Let’s talk about how you go about actually identifying, engaging, and making contact to build your network online.
1. Take your real world contacts and turn them into digital contacts
It’s simple, pull out your contact book, all those business cards you’ve been collecting, your list of contacts in your phone and work your way through the list connecting with everyone, liking their pages and following.
Once you’ve done that, you can then invite them to like or follow you on your own social accounts.
This is the easy part. The next step is to look beyond your real-world contacts and start to look for people out in the wider digital world.
2. Identify the types of businesses you should approach for your digital posse
You need to find people that are good matches with your business. By this, I mean look for other businesses where you have complementary offerings in your expertise or offering.
I call this six degrees of separation. Think of it like the wedding photographer, who would benefit from relationships with a florist, wedding dress designer, wedding caterer, venue hire and the list goes on. What’s your version of affiliated specialities with your business?
3. Write down the keywords that best describe your business, product or service
Now, list words that describe your product or service. They should be words that your customers would use to talk or search for you. These ‘keywords’ will help you find people in related businesses to you.
4. Research and identify your future digital posse
Using your keyword list, make use of the following tools to help you find your newest digital buddies.
Ninjaoutreach.com. This is specifically for identifying and working with influencers. It helps you not only find people, but also makes it super easy to connect and court your chosen few. This is especially true as you will be wanting to reach out to more than just one or two people.
Tagboard.com. This is great for finding people and content via hashtags on your topic.
Good old Google. Just search on your keywords, and look for bloggers or any content that comes up. Investigate the content by looking at what content’s being generated; what kinds of things are they saying. From there you can go and check them out on their social media channels, and see the size of their audience. You can look at how much content they’re putting out on a routine basis, and the type of engagement that they’re getting back from the people that are following them.
Ink361.com is specifically for Instagram and helps you identify people with large followings based on their interests.
Twitonomy is specifically for Twitter. Use your related keywords to identify other people that are actively talking to your target audience.
Buzzsumo.com. This tool helps you find people that are publishing on your topics based on popularity of the content by the number of people that have shared it. By identifying those people that are creating highly shared content, you can also start to identify more possible connections.
GETTING TO KNOW YOUR POTENTIAL NEW DIGITAL POSSE
Now that you’ve identified who your potential influencers are, you need to start the process of working with them.
The first thing you need to do is get to know them.
Follow them, look at their account regularly, read and engage with their content. Comment, share, and like their articles and posts. Eventually over time as you’ve gotten a good feel for who they are, and perhaps they’ve even responded to some of your comments or thanked you for a share. You can then reach out to them and start a conversation and build a rapport.
From there, you can then develop a relationship and make your pitch.
Some do’s and don’ts
Make sure that you don’t go straight into a pitch before you’ve established a relationship.
Do make sure you will have an equally beneficial relationship. Look for what you think they would be interested in and approach it from that perspective (you know channel some good old fashioned “what’s in it for me”.
Good examples of how you can help each other are:
They have a blog and you have content that would extend or enhance their existing content.
Offer to buy them a coffee and share and swap experiences.
Look at where you might join forces to help promote each other’s businesses with discount offers or extensions of their own offering.
Agree to like and share related content for each other.
Having said all the above, there are influencers out there who specifically build audiences, in order to sell “their attention”. While they might not be interested in doing a share for share or building a relationship with you, they may still be open to a deal, where, for an agreed sum of money they will promote you to their audience. If their audience is niche enough this can be worthwhile, even if their audience is small. Small can be good, if the pricing is reasonable, based on your expected return.
HOW DO YOU KNOW THEY ARE A GOOD MATCH?
To know if you’re a good match, ask the following questions.
Are they targeting your same audience?
Are they already talking about your topic? If they’re not talking about your topic, should they be? Is this a gap in what it is they’re doing? This might be the angle that you can use to approach them. Finding an influencer where you can add value to their business, will always make for a great relationship!
Does it make sense for them to talk to their audience about your product or service i.e. Is there relevancy and a natural connection to you? You don’t want their audience to be questioning why this person is recommending a product that has nothing to do with the influencer. It will just look odd.
What’s the level of engagement with their followers? Do they regularly comment and share or are they just silent lurkers that never truly engage?
Does the influencer’ personality type suit your business and brand? If your brand has a level of political correctness, but you’re looking at an influencer who is an activist and has very strong opinions, then you might want to be careful about whether they’re a good fit from a brand perspective.
Do they have a following that is growing? It’s hard to say how small is too small. However, looking for enthusiasm and regular posting is the first thing, followed by a good growth rate are good indicators that you are not talking to a stagnant account.
STRIKING A DEAL WITH AN INFLUENCER
Finally, let’s talk about brokering a deal of some kind. The name of the game here is making sure that there is an equal exchange of some kind. So for example, this might look like:
It shouldn’t be about a money exchange, as you want it to be a sustainable and genuine relationship built of mutual benefit.
A note on paying for ‘influencer’ time
If you are paying for them to do some work, such as putting posts up, then think about the return and what you expect to get from it.
For example, if you pay $100 for one post to be put onto their account, you want to make sure that you’re going to get a fair return. For example, 100 click throughs to your website, resulting in a minimum of one new customer. So for $100, you’ve gotten one new customer. Does this math make sense based on your product /service value?
If you are doing this type of exchange for money, or even if it is around doing shares and posting of each other’s content, then make sure you put some rules in place, such as, the posts will actually stay up for at least 24 hours – you don’t want to be duped by someone who puts it up for five minutes and then takes it down again.
Make sure you have some control over the imagery and commentary. You don’t want them to make it up and not be aligned to your brand. Finally, make sure that you are measuring the impact to understand the effectiveness of the activity.
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR ONLINE NETWORK- it’s hard without online friends.
Developing a network based on identifying influencers in your area of speciality when you don’t have your own strong following, is a great way to raise awareness. It is a very valid way to establish long-term relationships that will benefit you over the long term.
In a digitally connected world, cultivating a strong digital network is absolutely essential.
While some might call this network marketing, and others will say it is influencer marketing, at the end of the day it really does come down to who you know and whether they are willing to share and promote you to their own digital network.