the influencer can give you, also think about what you can offer them in return. Use the rule of reciprocity.

This could be as simple as including an influencer’s opinion in your content or writing a detailed review of their product. Ideally, you should provide them with value before you reach out (e.g., write and publish your review beforehand), but discussing whatever you decide to do for them in future terms should work too. Also, you can offer an influencer exclusive trials or new versions of your products, or dedicate one of your blog posts to them.

Step 4: Reaching Out

For many people, contacting an influencer is by far the most intimidating part of the process.

And rightly so.

You often have only one chance to connect. Mess it up and the influencer will most likely remember you for a long time. So, here are few things to consider:

Don’t use automated outreach software. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against these tools. However, taking the margin of error into consideration (for example, a misspelled name tag, which might display a wrong name), I believe it’s better to first reach out manually. It’s worth your time, particularly if you want to develop a long-term relationship with the person.

Write a compelling subject line. Influencers just do not have time to read every single letter; they will most likely skim through subject lines and only open emails with catchy ones. So don’t use lame subject lines like “Hello!” or “Can I have 30 seconds of your time?”.

Your subject line also shouldn’t make your email look like those spammy ones sent by automated services, like “Invitation to join our program.” Also, try to avoid using words like “free,” “giveaway,” and so on. Emails that contain these words in their subject lines might be blocked by spam filters. A perfect subject line immediately tells the reader what the email is about, for example: “Would appreciate your opinion on my article”  or “We’d love to include your comment, Mark!”

Make your email easy to read.  Making an influencer wade through a vague, lengthy letter is surefire way to get ignored. So make your message as short as possible (about 100-120 words) and crystal clear.

Mention things you have in common. It’ll help you break the ice and make your email sound more personal. Do thorough research of the influencer’s past writings, speeches, and shares with the help of tools like BuzzSumo. And of course, use their name—do not begin your email with “Hi!” If you are going to build a relationship with the person, you’re supposed to at least know their name, right?

Flatter them a little too. Play on their vanity; we all like it. But, to be effective, you need to be sincere and speak from the heart. Tell the influencer what you like about them and their work. Successful people are often glad to see how they’ve changed other people’s minds and lives.

Deliver value beforehand. Finally, use the rule of reciprocity. Show the person that you’ve already done something for them and they’ll feel more compelled to return the favor.

Step 5: Inviting them to collaborate

Another way to establish a relationship with an influencer is to invite them to collaborate. It’s almost guaranteed that the influencer will share your content if they were involved in its creation.

Interviews with experts, guest posts, and webinars with guest specialists are the perfect opportunities to engage influencers in content co-creation. Of course, this kind of work requires time not only from you, but also from the influencer. So if you’re still forging a relationship with them, try to ask less. You don’t necessarily have to host a lengthy interview. Almost any piece of content can be enriched with short quotes, tips, and advice from relevant influencers.

You may also use a modular approach by compiling small pieces of content contributed by different influencers into a long post or article. This approach requires minimal time from influencers and makes it easy for them to participate.

A good example of this is our SEMrush Twitter Chat. Every week, SEMrush organizes a Twitter chat on a different SEO topic and invites famous specialists who work in this niche. Afterwards, the chat guests’ most informative and insightful quotes are aggregated into a long post. Here is an example of such a post: Backlink Audit Basics.

Step 6: Rinse and Repeat – Taking Your Relationship Further

Once you’ve engaged the influencer with a small project, it’s time to take things further.

And the easiest way to do this is by repeating the previously outlined process over and over. Don’t just assume that if a person has worked with you once, they’d be willing to do it again. Keep nurturing your relationship until both you and the influencer are ready to cooperate again.

Keep sharing the influencer’s content, comment on their posts, and stay on their radar.  Never forget to say “thank you” after an influencer has honored your request. You can show your gratitude by with a private message or a public post—this last one is even more beneficial, as it is the way to introduce the influencer to your followers, which allows them to further expand their influence.

The best way to show your appreciation is to let the influencer know that you’re interested in giving back. Ask if there is anything you can do for them. This also is a good stepping-stone for a strong future relationship.

So how do you build and nurture relationships with influencers? Has influencer marketing helped your business? Let us know in the comments section!

Anna Lebedeva
a.lebedeva@semrush.com

Anna Lebedeva is the Public Relations manager at SEMrush. She has a passion for digital marketing, new technologies and media. She’s worked with brands in IT, fashion, packaging, hotel and transportation industries and is now actively spreading the word about SEMrush around the world.

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  • http://petermeadit.com/ Peter Mead

    Hi Anna, nice post here. I like how you talk a lot about how the influencer can help you but also how you can help them. I like how you make it a two way street. 🙂

    • Anna Lebedeva

      Hi Peter, thank you! I consider influencers as real friends 🙂 We really can learn a lot each other!

  • Carl Nickel

    Much thanks Anna. To be honest it’s a bit intimidating reaching out to people you know have the ability to change your life in a really big way. Especially when you know you’ve put in the work, and are willing to put in whatever it takes. Rejection is hard to face. I found Neil Strauss’ book “The Game” to be surprisingly helpful with this. Simply practicing approaching people, learning how to be curious, and dealing with rejection really helped develop me as a person. This article to me is step 2 because now that I’m over that initial fear I think it’s about learning to add value to others (even when I may not have much to offer) in order to build meaningful relationships with people well outside my circles. So thank you!

    • https://www.semrush.com Anna Lebedeva

      Hey Carl! You are not the one who doesn’t like to be rejected 🙂 And you absolutely right that “practice makes perfect” and I do believe in that more you talk to people more you understand what they really need. We usually start with small things and then gradually develop the relations with each other. The same goes with experts. You are on the right track! Good luck 🙂 Anna