If you own a small business, especially if you’re just starting out, one of your key goals will be to make sure as many people as possible know about it. That can be hard when you only have a handful of clients and the majority of people visiting your website and reading your blog are friends and family. Good old Mum!
Building relationships with social media influencers means you can increase your reach and build awareness of your products and services amongst your target market.
How often do you ask your friends for their opinions on places to eat, cars to buy, accountants to employ? Word of mouth recommendations are vital in many purchasing decisions. You can blow your own trumpet on social media as much as you like but it will not carry the same weight as a cracking review from a customer.
Influencers act as third parties so are more likely to be trusted than a brand itself. Kissmetrics puts it into a personal context:
“You don’t usually trust a person at a cocktail party who comes up to you and brags about himself or herself and spouts fun facts about his or her personality to convince you to be a friend. But you often believe your mutual friend who vouches for that person. An influencer is the mutual friend connecting your brand with your target consumers.”
What and who are social media influencers?
Influencers are individuals who have an engaged following of people who listen to what they have to say. Influencers don’t have to have a huge number of followers. What’s important is that those followers they do have take action based on what the influencer says.
For example, there are a whole host of YouTubers with over a million subscribers each. These subscribers eagerly await the arrival of each new video and then they go out and buy whatever the vlogger recommends. These You Tube celebrities are huge influencers.
Now, unless your business’ target market is teenage girls, chances are reaching out to a You Tuber is not going to be the route you want to go down. Your influencers could be anyone from a celebrity to someone well known in local business circles.
How to identify influencers
The first step to identifying influencers is to define what you want to achieve. You need to have a clear idea who you want to target and what action you want them to take.
Think about who your target audience would look up to, who would they respect and listen to? Your chosen influencers need to be relevant to your business. You might love Delia Smith and so might your audience but if you sell hand knitted baby clothes you have to question the relevance.
You’ll share a similar target market to your influencers but you won’t want to directly compete. Would you publically give a shout out to a competitor? Not likely. Neither will influencers.
You can use tools such as Followerwonk, Kred and Klout to search for people who are influential on social media. You can also monitor social to see whose articles are being shared regularly, who is talking about topics that are relevant to your business. It’s simple to do this using Hootsuite as you can set up search streams for keywords and hashtags. Posts containing those terms will show up in your dedicated stream.
Reaching out and building relationships
How likely are you to do a favour for a stranger? Asking an influencer to share your latest blog post or mention your website on their social media channels is quite a big favour to ask someone without having established any kind of relationship.
Once you’ve identified your influencers, slowly reach out to them so that you become known to them before you ask for anything. Follow them on social media, like their updates, share their posts, include them in Follow Fridays, and respond to their questions. Get involved in the same Twitter chats as them and have a conversation. Once you’ve built up a rapport it will become more natural to reach out by direct message or email.
Try not to rush your relationship building. If it feels super awkward to send a direct message on Twitter and ask for an email address so you can contact them more easily, it’s probably too early.
There are loads of outreach templates available online if you’re not sure what to write. The main thing to remember is to be polite, ask nicely and make sure your message is personal. There’s nothing worse than receiving an obviously templated email. I’m sure you’ve all had one, and it would probably have been trying to sell you SEO services that guarantee your website “number one on Google”!
Building relationships with influencers can help you to increase awareness of your business, reach people that you wouldn’t normally be able to and aside from time, it doesn’t have to cost a thing.
If you’re a female freelancer or small business owner who would like to know more about social media, Business Glitter is holding a free workshop in Folkestone on Saturday 2nd July. You can book below 🙂