They’re big names. They’re influential. They have an audience. You know who they are. And it would be great if you could connect with them.
But how can you network with these influencers?
Here is our guide to online networking. It’s a step-by-step approach to using social networks to build the relationships that will power your marketing. It’s the relationships with influencers that lead to press mentions, shares, links, rankings and traffic.
ProTip: If you’re looking to use social media to drive search engine rankings, here’s a post and video about that specifically: How does social media affect SEO?
Back in the day, there were three ways to connect: in-person (knock, knock), the phone (ring!) and US mail. Today, thanks to social media, there are a lot more. And each little action is visible and can bring you closer together.
Here are all the little actions you can take to become visible to – and eventually become friends with – any influencer.
If it’s obvious who you’re trying to connect with just skip down to the next section.
Generally the influencers who can benefit us the most are those who create content. These are the people who can mention us publically. So we’re looking for:
We’re going to find them online, which is easy since social media is the world’s greatest phone book. We’ll start with Twitter since it’s filled with influencers.
1. Search for influencers (and content creators) on social media
The Twitter Advanced search tool isn’t great, so I often use FollowerWonk. The key is to search for keywords that include your topic or industry, plus the word “blogger,” “writer,” or “journalist.”
The search results should include all kinds of influential people in your industry, sorted by the size of their Twitter followings. It also shows their “social authority.” Although this isn’t a very reliable metric, if an account has a social authority of one, it’s probably a robot or fake account.
2. Build a List
You should have 20 or more potential networking targets. You will be more likely to succeed if you don’t focus on just one or two accounts. Every good content strategist maintains several lists: topics, keywords, guest blogging/PR opportunities and influencers!
Now let’s get on with the process of schmoozing slowly making friends.
If you’re not paying attention to someone, why should they pay attention to you? So the first step is to put the influencer fully on your radar.
3. Subscribe to their newsletter
Simply sign up for their newsletter or add the feed for their blog to Feedly. Feedly is better because you can put all the influencers in a category and watch them separately. This also keeps the noise down in your inbox.
I have them in a category called “Watch List.” Now I can see them all in one place and I’m more likely to engage with their content.
4. Comment on posts on their blog
Now you can start interacting with their content through comments. Every writer reads their comments, so it’s an easy way to make them aware of you.
5. Like their comments
If their blog uses LiveFyre or Disqus for comments, you may have the opportunity to like their comments and responses to other comments.
Next we’ll move on to the social networks. Here’s where you’re going to start interacting in small ways, building up to a full-on friendship.
6. Put their name into Talkwalker and Newsle
These tools will email you when your influencers get mentioned in news sources. These might be press mentions or guest blog posts that you’d miss if you only subscribed to their newsletter.
This social network is the bread and butter for building relationships. Here are the steps involved.
7. Follow them on Twitter
8. Add them to a “Radar” Twitter list
If you’re following more than a few hundred people on Twitter, then it’s likely that your home stream is very noisy. So you’re unlikely to see the tweets of the influencers you just followed. This is where lists come in.
Create a list called “Radar” (or name it something flattering, such as “People who write great stuff”) and add the influencers there. Make it a public list so they can see that you’ve added them. Next add that list as a stream in HootSuite or any other social media management tool.
Now the tweets of these influencers will be more visible to you and you’ll be more likely to read, retweet, favorite and mention them.
ProTip: Use “Link Listening” to find any Tweets containing a link from a specific site. It’s a simple and highly effective strategy for any business using content marketing for lead generation. You can read the full article on “Link Listening” by Robert Moore on Spin Sucks.
These next steps should be done many times over several months.
9. Retweet their content
10. Favorite a tweet
11. Mention them in your tweets
It’s an underrated and active network, not to be ignored. Even if it seems quiet to you, there are still hundreds of millions of people to connect with, including influencers in your niche.
12. Add them to a Google+ circle
This is similar to adding them to a Twitter list. Put all of your influencers into a circle so you can watch them all at once. This makes it easier to watch them specifically and take actions that make you visible to them.
13. +1 their posts
14. Comment on their posts
15. Mention them in your posts
Next we’re ready to move on to the higher levels of online networking.
Everyone in this social network is there for the networking. But it’s never the place to start. When you invite someone to connect, they have to accept your invite. Cold connection requests sent to influencers are often ignored.
Don’t add the person until you’ve already built up some awareness with them.
16. Connect on LinkedIn
17. Endorse on LinkedIn
18. Mention them in an update
19. Write a recommendation
A LinkedIn recommendation is actually very valuable, so it’s a very nice thing to do for someone. The person you recommend is unlikely to forget the favor. And as long as it’s genuine, there’s nothing wrong with recommending someone, even if it’s just for their writing.
Like LinkedIn, Facebook friendship requires confirmation. But since it’s personal as well as professional, this is one of the last social networks to use. Don’t click the “Add Friend” button unless you have built up awareness to the point that confirming you as a friend is an obvious decision.
20. Send a friend request on Facebook
21. Like their Facebook posts
22. Mention them in an update or comment
If you’re not making friends, you’re doing it wrong.
Even though you’re on Facebook, don’t get too personal. Remember, you’re networking. So keep it professional and non-creepy. Nobody likes a stalker.
There are actually hundreds of social networks and places to connect. The influencers you’re networking with may be on many of them.
23. Follow on Quora, Instagram, Yelp, MeetUp, Listly or anywhere else!
24. Follow on apps
Beyond websites, apps are often places where people connect. Are they a runner? Maybe they’re on RunKeeper. Are they a music lover? Maybe they’re on Spotify. Once you’re truly connected, it’s not strange to connect in many places.
Here’s a technique that makes it easy to build many connections to the same person…
Connecting on one social network just isn’t enough. An easy way to become more visible to someone is to jump across social networks during a single interaction. We call this “crossing the streams.” Here’s how it works.
Step 1: Influencer mentions or shares your content within social network A
Step 2: You share the content again in social network B
Step 3: In the share, mention the influencer, thanking them for sharing it earlier.
When you mention the influencer on social network B, you’ll become visible to them there. If they share it once, this may trigger a second share from them on this second network. More importantly, you are now more likely to connect with them in another network, strengthening the connection.
The more connections to the influencer the better. So that’s the next step in using social media networks for relationship building…
25. Thank the influencer in one network for an action in another network
Example: How to Cross the Streams
a. Make blog post live, share and promote it aggressively
b. After several days, check Topsy to see who shared it on Twitter. (more tips on how to use Topsy here)
c. Share the post on another social network, such as Google+ and mention the influencers, thanking them for their shares and comments on the post.
Remember, if you’ve got a blog, you’re a publisher, which gives you a chance to give ink to others. A blog is a networking tool.
26. Mention them in your content
Find a quote from your target influencer and add it to your content. Go beyond a simple quote by adding a few things to it.
Once it’s live, mention them when you share it and thank them for inspiring you. You might make their day!
You get what you give.
If you ever want to be mentioned in someone’s content, mention them in your content first!
Social media experts don’t keep it online. They move the conversation offline whenever possible. In fact, your best social media tool is your phone.
27. Phone call, Skype or Google+ Hangout
It’s real-time and it’s powerful. Can you really say that you’re friends with someone if you’ve never had an actual conversation with them? End that long string of emails, pick up the phone and dial.
I do Hangouts with bloggers from around the world on a regular basis. The request sounds like this:
“Your stuff is great and I’d love to learn more from you. And there may be a few tricks I’ve learned that I could show you. Do you have time to jump on a quick G+ Hangout next week?”
If you’ve built up the relationship properly, the answer will likely be yes.
28. Meet in person!
This is why coffee was invented. An in-person, face-to-face meeting is the highest value interaction possible.
I value in-person meetings so much that I actually have office hours every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 8am. I meet with anyone and talk to them about any topic. I’ve met hundreds of people this way. The networking benefits have been huge.
This is my secret weapon for networking. Events are a great place to learn, but they’re also a fantastic place to network. I can’t list all of the bloggers, editors and influencers I’ve met at events. This is not an exaggeration: most of the opportunities I’ve had in marketing came from connections I made at events. Events have been huge for me.
29. Go to industry events where your favorite influencers are speaking
30. Take a picture with them, share it on social media and tag them
Events are also a good place to meet event directors who book speakers for subsequent events. If you’d like to speak at an event, it’s a good idea to go once as an attendee and meet the organizers while you’re there.
Authors and podcasters all prize one thing above all others: reviews. They are hard to win and worth a lot. This is why virtually every podcast ends with a friendly call to “head over to iTunes and leave us a review.”
If you’re networking with an author or podcast, score huge points with these two actions.
31. Amazon Review
32. iTunes Podcast Review
This goes beyond just quoting them in your blog posts. In fact, working on a piece of content together may have been the goal of your entire outreach effort. Collaboration may be a final step in the networking process before you ask for something big.
Regardless, once you’ve work on something together, you’ll be better connected forever after. Here are the three main ways to collaborate on content using email interviews.
33. Invite them to contribute quotes
Get a special contributor quote from them and include it in an article.
34. The Expert Round Up
Roundups are a ubiquitous format for content for a good reason: they’re interesting and they get shared a lot. Readers love them and they’re great networking.
35. Deep Dive Interview
Go deep into a topic by sending them a list of questions. Or send one question at a time and make the post more conversational.
These types of collaboration aren’t just good networking, they’re a type of ego bait that may lead to them sharing the post with their social followings. That can give you a little traffic boost.
If the goal of your networking was to eventually ask the influencer for a favor, such as write about us in your newspaper or please share this article with your audience, then here are a few tips on how to structure the email.
This is a two-step process outlined by Groove on how to send a relationship building email and the following up with “the ask.”
After they respond, the second email includes the request, which in this case was to comment and share.
You can see the approach: friendly, concise and easy.
At the heart of this strategy is a predisposition built into all of our brains: reciprocity. If someone does something for you, you are automatically predisposed toward doing something for them. It’s called the reciprocity bias.
We naturally feel a sense of obligation after we receive something. It’s a cultural imperative in every society.
So all the little actions we take in social media are ways to genuinely connect. To meet and connect with people that you have a real affinity with. But all of those nice things you do will gradually increase the likelihood that the person will do something nice for you.
The more famous the influencer, the more patience you’ll need. If they have a following much larger than yours, go slow. The more similar you are in levels of authority, the faster you can go through this process.
Here’s an example of some power networking from the 1960’s with master promoter Jerry Weintraub.
“When I was in my twenties – I wasn’t successful at that time – I had a dream one night and I saw a billboard saying “Jerry Weintraub presents Elvis Presley at Madison Square Garden.” The next morning I called his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and said I wanted to take Elvis on a tour. He said no. I called him every day for an entire year and we had the same conversation every morning. Finally, I got a phone call from him and he asked me whether I still wanted to take Elvis on a tour. I said yes, very much so.”
Since Elvis was one of the most famous people of his generation, a daily phone call for a year was necessary. But it worked. That’s persistence!
Hi Andy. I was able to set aside time today to listen to your presentation this afternoon on the webinar hosted by AWeber. Great presentation. I would like to trade emails to discuss using this blog post as part of a training class.
Great information shared..! It helps me a lot to enhance my knowledge.
Thank you, Andy, for depth of information you share in this incredibly detailed resource; the idea of consolidating newsletter subscriptions into categories through feedly is wonderful–“noise in your inbox” doesn’t begin to describe mine.
The idea of an influencer tracking list is also masterful, something I’m going to develop as part of my Mindjet Content Dashboard mind mapping series.
I’ve purchased $20 books that didn’t have nearly the amount of solid, useful information as you offer in this post.
It the perfect reflection of Your emphasis on blog post quality over quantity.
Thanks a lot for this post. It’s all about connecting and improving your network. Thumbs up for collating different strategies per social media medium. Keep it up!
I had already implemented some of these ideas, but you’ve taken connecting with people to another level.
One other comment is “sincerity” – if you’re trying to connect with people just to get them to promote your product/service, and you don’t really enjoy or like their content or ideas, then you’re probably wasting your time beause they’ll figure out your end game pretty quickly.
Absolutely, Sandy. If the sentiment behind that word is missing, nothing else will work. Or at least, it won’t work for long…
Friendship is the best outcomes of any interaction, business or otherwise. Sure, you’re starting by looking for a mutual, reciprocal benefit. But people who do this well find lasting relationships that go far beyond business. I try to keep a service mentality in all of my interactions.
Thank you for the thoughtful comment!
I was flipping this to Flipboard and wasn’t sure whether to put it in my Social Media Tips magazine or my Impressed and Inspired magazine as your posts are all impressive and you always inspire me to improve my social media relations. I settled my dilemma by putting the Chicago Tribune post in the tips magazine and this original post in the Inspired Magazine. How’s that for multitasking 😉
Thank you for sharing it, Anneliz. Both of them!
It’s a relevant post for PR pros, isn’t it? I’m glad if you found this useful!
Wonderful write-up! I’m actually talking internally tomorrow about in-person networking, but I’m going to cite this as a great guide for doing it right on social media. I always appreciate your thorough approach and willingness to share specific tools.
Amazing stuff Andy.
I will try the “Ian” way in the next conference in Seattle 🙂
The big ask is probably the most exciting thing in the networking, you are shooting the ball and hope it will get in 🙂
Agreed. Clicking send on an outreach email is one of the great moments in marketing. It’s sad when you don’t get a reply, but this is why it’s important to reach out to many people and not put all of your eggs in one basket.
Thanks for the comment, Roy!
Thanks very much, again, Andy. Great guide with a thorough examination (love those screen shots!) of the many tentacles that social media connection can have.
Hi Andy – One of the very best articles I’ve read on this subject. Very clear, good breakdown, and a welcome list of applications to support this work. Appreciated!
Andy– Useful tips. Ian Cleary is the champion of attending events to meet and connect with influencers. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen
I love Ian’s approach. And where did we both meet Ian? At an event! For the other readers, here’s how Ian does it…
He goes to marketing events, but never goes into the sessions. He spends his time in the halls talking to speakers and organizers! Then he watches the videos of the sessions later.
Hey, I’m here in Ireland and I heard you talking about me! It’s easy to network when you meet amazing people like you, Amanda and Heidi. Another great post thanks!
I always struggle with that great finite resource of “time” when it comes to running a business and keeping communication authentic. It helps to have a process like this, and I do see some places in your method which could be delegated if need be. Very thoughtful piece.
Thanks for the comment, Elijah! Glad you found this useful…
Another great content-rich and valuable article, Andy. You are always so generous with your knowledge.
I have been following your blog religiously, since I first came in contact with you at Narrative Science.
Thank you for another great post! You have inspired me to start my own blog and I am implementing everything I have learned from you!
Great stuff Andy. I’ve followed how you’ve implemented all these things and I’ve tried to emulate what you’ve done!
I’ve learned a lot from you, Adam. Your influencer outreach US tour is an inspiration. And of course, that’s how we met
…and by the way, THANK YOU for presenting at Wine & Web last week. So great. Thanks again, Adam. Say hi to Toby!
What are your thoughts?