Influencer marketing is growing in popularity, and for good reason. It’s estimated that influencer marketing content yields an ROI that’s 11 times higher than other, traditional forms of digital marketing, according to TapInfluence. If you can get your content in the hands of an influencer, or work with an influencer on a key piece of content, your content’s popularity can skyrocket in short order.
The problem for most marketers isn’t an understanding of the strategy or willingness to pursue it, but rather the limitations in connecting with influencers. After all, with a strong reputation and a thriving audience, most influencers are too busy or too inundated with other requests to notice you.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can introduce yourself to an influencer—and hopefully get noticed.
1. Cite them (and tell them about it)
Strong pieces of content link out to other authoritative sources to back up the points they’re making, cite statistics, or otherwise suggest further reading. One way to introduce yourself to an influencer is to cite one of their pieces in an upcoming article of your own. When you’re finished, let them know about it, and thank them for their contribution. It’s flattering for the influencer, sincere, and open-ended. At worst, you won’t get a response; at best, your target influencer will share your work with their own audience.
2. Respond to their questions
Influencers often ask questions of their audience, whether it’s an open-ended poll to figure out what types of content they want to see, a lead to a discussion on one of their main topics, or a friendly invitation for discussion. These are open opportunities to get noticed and be a part of the influencer’s community. You won’t be accused of breaching conduct or being rude, and you’ll have a chance to get to know their audience better.
3. Engage them in a discussion
You could skip the question process and engage them in conversation directly, especially if they seem open to outside opinions and feedback. You can usually find opportunities here if the influencer frequently gets involved in public discussions. Search for hashtags relevant to their niche, follow brands that are important to them, and watch for their responses to ongoing threads on social media.
4. Comment on their work
As I implied in the first point, one of the best ways to get noticed initially is through flattery. You can forgo the citation route if you find a piece of their work that you like and comment on it, whether positively or inquisitively. Compliment something specific you like about their work; they’ll likely accept the comment gracefully. Just be careful not to segue from a compliment to a request for a favor or advice. Doing so could easily compromise their perception of your sincerity.
5. Share their work
Social media users love to get shares, and influencers aren’t any different—even if they get shares regularly or already have a large audience. Pick some work of theirs and share it to your own audience; it shows that you’re interested in their work, and counts as a small favor to them at the same time.
This is especially effective when done regularly over the course of several weeks and months, proving your loyalty and attention, and making your name more recognizable. Again, just try not to go overboard here. If you share everything they post, you could come off as more annoying than sincere.
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6. Ask them a question
I already mentioned the possibility of answering a question posed by an influencer, but you can also turn the tables and ask them one of your own. If you already have an established following, this strategy is even more effective; they’ll acknowledge your own authority on the subject and may take your inquiry more seriously.
In any case, put some thought into your question, and make it open-ended. Instead of asking, “Do you like [X new technology]?” ask, “What do you think about [X new technology’s] effect on sales in our industry?” Make sure you’ve done your research in advance, in case it leads to a conversation.
7. Say hello
You can also introduce yourself to influencers the same way you’d introduce yourself to anyone else—simply say hello. The bigger and more noteworthy an influencer is, the less likely this tactic is going to work, but it’s still worth a shot. If you live in the same area, you can try to attend industry conferences or their guest speaking gigs to increase your chances of meeting in real life.
Building recognition—it takes time
Depending on who you’re targeting, you might not get noticed on your first pass. But if you use a few of these strategies in succession (remaining polite, of course), you may gradually work your way into your target influencer’s circle. Integrate yourself into the influencer’s audience, and prove your value gradually. In time, you’ll build a reputation for yourself—especially if you build your reputation in other ways simultaneously.
Once you’ve been recognized and, on some level, appreciated by an influencer, you can move to make the real ask. That might be collaborating on a piece of content, contributing to an interview, or even sharing a piece of your content. When you make the ask, be polite, and make sure there’s an exchange of value; the last thing you want to do is waste the influencer’s time or come off like you’re exploiting them.