A unique advantage of social media is the opportunity to reach out directly to influencers and form a relationship. An influencer is a leader; someone who carries clout in an industry. For example, Guy Kawasaki may be considered a top sales influencer or Suze Orman, a top financial influencer.
Making an authentic connection with an influencer is a process. Relationships happen subtly through thoughtful conversation and keen transitioning. If you’re looking to connect with influencers, here are two ways to get started.
Tactic #1: Use Twitter to search and participate in real-time conversations
Using the search tool on Twitter, search for an industry hashtag (#), which will display related real-time conversations. By default, Twitter selects the ‘top’ (rather than ‘all’) conversations, which means the conversation will be sorted by popularity. If you’re not sure which hashtag to use, check out hashtags.org, which displays trending topics and popular hashtags by genre. Once you start your search, monitor the conversations and add key influencers, within those conversations, to a Twitter list. Below is a screenshot of the top conversations using the hashtag #healthcare.
Once you have a list of influencers, reference the list regularly. Once you find a conversation involving an influencers that you want to join, simply contribute with valuable, thoughtful commentary. I like to keep the conversation going by asking engaging questions that draw interest. For example, when I connected with Jeffrey Gitomer in 2011, I asked him for the best piece of sales advice he could offer in one word or phrase. He responded by tweeting “follow your passion.” I thanked him for his input and told him that I had just written a blog about passion in business and I shared the link. Within a few minutes, he sent me a LinkedIn request and we kept the conversation going.
Not all encounters will have similar results, but if you continue to contribute thoughtfully to the conversation, it significantly increases your chances of connecting with those who have big-time clout in your industry.
Tactic #2: Reference and hyperlink blog posts
A common tactic for blogging is to include links to related blogs from other authors so that your audience can read more about the topic you’re addressing. When you include these links, the author receives a “Pingback” – a notification that their blog was referenced.
Many authors will click the source link to see how their blog was referenced. When done correctly, this is a strong opportunity to grab the attention of an influencer. Below is a screenshot of a blog I wrote in 2012 about handling negative feedback. Within the blog, I reference influencer, Gini Dietrich. I suspect that she received a notification because she ended up commenting on my blog.
It can be tricky connecting with influencers, so be cautious of coming on too strong. It probably goes without saying, but do not ask influencers to do things for you such as tweet your content or provide an endorsement. This is a common misstep that will leave them skeptical of your motives.
If fact, if you want to connect with influencers to simply use them, I recommend not doing so at all. But if your motives are to converse with them to learn, grow and “talk shop,” then the social media world is your oyster.
I take the strategic approach… and remain patient. Influencers have a lot of people competing for their attention. And, once you’ve connected with an influencer, continue to build that relationship but also know that it takes time, consistency, and relevancy to remain top of mind.