We all know the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” right? And while we bet most of you are pretty great at networking and schmoozing IRL, what about online? Are you making friends with the right people on Twitter…and are you building great relationships on LinkedIn with your industry’s thought leaders?
If not, then you need to start. Today. On our Digital Mums courses we teach students that identifying key influencers for your audience is absolutely vital for a successful social media strategy.
These influencers - the people who have the power to influence and motivate your target audience into action - are absolutely crucial in helping gain attention, credibility and 'talkability' for your business. A great relationship with relevant social media influencers can lead to their audience visiting your website, buying your products and championing your work. And the more time you spend cultivating these relationships, the more you’ll reap the benefits.
Here at Digital Mums we make sure we build and cultivate relationships with loads of brilliant people who are important to our target audience. And it pays off. A retweet from someone like DJ and presenter Lauren Laverne, for example, can be hugely significant if you're a small business.
So here’s our guide on how to find the right influencers, build relationships with them…and work with them to achieve your objectives.
What is an influencer?
There are different types of influencer - VIPs (including celebrities, politicians etc), bloggers, industry thought leaders and brand ambassadors/advocates.
When looking for key influencers for your business, it’s important to consider:
Reach - although influencers aren’t necessarily the people with the most follower numbers, this is still important. The more followers they have, the bigger the audience you can get in front of.
Influence - these people must be trusted and they also have to engage regularly with their followers. This interaction means they will inspire action in their audiences.
Relevance - they must be relevant to your brand to achieve any success. If they reach the wrong audience then even if they have thousands of followers, there will be no benefit for your business.
How to find the influencers for your target audience
You might already be aware of some key influencers in your specific area of work. If not, or to find even more, there are a number of ways to find the right ones for your audience.
Find them organically
See who your target customers are following - skim through the names and biogs of people they are following. However, it can be quite time-consuming (you have to click on each one to see how many followers they have) so this works better for finding influential brands rather than individual influencers.
Search Twitter lists
More on these next week but there are loads of public lists in a range of industries and areas so they are a good place to start. Also check out the Twitter lists of people you’ve already identified as influencers and see which influencers they are following.
Monitor who the platforms suggest you follow
Twitter’s ‘who to follow’ is particularly good and Pinterest also suggests good boards to follow that can be traced back to influencers.
Search for the top industry blogs in your space. They will then be listed in the search rankings in order of influence.
See who your competitors are following
This is especially useful if they’ve been on social media for longer than you and are better established.
Use clever third-party tools
While searching organically is effective, it can be a bit time consuming. To speed things up, there are loads of tools out there you can use. Here’s a round-up of the best, free, ones available.
Simply pop in your keyword and get the option to view influencers on that topic. You can filter by individuals or organisations and also by location - super useful if you want to be UK specific for example.
Connect your social media accounts (you can only connect your personal LinkedIn account, not your Company page), go to the Explore tab and put in the keywords/phrases that are associated with your business. It then suggests people to follow based on their Klout score (which takes all of the above into account) so you can be confident they are true influencers.
Go to the Influencers tab, type in your keyword and it will generate a list of the top influencers. (Although you can only view 10 on the free version.) You can filter by location and can also remove/choose journalists, bloggers etc.
Audiense (formerly SocialBro)
This only works with Twitter at the moment. The paid version allows you to find influencers on Twitter outside of your current community but the free version only allows you to analyse your current community (people you follow and people who follow you). You can filter your current Twitter community by influencers so you can see exactly who is most influential out of the people you follow and who follow you. A good tactic is to use free Audiense in conjunction with the organic techniques above.
Again this only works with Twitter. Sign in with your account and then search by your keywords along with options including filter by location, number of followers, number of tweets etc.
Five steps to building relationships
So now you’ve found all your influencers, how do you build relationships with them? Not easy when so many other people are trying to build relationships with them too!
1. Add them to a Twitter list
If they’re considered leaders in their field you can make this list public and call it something like ‘gurus in….’ as they’ll feel good they’ve been added to this list. If it’s called anything relating to business development or marketing and is obvious you’re after something keep the list private.
2. Show your personality
It sounds obvious but the key to winning friends and influencing people - both on and offline - is by being friendly. No one responds to a faceless business. Just be careful to strike the right balance.
3. Get to know them
Keep an eye on their posts to understand what they are working on and what interests them. And, just as you’d do with an offline relationship, build up slowly - from likes and retweets/shares to conversations.
4. Share their content… and refer to them in YOUR content
Make sure you @ mention them and also form an opinion on their posts that adds value. You could also think about approaching them for an interview or a quote for content you are creating for your business. Just make sure you give more than you take!
5. Build trust over time
Relationships take time to build…and it’s just as important to cultivate them online as it is offline. If they’re hosting a Twitter chat, be sure to participate. And if they have a blog, comment on their posts to show that you are actually reading their content. You can't fake this part.
Top tips from Digital Mums’ Penny Othen, senior course tutor
Commit the time - Finding, forging and then reaping the benefits of strong relationships with the right influencers makes a massive difference to how successful your social media efforts are.
Go for influence over popularity - Large follower numbers shouldn't be the main factor. When you find a potential influencer, check out their feed; how engaged are their followers? How do they engage with their audience? Do they share other people's content? Work out if they really are influential, or just popular.
Be in it for the long run - It takes time to build relationships online. Start early and give the relationship the necessary love and attention it needs. When you identify an influencer, do some research. Check in every couple of days, like and share their stuff, be nice, participate in conversations they are having online. Build an authentic relationship over time.