The Definitive Guide to Building Strong Influencer Relationships
My new SEO agency Serp Logic is booming and our flagship product, Logic Outreach, is responsible for building links on the most popular websites in the world. We work with several of the largest SEO agencies, providing their clients with top tier placements, and we sell directly to business owners that want the media exposure and SEO juice that comes with them.
It took me several years of relationship building to put my agency in the position to offer this type of service. I can promise you that it’s not easy to get access to the top websites, and a lot of the times money alone isn’t the answer.
The process to build relationships with influencers in any niche is the same. It doesn’t matter if we are talking about the SEO industry or a niche like personal finance. There are always going to be influencers with a large loyal following that you can use to help you get media exposure and links.
You just have to know how to start the process and my goal with this post is to help anyone, in any niche, understand what it takes to really connect and build meaningful relationships with influencers. It’s not an easy task as you will soon see.
How to Find Influencers in Your Niche
Some niches will have a seemingly endless supply of influencers with hundreds of thousands of social media flowers and blogs that receive thousands of visitors every single day. Then there will be some smaller niches that only have a very small handful of influencers. It doesn’t matter, as the approach to get their attention and build a meaningful relationship with them is going to be the same.
So, don’t tell me that you can’t use this information because your website is in a very small niche with little to no influencers. Every single niche will have at least ONE significant person that can help you get exposure on their own popular website or blog, or through a media outlet that they write for or have access to.
If you are in a small niche that allows you to pour a lot of effort into just a small handful of influencers, which will play out in your favor if you just follow the information outlined below.
Pay attention, take notes, and be willing to work hard for these. After all, that’s why there is such a demand and premium price on great links. This game isn’t easy by any means.
This is a shocker, right? You can find everything with a few Google searches if you know what type of search strings to use. “Influencer + niche” and “Influencer + keyword” will turn up some lists and options, but you will also want to use search terms like “authority” and “expert” to give you a wider selection of options.
You can also search for “expert interview + niche” and “expert interview + keyword” to turn up some interviews. Check the date to make sure they are semi recent and then do some further Google searching using the expert’s name. You should be able to locate their personal or company website and some additional content. Use your best judgment to determine if it’s someone worth pursuing or not.
Note: You always want to Google potential influencers. Make sure there isn’t any negative press about them and make sure they haven’t been involved in any shaky business dealings. The last thing you want to do is become linked to or mentioned by someone shady.
Followerwonk is a Twitter analytics tool by Moz that can really help you locate key influencers with a solid social reach. It’s important to know that this tool is only for Twitter, but this is a social network that almost all influencers are on, especially the ones with the ability to post stories on the best websites. Journalists and media love Twitter because it is the best and quickest source of news and updates.
They aren’t using it to make money like an IM person uses it. Many will say that Twitter is dead for that, but for news people and influencers it’s still a very popular social network. This group of people are the most active on Twitter and it’s actually easy to contact them by tweeting.
The best way to use Followerwonk is to search bio’s. I search by website names and media outlets for the best results. For example, if someone is a writer for Forbes they will usually include that information in their Twitter bio. Search niches, keywords and websites and then look at follower count and engagement to determine whether or not you have a potential influencer.
This is probably one of the best tools to find awesome influencer opportunities because you see first hand how popular their content is. Fire up Buzzsumo and type in your niche or keyword. It returns content that contains the search term and you can sort it by social shares.
This is such a good metric to gauge influencer popularity for two reasons:
- If content has a large number of social shares it means it was well received and very popular within the niche. The person that wrote this is obviously very good and writing, making them possibly worth looking into and digging deeper to learn more about them.
- A lot of social shares can also mean that the particular author has a very large social media following. If they post content and share it across their social media profiles that have huge followings they are going to naturally attract a large number of shares.
Both situations are great and can benefit you if you spark a relationship with them. This is manual work here. You need to look at the content, find the author, and look at their author bio, some of their other content and then their social profiles. If it all looks good, add them to your influencer prospect list.
As mentioned above, Followerwonk is a great tool because so many writers and influencers live on Twitter all day long. You should have a personal Twitter account or at least ne for your website, so login and search your keywords and niche terms using hashtags.
You will be shown tweets containing them. Look in the “Top” column for the most popular ones. This is where you will find the big players with large followers. Their tweets will tend to get the most shares. Also, look at the “Live” column to see the most recent tweets containing the hashtags you are searching for. Sometimes you will catch an influencer that just recently tweeted and if you engage them right away there is a good chance they will bite and respond.
The “Top” results will produce 90% of your good info, while you might collect 10% from the “Live” column.
Research Your Targets
Just because you locate a potential influencer the job isn’t over. The fun has actually just started and now comes the grind. You are going to have to fully research any potential influencer that you have identified previously. Some of them are going to be near impossible to track down and some of them you will learn that just aren’t worth pursuing.
When you actually identify influences to target it’s a lot of work, so you need to make sure that you only put effort into those that you stand a legitimate chance of getting in contact with and if you do in fact connect, that a relationship with them will be beneficial. There are three things I do to make sure I don’t waste time and only put effort into influencers that can potentially pay off.
Locate All Social Profiles
Once you have your list finalized, it’s time to uncover all of the social profiles for each influencer. I always find the following:
- Facebook (personal and fan page)
Twitter: Look for a couple things in a potential influencers Twitter profile. Look to see if they list all of the places they write or blog at, check to see if they list a contact email address, and check to see if they have their Direct Messages (DM) open to people, even if they don’t follow them back. Follow everyone you think could be a possible influencer match.
Instagram: Everyone is on Instagram and more influencers are starting to use it for more than just personal pictures of their steak dinners and pictures of their abs. In all seriousness, Instagram is becoming a decent marketing tool, so see if they have one. You can’t include links in the profile, but a lot of influencers will include their email addresses in their Instagram profiles.
Facebook: Locating their personal Facebook might be difficult, as a lot of them will keep them very private, but their public fan pages should be easy to locate, especially if they have a decent following. Facebook has so much authority that a simple Google search of their name should pull this up within the first few search results. Check all the “About” information and look for contact information.
Google+: This is really just for larger niches, as this is something that really isn’t all that popular any longer. It’s still worth a shot for one reason: contact information. Even if an influencer doesn’t use Google+ any longer there is a chance that they did have a profile at one time and it could still contain valuable contact details.
LinkedIn: Any semi decent influencer is going to have a LinkedIn profile. Find them and connect. Sometimes if they are a big name, they will not allow messages and connecting requests from just anyone. You will need to upgrade to a premium account to get the ability to send InMail messages. I’d only suggest doing this once you get the hang of connecting with them, as you will just waste credits without a plan and idea how this game works.
Find Their Email Address or Contact Form
This is where Google search skills will come into play. Get creative with the search strings and search for “influencer name + email address” but also try to guess their email addresses and type those guesses into Google. If you are right, they will often pop up.
Also, when you located contact forms on their websites and blogs look at the source code. Sometimes you can find the email address those forms send their information to and you can bypass the form and email them directly at those emails.
Send 100% Personalized Networking Email
In the section below titled, “What to Do When You Find Them” you will see that once you have your targets lined up it’s quite a bit of work. While this step has a VERY SMALL success rate, I still do it, because if you can connect with an influencer right off the bat with a simple email it will save you so much time.
If I am able to find their email address through a Google search or through one of their social media profiles, I fire off a personalized networking email. If they are an influencer and if you found their email that means other people have as well and they get several emails, all from people like you that want to connect with them. You need to stand out.
- Keep it short and sweet. Don’t waste their time. Get your message across in a few sentences. Respect their time and you will get more favorable results.
- DO NOT use a pre-made outreach template. They see the same ones over and over and if they suspect yours is one you will get deleted right away and your name will be identified as a worthless spammer.
Tell them that you believe there are possible networking opportunities between you two and you would like to send them an email with full details. Two to three sentences ASKING permission to email them will get a much more favorable response than a pitch in the first email. If they welcome your email, take your time and think of a very good introduction email. You get one chance to impress so put some time and thought into it. If they don’t respond, then move down to the next section.
What to Do When You Find Them
There are several ways to successfully connect with influencers and build a long lasting relationship. There isn’t a specific recipe that is going to work for every single person. They all have different personalities and characteristics that you need to play to.
If someone has 4 million social media followers they are in big demand, so you are going to need to really stand out and/or be able to bring something valuable to the table if you hope to grab their attention. In smaller niches, or someone with say 20K social media followers, you can use a much more casual approach and still get their attention.
This is where your research comes into play. You have to use common sense and judgment to plan your approach. I’ve outlined ten tips below that you should read through and consider as you plan out your introduction and pitch. I have used combinations of these tips to connect with some of the biggest influencers in almost every niche you can imagine and I continue to do it on an almost daily basis through our Logic Outreach authority link service. This are real world tips that have proven to be very beneficial to me, so I hope you are able to pull some value from this.
Influencers tend to put out a lot of content. After all, that is how they became influencers in the first place. They usually have their own blog that is what pushed them up the ladder and then they started to build large social media followings and that most likely lead to guest blogging doors opening for them.
It doesn’t matter where they are putting out their content, find it and compliment it. Thank them for it. A simple “Hey, really enjoyed this post. Thanks for taking the time to put it out there!” goes a long way and trust me, if you start to do this on a regular basis they will start to take notice of your name.
If the same person continues to compliment your work aren’t you going to pay attention to them and remember who they are? Then, if they reach out to you, aren’t you more likely to respond to them because you almost feel like you owe it to them for all of the compliments and praise they have thrown your way? Stroke their ego, make them feel appreciated, and watch how responsive they become when you finally reach out.
Give THEM Value (Introduction, etc.)
This is probably the best tip I can give you, as it’s one that has opened the most doors for me and it’s really something that you can really leverage as you grow your influencer connections.
Influencers are all about growing their following and name. That’s how they get speaking gigs, book deals, interview requests, etc. The more exposure they get, the more powerful their personal brand becomes.
Once you start making connections, offer to introduce influencers to other influencers. Both will appreciate it, as they can cross promote and greatly benefit each other, and you make a contact that is now in debt to you for the introduction.
I’ve been burnt a couple times because I didn’t get the return I expected, but more often than not making an introduction is a great value and they will go out of their way to help you.
Set a Goal of Building a Long Term Relationship
You can’t get discouraged if your outreach is ignored multiple times. You are going to feel like you are wasting time and spinning your wheels. Just like with SEO, everyone wants fast overnight results, but we all know those don’t last, and if you want real SEO results you have to put in the time, but once you do hit it, the payoff can be huge.
The same mentality needs to be taken when doing influencer relationship building. Keep in mind that this is a long term strategy and it’s definitely not going to happen overnight. When you are in the right mindset you will keep pushing through. If you go in wanting it now, and two weeks later you still don’t have any new contacts you are going to quit. That’s why I said there will be two groups of people at the end of this blog post. 1% that will attempt it and 99% who will buy links and media placements because they now fully understand just how much time and work goes into this.
If you plan on doing it, think long term, just like white hat SEO.
Share Their Content With Your Audience
As I mentioned above, if you have some kind of value to give in return it will really help you open doors. If you have a big social media following yourself it will help, because you can start to share your target influencer’s content with your followers: Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn are all great place, and always make sure you tag them in the post so they see that you are sharing their content.
For example, in a tweet include their @ handle and if you post on Facebook introduce the post with something like, “Make sure you read this great article by (influencer). It’s a great piece and I definitely recommend you take 10 minutes to drop what you are doing and give it a read. Also, share this post with your followers!” This lets them know that you value their content and you are making an extra effort to encourage that others share it as well. This will not go unnoticed.
You don’t want to be the person that retweets and shares every single thing that an influencer posts. Trust me, there are plenty of ass kissers that do this and they know what they are doing. It doesn’t work out in their favor, I promise you.
I’ve said it multiple times already, but again: this takes time, so be prepared to share their content for months sometimes before you get any traction. A few posts a week is more than enough. Being consistent in small doses will get them to notice you naturally and not in the, “Who is this jackass that just retweeted me 45 times in the past hour?”
Slow and steady wins this race.
Meet Face to Face at Conferences & Meet Ups
For those of you in bigger niches, take notes. This is one of the easiest ways to make influencer connections in a matter of hours while drinking some cold beers. Find as many industry conferences and local meet ups that have guest speakers. There will be a good chance most if not all of the speakers and special guests will be influencers of some sort, with a good chance of being a valuable connection.
Find out what their schedule is. Social media makes it very easy to see where they plan to go and where they are. I’m not saying you should stalk them, but if they are planning to go to a networking cocktail party or say they are heading to the hotel bar after the even, meet up with them. Meeting face to face in the flesh is an instant connection. You exchange contact information and the influencer now has a face with the name. It might take you months and months of work to get someone to acknowledge you through emails, but in person you could have a new influencer contact in your contacts within an hour.
Build Your Own Platform so They Want to Benefit From YOU
I already mentioned building your own social media profiles so it will give them some value when you share their content, but this takes it a step to the next level. Do you have a blog? Does it have a large reader base? Or does it have strong SEO metrics?
I can promise you that if you are in a difficult niche and you approach an influencer and offer to let them guest post on your high quality blog that is high Domain Authority (DA) and Trust Flow (TF) they are going to welcome your offer with open arms. Once you give them their links they will feel like they owe you something. You are giving them something before you even pitch. They almost have no choice but to help you after the fact.
While you are doing your influencer outreach work, continue to build up your own website and blog. Post content, build links, etc. You know how the SEO game works. You don’t want to spam your website to artificially inflate your metrics, because most influencers can spot shit from mile away. Do it right and if your website provides a great link opportunity, offer it up and watch how thankful they are.
Provide Financial Incentive
Get out your wallet and offer money.
Honestly, sometimes this opens the influencer relationship within minutes! 😀
Money talks and bullshit walks!
Pro Tip: If you try for months to get the attention of an influencer and want to make sure you get a reply do this: Send $1 via PayPal to their email. Most everyone uses PayPal and most times it will go through. In the message section write something like, “I want to buy links from you. There is plenty of money available if you are willing to play ball. Email me if you are interested in me sending you money every month.”
Get creative with your messages and you will get some responses. I have seen influencers that ignored social media advances and emails for months reply within minutes of this method. Some get offended and I’ve been told to stick the dollar up my ass on a couple occasions, but sometimes you have to get creative and this is very creative, to say the least.
Take Time to Get to Know Them (Think Romantic Relationship)
Imagine this concept? Actually get to know someone that you want something from? It’s something people don’t do because they want instant results.
Let’s compare it to relationships. There are the guys that go out to bars looking to get laid. They might snag a few, but do they turn into anything meaningful? No. They are one night stands, and while fun, they give little to no value.
Then, there are the guys that put in the time to get to know a girl. They talk to them, figure out what they like and what they are interested in. They wine and dine them. They are willing to put in that effort because they want a long term and meaningful relationship. In the end they get what the other type of person was initially after, but they get to reap the benefit over and over.
Co-Create Content Together
Co-author a large blog post or offer to co-create an infographic together. Let me give you a little insight about this approach: it works very well, but you have to be willing to do all of the work and cover all of the cost. Let me explain a bit more.
Influencers have very little to no free time. They sure don’t have time to write a blog post or research infographic content with someone they really don’t know. BUT they will all want to reap the benefit of great content.
Offer to do all the work and let them slap their name on it.
Infographics are the BEST content to use for this. Why? Because you can do all the work without really doing any work. Order a content + design package. The influencer doesn’t have to know you are doing this. For all they know you are doing all the research yourself and doing the design as well.
If you find a good infographic designer (SerpLogic – shameless plug) order a niche specific one and brand it in your name and the influencer’s name. This helps to strengthen or establish your relationship, but you also benefit from them posting in to their blog and sharing it, which they will do as long as it’s high quality.
ASK: Get Right to The Point
Once you do make contact or get a little bite you need to ASK. Don’t be too shy or think you have to wait too long. There is never going to be “the perfect” time, and sometimes you will only get their attention for a quick second. Part of your success will depend on your instincts.
And when you do pitch and ask, get right to the point. There is no need for extra fluff or small talk. You want something. Ask for it. They will either say yes or no. You have a 50/50 shot, which are good odds. You will definitely fumble a few pitches and miss out on some connections because you blow it. Expect it and just learn from your mistakes. Once you get the hang of it you will develop your own pitch and personality. Since I have been doing it for quite some time now, it’s become much easier. Stick with it and remember this is a game of patience and strategy.
There you have it.
There are going to be two groups of people after reading through this.
1%: These people will take this information and give it a solid try, and some will even be successful. They will understand that this will take a lot of time and work and even just a single influencer connection can be big news and a huge help.
99%: These people will finish reading this and won’t want any part of it. They will then understand why a service like my agency’s Logic Outreach is in such demand. I think a lot of people think these kinds of links are easy to come by, when in fact most people that claim they can get them fail.
As always, leave your questions and/or comments below and I will do my best to address them all. Hopefully you can now appreciate what it takes to get the big boy links and media exposure!