‘Influencer marketing’ can have negative connotations since it has been a popular buzzword.
It often assumes influencers are people you just need to reach and push your message to. It assumes a one way communication, which is often the primary reason one fails at influencer marketing.
I’m not going to discuss the importance of influencers today. We all understand the power of influencers. What I want to focus on is how we should think about influencers and collaborate with them (hopefully, you noticed the word ‘collaborate’). Often the difference between success and failure stems from how you think and approach the task. And the key takeaway of this post is to approach influencers like you are building genuine relationships with them.
Social media is like stepping into a networking party. People are having conversations all around, but rarely does anyone want to chat with the person who just wants to talk about themselves and their own needs. Think about your last “successful” conversation at a networking event. It was likely a lot of “giving” and “taking” throughout the conversation. This idea is particularly important for influencer marketing, because influencers are often also the stars/hosts of the event -the person everybody knows. The problem now becomes how you get in touch with these people and grab their attention?
Influencer Relationship Building (IRB) is in many ways a defined strategy. Its about approach, credibility, and having something to share:
Approach – Influencers are approached all the time. Its like the hot opposite sex at the bar. This usually means by default, an influencers guard is up. Throughout their first impression of who you are (whether via email, tweet, or in person) they are thinking to themselves and gauging whether you are just another marketer. They key is to peek their interest so that they will continue to see what else you have to say afterwards before writing you off. Sometimes a good approach can be as simple as what the subject of the email you send is about.
Credibility – Credibility builds trust. Without trust, no influencer will create any value for you. Period. Influencers care very much about their brand and only on very rare occasions make any decisions that will dilute the brand they spent the time to build. While credibility can be made up of an array of components, the typical ones are: who else do you know, what company/brand do you belong with, and whether you are recognized within your circle.
Something to share – Ultimately, you need to have something to share. This can be your message, but it needs to be useful or valuable and set in the right context. Context is particularly important because it can be easily deemed as “marketing” otherwise. Most likely, having something to share does not mean share something directly related to your goals. Its having something interesting to share and creating value for others. If you’ve provided enough value for someone on the other side, they will most likely give you their undivided attention and support when you are ready to pitch your message.
How I Implement Influencer Relationship Building in my Own Strategy
We’re spending multiple months before the launch of Angelbacker building relationships with influencers. Some people may suggest to start such activities closer to your product/company launch date, but we think relationships are timeless and generally take a long-term view.
All relationships require time to nurture, and building relationships with influencers is no different.
Since many of our influencers work in the tech industry, we focus a lot of our time on twitter. We’ve found it to be one of the best and easiest ways to approach our influencers without coming across as pushy or creepy. We simply join in on conversations we believe we can add value to, and emphasize on:
1) helping these influencers grow their network (sometimes as simple as retweeting their tweets)
2) providing value or support. Providing value is often a great way to display credibility, whether it is demonstrating your credibility elsewhere (another website, conference, press, education) OR simply putting one in touch with your network. It might seem like futile effort at first, particularly since you are not talking about things related to your product/company, but sustained efforts often bare fruit. Its likely by the sixth time you show up on an influencers radar (providing some value) you will be noticed. Ideally, you want to work yourself into a position where they start to become curious about what you do -that is the best context to point one in your direction.
Erik Chan is co-founder of Angelbacker, a website where you can get startup stock in the next Facebook for believing in products early. He has started multiple companies in the past, some failed and some he was bought out of. He is a graduate of MIT, Tsinghua, and Johns Hopkins. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org