Connecting and working with influential bloggers in your niche can have a powerful impact on your own success. Earning an endorsement or promotion from an online influencer can expand your audience, enhance your credibility and grow your brand. However, building relationships with influencers takes time and skill, and approaching them without a clear strategy is likely to be counterproductive. Read on to learn time-tested tips, tricks and what not to do when reaching out to other bloggers.
Get Your Own House in Order First
Before you even consider reaching out to influencers to ask for their help in promoting your brand, make sure you’re approaching them from a position of strength:
- Create quality content that’s both compelling and useful. Appealing to an influencer is a much easier sell when you have something worthwhile to share. Take the time to establish a unique, relevant voice in your niche before asking other bloggers to promote your work.
- Build a reputation for being a positive force online. You can be honest with your thoughts or hold controversial opinions, but make sure you’re expressing them in a way that’s constructive and respectful. If you’re constantly picking fights or criticizing others—whether it’s on your own blog, in the comments sections of other blogs or on social media—it will be hard to convince anyone to work with you.
- Be interesting. It is possible to be nice (see the point above) while maintaining a unique perspective or promoting ideas that go against the flow. Even if your blog’s niche is crowded, you’ll stand out by promoting a clear point of view, asking thought-provoking questions, engaging in lively discussions and staying informed about the latest developments and trends in your field.
Build a Solid Foundation for your Relationship
You’re more likely to be successful in your ask if you’ve at least established a baseline relationship with your influencer. This foundation can take some time to build, so be patient—it’s worth the wait. Make the effort to subscribe to their emails, leave interesting and engaging comments on their blog posts and follow them on social media. These steps demonstrate a genuine interest in the influencer’s content and brand and demonstrates that you’re a good fit for a future collaboration.
Contribute Positively to their Engagement
Online influencers’ goals are essentially the same as yours: grow their audience, engage with readers, expand their influence, sell products and enhance their brand value. Find opportunities to help them achieve these goals, and they’re more likely to respond favorably to your request to connect.
- Respond to questions or discussion prompts in their content, offering an unusual take on a topic or sharing a personal experience. Comments like this encourage others to engage with the blogger’s post, which they’ll appreciate.
- Instead of leaving positive but banal compliments like “good post,” be detailed in your feedback. Share the specific aspects of a post that resonated with you or how you plan to use the information in your own life.
Help Build their Online Community
Don’t simply respond to the blogger’s content—reply to other commenters’ thoughts as well, both on the original blog post and on social media. If someone is a first-time commenter, welcome them to the group and engage in discussion with them. You might just make a friend or lay the groundwork for future connections with other online influencers.
It’s important to tread lightly in this area, however. If you’re too outgoing in discussion sections, you may leave the impression that you’re trying to take over the community or make yourself its de facto leader. Remember, you’re there as a supporting player, not to take over the spotlight.
Help Them Expand Their Reach
No matter how small your own audience may be, you can still act as a force multiplier for even the most well-known influencers. If their content is relevant to your audience, share their blog posts on your social media and link to them in your blog. You can also share their Facebook posts and retweet them on your Twitter account to boost their numbers.
Boost their Product Sales
Not all influencers are trying to sell a product, but many are—even if that product is simply their content or brand. Offering to help them sell more of it is an excellent way to establish goodwill and lay the foundation for future collaboration. The specific approach will vary based on what product or service the influencer is working to sell, but you might offer to become an affiliate, review their product online, share it on social media or draft a testimonial for them to use on their blog or product site. If they produce an audio or video podcast, you can offer to provide a sound bite or video testimonial to recommend their product.
Provide Them with New Content
As an avid consumer of an influencer’s content, you’re in a key position to help them develop new, relevant content that will appeal to their broader audience. Suggest a topic you’d like to see them cover in a blog post or go a step further by brainstorming an attention-getting title and key points to include in the piece. You could also come up with a list of questions you’d like to see them cover in a Q&A-style post.
Leverage Your Existing Connections
It’s much easier to introduce yourself to someone new if you have some mutual connection between you. Do your research and check with existing contacts to find out if you have mutual friends or colleagues (LinkedIn is an effective resource for identifying existing connections). Find out where the influencer grew up or went to college and leverage that information to find potential common ground.
Connecting with an influencer via a mutual acquaintance lends you automatic credibility, so make sure your contact knows what you hope to accomplish with the new relationship and has a good understanding of your blog and your goals.
After the introduction is made, follow up with both parties to thank them for their time and effort. You might also send each person a small, appropriate gift to build goodwill.
Time Your Request Carefully
Influencers may be more open to collaboration at certain times in the life cycle of their product or content. For example, if they’re launching a new product or service, publishing a book, developing a new outlet for online content (such as a YouTube channel) or supporting a charitable cause, they’ll be looking for opportunities to promote their brand and share their content with as wide an audience as possible. Pay attention to hints the influencer may provide in their blog or social content about major announcements, initiatives or events coming up and then offer to assist them with promotion when the time comes.
Keep in mind that these times may also be especially busy for influencers, so you may not get the immediate response you’re seeking. But more often than not, they’ll be looking for force multipliers that can help them achieve their latest goal or make their product launch a success.
Consider the Best Method of Contact
Many influencers maintain a section on their blogs titled “Contact Me” or “Work with Me,” typically accompanied by an email address, and these are good places to start. But don’t stop there. Look at their social media accounts to see which ones are the most active and where they interact most frequently with their followers. If they tend to respond daily to comments on Facebook but rarely check in on LinkedIn, you’ll get more bang for your buck by reaching out on the former. If they post several times a day on Instagram but haven’t posted to Twitter in the last six months, you know where not to reach out.
Take the Time to Craft a Customized Message
Most online influencers receive dozens or even hundreds of requests per week from fellow bloggers hoping to capitalize on their success. If you use an automated email tool or boilerplate language in your initial attempt to connect, chances are the influencer will ignore or delete your email without even reading it to the end. These tools are not only expensive, but largely ineffective.
Instead, take the time to write a sincere original message to each influencer. Be sure to do your homework first so you have an accurate understanding of their content and audience and a good sense of their goals (and how you can help them achieve them). Make sure your message is free of grammar and spelling errors, including the spelling of the influencer’s name and blog.
Suggest an Interview to Get the Ball Rolling
Whether you choose email, social media or another method of contact, go beyond a basic introduction by offering to interview the influencer. If geographic distance isn’t an issue, conduct the interview in person over lunch or coffee (your treat, of course); if a face-to-face interview isn’t feasible, you can do it via email or over the phone. Ideally, you’ll pitch the interview as part of a blog post featuring the influencer, but you can also frame it more casually, as an opportunity to mine their expertise and learn the secrets to their success.
Most influential people enjoy sharing their story with others, and they’ll also benefit from the additional exposure. You’ll benefit from learning how they grew their brand, but more importantly, you’ll lay the groundwork for future collaborations.
Identify a Need and Offer to Fill it for Free
When you reach out to an influencer, know ahead of time what value you bring to the table. You might offer to edit or proofread posts, share your graphic design expertise or suggest interesting ideas for content. By providing the influencer something of benefit at no cost to them, you’re not only doing them a favor, but you’re giving them an opportunity to recommend your talents to their professional and social networks.
Resist the Urge to Gush
While everyone appreciates a genuine compliment, keep your praise measured and professional, even if the influencer is someone you really admire. If you’re meeting them in person, try to stay calm and avoid “geeking out” at their very presence. It’s fine to share your enthusiasm for their content or a specific topic, but be careful not to cross the line into hero worship. This can make the influencer feel awkward and diminish your credibility as a potential peer and collaborator.
Don’t Take Their Response (or Lack Thereof) Personally
Even if you follow every guideline listed here, some influencers may not respond to your message. If they’re especially popular, they may not have the capacity to reply to every email or request they receive.
If the influencer turns you down or fails to respond at all, don’t give up. Continue to be a positive member of their online communities, work to demonstrate your value and consider approaching them again a few months down the road with a new idea or proposition. Subtle persistence can pay off over time.
Whatever you do, never call them out on social media or attack them on your own blog. Your negativity will only reflect poorly on you and eliminate any chance of a future connection with that influencer or others.
By making the effort to build quality connections with online influencers, you’ll not only create opportunities to grow your brand and expand your audience, but you’ll also learn valuable information that can help you elevate the quality of your own content. By staying positive and patient and highlighting the value you bring to the relationship, your outreach efforts will bear fruit over time.