How to Build and Manage Relationships with Key Influencers

If you make and sell blue cupcakes, at some point you will want to understand the role of the top blue cupcake “key influencers” — a short list of experts in the top tier of knowledge and influence.

You might want to include their expertise in your blog, include key influencers as speakers in your events or workshops — even cite them or reference them in your marketing materials.

You will want these influencers to see your brand as a valuable addition to the ecosystem of the cupcake community as a whole, and specifically,  blue cupcake admirers. What do you need to know before you dive into the influencer universe?

It’s important to know the differences among press contacts, influencers, brand advocates, evangelists, and VIPs in general. Influencers are generally not members of the traditional press. Influencer outreach is NOT a PR function.

Don’t cram these round pegs into the square peg and approach them as you would journalists. They probably don’t think of themselves that way. They are often powerful, competent writers — but not traditional members of the Fourth Estate. They don’t want a press release or a pitch.

Think of them as popular professors, in a way. Their opinions hold weight. Their writing spreads those opinions. They communicate well. People look to them as either pioneer in their field, or as experts with a deep concentration in a specific area of interest. They’re a special kind of VIP — a resource who works consistently to further an industry or a philosophy or a business strategy that has captivated them.

How To Uncover Influencers

  • Research your own contacts
  • Do Google searches to find “Top 50” lists
  • Use clever tools like Traackr and Little Bird
  • Monitor Twitter hashtags to see what names come up often
  • Look for LinkedIn groups that contain relevant keywords or phrases
  • Search for ebooks and look for authors or quotes who appear frequently
  • Look for influencer-rich communities
  • Explore Quora questions
  • Industry awards
  • Visit and assess topical forums
  • Ask others for their picks

Next: Get Organized

  • Build Twitter lists, NimbleTags, even spreadsheets (oh my!) — Research and compile lists of analysts, influencers, press, customers (segmented by industry, vertical, location, etc.), and even prospects (by the stage of their buyer’s journey, by industry, vertical, location, etc.).
  • Start following them on Twitter and monitoring their social streams (with Hootsuite, for example. Tip: In Hootsuite, you can set up a stream to follow an entire Twitter list or a LinkedIn group.)
  • Subscribe to their blogs or follow their blogs via an RSS feed (Netvibes is a good one)

How To Approach an Influencer

  • Make a friendly overture in person, by email, at an event. (Example: Kinoshita Communications president, Laura Kinoshita, uses Nimble and Spokeo to view influencers’ conference schedules so she can be ready to meet in person.)
  • The handwritten note is making a comeback! (Examples: Five Ways to Use Handwritten Notes in Your Business)
  • Request a brief phone call (and keep to 15-30 minutes).
  • Be reciprocal. When you start developing the relationship, be sure to return any favorable promotion on social sites — it’s the Golden Rule.
  • Pay attention and be able to convey why you think your content and an influencer’s content have in common. Be prepared to make a case for a mutually beneficial opportunity to share their content or vice versa.
  • Don’t be impatient. This is a person; building a business relationship of mutual trust and respect takes time.
  • Help Key Influencers Help You
  • Craft social messaging for them — make it easy for them to share your tweet!
  • Keep outreach fresh. Don’t let too much time go by without contact. (Tip: Use your Nimble reminder tool and Last Contacted features to manage this process.)
  • Be on the lookout for opportunities to make introductions (but always ask first).
  • Comment on their work.
  • How do you create good relationships with key influencers?
  • “Show through your actions that you respect their work, business, time, and privacy.” – Social media marketing expert, Jeff Bullas
  • Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture
  • Reach out to influencers with the intention of establishing trust and common goals. That’s the first order of business in relationship management  Nurture the relationships carefully over time, being generous and communicating clearly why you are an admirer and how you want to work together. Your relationships with these key influencers — think of them in the long term, not a flash in the pan. Think brand awareness, not a brand advocate.
  • A relationship with a key influencer has one goal: growing your own brand’s influence with your prospects, customers, users, and audience. Being an organized caretaker of the list is a crucial role. The way to achieve success is to be genuine, open-hearted, and considerate.
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