Back in January 2015 I wrote an article on Medium about approaching influencers, with the purpose of gaining access to contacts that could share your content. This is the updated version of that article.
1. Why The Update?
A couple of reasons. First off, 9 months ago I didn’t have this blog to write on and experiment with. If you’re anything like me, a digital marketer always searching for shortcuts and new campaign ideas, you know that a lot can change in 9 months.
Second, I really wanted to provide my thoughts after successfully using different techniques to reach out to influencers. This in turn resulted in improved relationships, traffic, shares and, in some cases, free SWAG.
2. What’s Influencer Outreach?
I like to think of it as a process to improve relationships. As any process, it consists of actions. They’re usually sending emails and/or tweets to people with influence in the field you’re interested in.
Sounds pretty dull until now, right? How would sending emails or tweets to people be one of the most important parts of the 5×5 Content Marketing Framework?
Relationships are hard. That’s why Influencer Outreach is tricky and yet so powerful. Relationships are hard because you don’t always connect with the people you want to. Sometimes people just don’t like or don’t react the way you’d want them to.
For that reason, the process of reaching out to influencers must have one objective: build a strong relationship.
In marketing terms, you want to get that person to share your content to his/her audience, so that you can get shares, traffic, subscribers and what else you are trying to grow.
But if you’re thinking about it in those terms, it’s like starting a blog just to make money. If that’s your end goal, most (if not all) of your decisions will be motivated by that element alone. Most people who do set out with this objective in mind fail. Not because they’re not good content creators or connectors, but because the end goal only provides value for themselves. The influencers tend to not make money or gain anything from such a unilateral relationship.
That’s why shares, traffic and email subscribers are merely indicators. Shares mean that your influencer’s community connected with your content. Traffic means the community also shared it, passed it along and saw your content. Email subscribers mean readers are so interested in your content, that they’d like to read more of it.
I don’t count emails, I don’t have scripts (any more) and I certainly don’t automate my influencer outreach (although my hunger for indicator grows and I might start to). I don’t do all of those because I wouldn’t do them to friends. They’re people I care about and they can smell the slightest deviation from my normal routine.
I don’t automate my influencer outreach – even though I’ve see multiple ways to do (and might write an article on it). Because in the end, how many real friends or trustworthy acquaintances can you really have?
3. How Can You Get Started With Influencer Outreach?
One thing I explain in the Medium article is why certain emails work better than others. You can’t just go around emailing people saying “Share my article” or “Be my friend”.
Digital Human Contact should still sound human, no matter how many layers of social, hacks, emojis or disappearing images are on top of it. That means that yes, you should say hello. You should also explain who you are and why you’re emailing them.
If you’re really interested in building a strong relationship, you’ll follow Gary Vaynerchuk’s plan (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right hook). That is – give, give, give, ask something in return. Of course what you’re giving should be value (in the shape of tips, questions, ideas, etc.). The big ask (which should come after about 2-3 emails) should still sound polite (“would you mind”, “please share”, “if your community would find value in this, I’d love a retweet from you”, etc.).
So the easiest way to get started with influencer outreach is to just start sending polite, interesting emails. They say that handwriting and calligraphy are lost arts. But I think the art of email writing is often overlooked, even in our ever more connected lives.
Find people you admire, people you enjoy reading, people you’d want to be like some day. Find their emails (if it’s not on their blog, use a tool like EmailHunter to sniff it out) and start practicing making new digital acquaintances.
4. What Do Influencers Look For?
Successful Content Marketers are like you and me: thirsty for knowledge, in the search for awesome content and pretty busy most days. If you want to get their attention, you’d better bring your A game. Otherwise your email might end up in the dark and forgotten bowels of their inbox.
You ultimately have to remember that influencers are people too. Not only that, but they’re usually really busy. Either running a business, managing a team, writing content or all of the above. That means that you have to respect their time.
You also want to come off as cool and interesting. So, just like with anything in life, you’ll have to wait. Wait for a relationship to form. Wait until you write that killer article. Wait until you feel you are ready to talk to those influencers as people, not channels to reach other audiences. Patience is a virtue, relationships need to be nurtured, not hurried.
Influencers need fresh valuable content. Otherwise, they’re lose their status. What goes up must come down eventually. Look at Casey Neistat and Gary Vaynerchuk‘s latest efforts to stay on our radars. Vlogging is hard. But doing it just about every day? That’s near impossible. And this coming from me, struggling to write one article every for a month. And then taking a breather for a month.
They’ve increased their content production to the max, so now it’s impossible to ignore them. It’s hard not to find an avenue where they’re mentioned. And it’s a win-win situation: those two are increasing their authority, they’re engaging with their communities. And on the other side, communities get even closer to people they look up to and care about.
Everyone wants to feel loved, appreciated and encouraged to follow their dreams and do the work they’re passionate about. And it all starts with a simple “Hello” email.
5. Final Thoughts?
As I was writing this, a new thought popped into my head. Just like Buzzsumo has the Trending section, with articles that are hot right now, shouldn’t there be a way to find which marketers are getting a lot of attention at a certain moment?
So then you would not go after the big guys, just like everybody else, but you’d start your way from the (informed) bottom and work your way up. Similar to what Ryan Holiday and Tucker Max did in order to gain momentum/spread rumors about an upcoming book/movie. Only you’re not tricking people and you’re definitely not sending anonymous emails. Read more about this in Ryan’s book/course on Growth Hacking.
One last thing I was struggling with was whether or not I should try to get traffic from people with large social-media followings just for the shares. Or from people with whom I have little or nothing in common (designers, developers, scientists, etc.). At the moment I can honestly say that even if I would try to reach out to a designer, I’d make sure to check out his/her work first. If that appeals to me, I’d have a good starting point for a discussion.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So go ahead, send that first digital human contact email today. And let me know how it went.