Building Social Media Relationships With Influencers

A frequent question I get from my connections in the social graph is “How do I build a relationship with an influencer for my brand/product”. Though it is a common question, the answer isn’t as common.

Since I sincerely believe that social media marketing is a parallel universe to the real world, I always take a step back and consider what we do in real life. What are the steps we would take in our local offline environment to accomplish this? What adjustments can/should we make within the social sphere to help us achieve what we are wanting to do.

First, we need to understand that social media marketing is NOT about you. You have to have a mindset of giving, providing value to others and a willingness to help them succeed.

Secondly. you need to clearly define what you hope to accomplish by building the relationship with the influencer. Review your product? Have a phone call? Share your link? There are many different goals one could have for wanting to build a relationship with someone specific within social media. know what yours is.

Once you have aligned your thinking with the first and second points above, you can then follow these steps to best position yourself for a relationship:

1) Identify – Be sure that the person/brand you are targeting for the relationship makes sense. Identify the person(s) that are best suited for your brand, product or service.

2) Observe & Document – Do your research. Make sure you know what they do, their website and blog locations. Monitor their social posts and conversations and take note of who they are as a person and what drives their conversations. Pay specific attention to the human/personal topics that they engage around and document the information.

Don’t rush the observation step. Take time to understand the influencer. Rushing will usually result in missing the important subtle things that are most important! This can take a week or a month, depending on the person. Take your time…

3) Engage – Once you understand the topic drivers and personality of your influencer, begin to engage with them. Specifically comment on their posts, share their content and facilitate meaningful conversations with that person. If they have a blog, share their articles and comment on them. Look for ways you can assist them by furthering their reach, introducing them to prospects and retweet their relevant content.

*Important – A big mistake made at this stage is to do too much too quickly. Do NOT like/share bomb. (don’t like 5 posts on their wall in a row or RT their last 4 posts, etc.) This can come across as stalking or an obvious ploy. Use common sense and ramp up these activities over several weeks or months.

4) Build – Build a relationship with the influencer through more and more frequent conversations.

5) Ask/Answer – Ask open-ended questions about them, their articles and their business. The goal here is to continue to further the relationship building, but also foster a climate where the influencer begins asking YOU questions about what you do. This is the point you know you have earned the right to talk about what you do and what you would like from them.

*Important – DO NOT ask for anything at any point before this stage. You must do the work prior to requesting a call, review of your service or sharing of your content. Also, be sure that you continue steps 3, 4 and 5 on an ongoing basis. Don’t make the influencer feel as though they had a horrible one night stand and were played.

I cannot stress enough that patience in the entire process is crucial. If you follow these techniques and take it slow, you will develop influencer relationships that will bring value to them and benefit your brand.

34 thoughts on “Building Social Media Relationships With Influencers

  1. This a great intro or a step in brand loyalty but don’t stop here Rob. There is a lot of attention on the value of influencers and brand loyalty right now. Lots of companies are trying to figure this out. Why not tackle rewards/incentives and advocacy programs as well? I would love to hear your thoughts.

    1. Great point Matt. I tend to focus my writing more on the small/mid sized brand, agencies and the individual marketer. Brand loyalty in these groups is not about games or rewards, but authenticity and relationships. Big brands are always seeking shortcuts for this and end up achieving the opposite!

      My two cents.

  2. I firmly believe in building community relationships within social media through sharing great articles & advice. Trust & mutual respect goes a long way in building business & personal relationships.. And like any relationship.. that trust has to be earned and valued.

  3. GREAT post, as usual. I know I may have been guilty of “jumping into bed” with you after reading your blog series on social media “experts” by asking you to do a blog post with me. However, I had been following and engaging you for a while – so hopefully I followed the rules! :)
    To dig deeper, I feel and have experienced exactly what you’re talking about … we’re part of this society that expects everything in an instant. We’re upgrading every 6 months. We want to ‘super size’ just about everything with little regard to quality over quantity. It’s nice to hear someone yell, “SLOW DOWN” every now and then as a reminder that even though it’s online, building relationships still take time and should be handled with care.

  4. Very well written. Robert, this is the perfect how to guide for building online relationships. I know it’s a bit more on the, “how to” directed towards influencers; but the methodology works for everyone. Thank you!

    1. Definitely works for prospects and all other relationships as well. I find that the scenario with Influencers requires a bit more detail and methodical approach however. Thanx for jumping in!!

  5. Great post bro! Lols that’s our story; you – the influencer and me – the admirer :) Really I feel these tips are going to help us a long way when it comes to Social Media. I particularly second your opinion when you say that Social Media is a parallel universe. I myself try and do only so much as I would do in real world.

    Thanks again for all this amazing stuff. It is definitely on my ‘Read When You Start #SocialMedia’ list :)



  6. As I am in agreement with the comments above, I would appreciate your take on what I call the ‘sycophant’ following or comments on blog posts.

    I follow a number of quality blogs and comment when I have something of value to add (that hasn’t been previously stated) or a question or perhaps rebuttal, but I find many of the blogs have the same people commenting on a daily basis. It appears to be more of a ritual rather than true interest in what the blogger (influencer) is saying in that particular post.

    I also find many of the comments have little quality input or value but usually contain a link to their latest blog post. MeThinks there is often another purpose for their empty comment.

    I understand that commenting on a blog is important and want to support the blogger. Are we perpetuating noise for the sake of self recognition or for the simple courtesy acknowledgement of reading the post. Frankly, I don’t always have something profound to say. The blog may be interesting or informative but perhaps not related to a topic I discuss on social media.

    The same seems to hold true for Retweets. I wonder how many posts are passed along that haven’t been read by the poster? I may trust and respect you as an influencer but are we not defeating the ‘transparency and authenticity’ philosophy of social media by blind posting. Again, I understand supporting your peers but I question our intent and personal motives.

    Thanks, I look forward to your directing me on the correct path.

    1. I agree Anneliz. I rarely comment on blogs. If I think something is good, the best thing I can do for them and my own audience is to share it. I do that frequently. In the context of this post, of course it has to be understood that irrelevant sharing or commenting is not at all what I am referring to. Sincerity and a true interest in the influencer and their content is required. Anything less than that will be obvious.

      Great insight and comments hun!

  7. I think the undercurrent of immediate gratification runs through all marketing and social media – it’s human nature. Your post is a great reminder that anything worthwhile takes planning, a process and work. Thanks for packaging it up all nice and neat Robert!

  8. Good post Bro! One point on “social media is not about you,” I have a slight disagreement with you on this one. I understand your point however, your actions in the media, with customer or client are always about you. Yes in the social space it is important to give, share and promote (greatly) but how you do it is a reflection on you and your brand. My mantra has always been that you are always on!–engage, don’t over do it and be yourself!
    Always enjoy your insight on social media.

    1. Yes we disagree Randy. Just as in real relationships providing selfless value without considering what’s in it for you and concerning yourself with the other person, is what make deep long lasting relationships and loyalty.

      Thanx for the input and comments buddy! Appreciate you!

  9. Hey Robert, really well structured. I think the one point of particular importance is not looking for anything in return. People are people, they like to help you if you helped them. Patience is required!

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