The influencers in your niche are probably receiving hundreds of friendly requests a day. Hence, the trick behind successful outreach is to stand out among your peers and catch the intended party's attention.
The success probability may be bleak, but influencer engagement is not exactly rocket science. And it can drive significant results with the right strategy and social media practices.
Set proper goals and maintain KPI
An ideal outreach campaign must begin with a clear set of objectives. Without them, it is impossible to measure success and define a consistent key performance indicator (KPI).
The purpose of your influencer outreach program might be to get influencers to write for your blog, become brand advocates, or vouch for your content or brand credibility. Start by defining clear targets.
Have different KPIs for different social media channels. After all, those channels are different from each other; your approach to each will be different, as will which objective is best suited for each.
Identify top influencers relevant to your purpose
The logical second step is identifying your niche influencers active on social media. Also, if you want to conveniently measure your outreach efforts and follow a KPI model, then it is a great idea to organize your targeted people into separate tiers, based on their social authority and influence.
There are many social tools to help you find brand advocates, industry experts, opinion leaders, and key decision-makers, including Followerwonk, Klout, Topsy, Commun.it, and Group High, among others.
Get a step closer to your influencers on social media
Influencer outreach can begin via different means, and it is important that you choose the way that has a high success probability and decent conversion rate.
Social media is my favorite medium for getting in touch with key influencers and learning from their valuable insights and predictions. Many influencers are active on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, which is why those social channels make ideal communication channels for outreach.
Become socially active on those channels, and you'll be a step closer to your influential audience.
Keep in mind that outreach thrives on both patience and perseverance at each of these three stages: recruit, initialize and grow the relationship, and nurture.
Abide by good social ethics and practices
Just because your influencers follow you back on Twitter that doesn't mean they are your friends now and you can get all personal with them; resist that urge. Another important thing to note: There is a difference between being polite and being obsequious; your target influencers are probably subjected to a lot of brown-nosing, so you likely won't get far with that approach.
It is, however, a good practice to acknowledge social mentions, including retweets, with a simple "Thanks"; sometimes, if you can improvise a clever way of expressing that appreciation, then it can be a decent way of gaining attention.
Don't think you can #hashtag your way to success
Hashtags have become a social custom, but don't use them too much—lest you come across as reckless and inexperienced. Learn hashtags the smart way; turn to your influencers for inspiration:
- Don't write a status (or a Tweet) beginning with a hashtag unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Focus more on quality rather than quantity: Two or three hashtags, at most, should be enough to maintain relevancy.
- Keep a close watch on trending topics within your targeted community and apply hashtags accordingly.
- Don't use long versions of hashtags: e.g., #StarbucksSeattleCafeLatteRrocks, #Iknowwhatyoudidlastsummer and the like. Stick to short and simple.
Follow-ups are crucial, but don't stalk
There is no doubt that follow-ups are important, and how you do them is even more important. Top influencers may not acknowledge your every mention or tweet, but you must respond when they do.
It's good practice to make first contact on social networks, as I noted earlier; after successively deeper levels of interaction over time, you can take the next level of conversation to email.
When making contact via email, be clear how you obtained the email address (if it's not readily available to everyone) and also remind the person of your social media relationship. If you hear back, great. If you don't hear back after a couple of attempts, absolutely do not keep sending emails. Continue your outreach via social media instead.
Explain yourself clearly and directly
When reaching out, be clear about what you want and what you're offering. Explain your objective in a lucid manner, without undertones of things left unsaid; influencers will appreciate your directness and will answer "yes" or "no," or maybe connect you with someone else who can help you.
Their reaction will depend in large part on how you've conducted yourself up until that point and what sort of relationship you're looking for.
Post-outreach, work on building social networks
Influencers can connect you to their own well-established networks and social connections, which is why after a successful influencer outreach campaign one must focus on developing longer-term relationships.
Don't stop once your outreach objectives have met with success. Follow the approach that has helped me in staying in touch with reputed bloggers and others and maintaining long-term relationships:
- Ask for simple opinions. It can be about anything from a new concept shared by another influencer to a new website or product.
- Share your own content and ask for feedback. Some influencers appreciate sharing their technical or business insights, especially when asked to critique a peer's work.
- Talk about things other than work. Doing so makes it easier for other people to join the conversation. You might talk about the recent Grand Slam final or a humanitarian issue receiving global attention. Stay in touch—that's the point.
- Share freebies like you'd share them with a friend. This approach may not always be helpful for your influencers, but people love such gestures. Make them feel special.
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