You already know that influencer marketing is a cost-effective, universally accessible way to earn more visibility for your content and your brand. The premise is simple; engage with an influencer in your industry who has lots of social followers, get them to either feature your brand or syndicate your content in some way, and repeat ad infinitum. This will get your brand in front of their audience, hopefully giving you more followers and a better reputation in the process.
But anyone who’s tried this tactic outright knows it isn’t that simple. How can you break the ice with an influencer without jeopardizing your chances for success?
Three Keys to Remember
First, you need to bear three things in mind:
- Influencers are busy. You need to respect their time, or they’re not going to give you a second glance. They can’t possibly respond to everyone, so you better find a way to stand out and seem important.
- There’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you ask an influencer for an outright favor without any rapport, you’ll almost certainly be turned down. Instead, offer an exchange of value—more on this later.
- Influencers are people. Don’t lose sight of this. Every influencer is just a person, like you or me. They like to laugh. They hate insincerity. They’re nice to the people who are nice to them, and ignore most everyone else.
Strategies for Success
With those considerations in mind, here are seven ideas for how to break the ice with an influencer you’ve never engaged with before:
- Like and share their work. This is the first and easiest strategy because it involves nothing more than a few clicks and a bit of typing. Start liking and sharing the material they syndicate across their social media platforms; do this often and regularly, and your brand name will likely start standing out to them. Then, you can break the ice with an introduction like, “I’m a big fan of your work, and I was wondering…” and they’ll know you’re sincere.
- Meet them in person. This is a bit trickier to pull off, since it depends on you being in the same geographic area. However, most social influencers have either built or maintained their social status by giving speeches and workshops in person; these are perfect opportunities to make a bold first impression with them. Shake their hand, look them in the eyes, and connect with them like you would a potential friend; get to know them, and see how you can exchange value with each other.
- Give them something valuable. Do you have a unique product that you could send an influencer as a trial, or for them to review? Can you give them a free subscription to your service? Can you connect them with someone they might want to partner with? Think about what your target influencer needs, and see if you can get it for them. As soon as you give them something valuable, they’ll want to return in kind: this is the psychological principle of reciprocity.
- Debate them. Your influencer will need to maintain their image by engaging in public conversations on social media. They often get responses in agreement or acknowledgment, but you can stand out and encourage a response by staking a contradictory position; in short, debate them. If you offer an intelligent opinion and back it up with evidence, they’ll think highly of you, and they’ll be more willing to listen to you when you suggest an exchange of value in the future.
- Pitch them on a guest post. This is a mutually beneficial opportunity, so few influencers will outright turn you down. Do your research and figure out what type of content the influencer likes to host on their blog, then pitch them a topic that conforms to those guidelines. As long as you have credentials to back up your work (such as a blog of your own) and a pitch that falls in line with their needs, you stand a good chance of getting featured. Getting a guest post published has many benefits, and is one of the best ways to build links to your website.
- Request a guest post. Remember that guest posts can work both ways, and influencers have an incentive to be featured on as many external blogs as possible. Offer them a spot on your blog by requesting a contribution directly. If your influencer is exceptionally popular or busy, you could also request a smaller contribution, such as a quote or an answer to a question about the industry.
- Ask for an interview. Interviews are another form of mutually beneficial content. You’ll both gain brand exposure from the event, and you’ll both be able to syndicate it with your respective audiences. During the course of the interview, you’ll also have the opportunity to establish a rapport, which you can then try and turn into an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship. It all starts with one piece.
These strategies aren’t a guarantee of success; every influencer is different, and every brand will have unique goals and unique angles to try. However, if used cleverly and appropriately, these techniques can get your foot in the door with some of the most powerful social influencers in the world. Use this power responsibly, and don’t forget the three principles I covered earlier: don’t waste their time, don’t ask for favors, and treat influencers like the human beings they are.