One of the most powerful things that you can do in marketing is to connect with the right people.
I learned this the hard way.
When I started out as an entrepreneur, I didn’t know anybody. Obviously, nobody knew me, either!
I thought that I could succeed as an entrepreneur by just working hard by myself.
Boy, was I wrong!
Sure, I achieved a little bit of success when I put my head down and hustled. But, the real payoff came when I started meeting industry influencers.
I had no idea what I had been missing out on!
The influential people who I met weren’t like what I was expecting. I thought they would be arrogant, distant or rude.
Instead, they were interested in me and offered to help me. They connected me to other influential people in their personal network!
This was the moment that I started to change from an obscure twenty-something to an influential marketer.
Just recently, one of my buddies showed me a graph from Google Trends. The chart showed how one of my brands, Quick Sprout, began to grow in early 2007.
That was when I started connecting with influencers! That was also when I started my blog, Quick Sprout.
You can tell that personal branding was on my mind at the time!
Here is a list of my first six blog articles on Quick Sprout.
- 5 Ways to Increase Your Fame
- How to Get Covered by Offline Media
- How to Effectively Brand Yourself through Blogs
- If You Don’t Clean Up Your Image Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later
- See How Easily You Can Brand Yourself with Social Networks
- How to Make More Money through Personal Branding
Things started falling into place for me, personally and professionally.
I received recognition from the United Nations, the U.S. House of Representatives and President Obama. Forbes and the Wall Street Journal mentioned me, too.
I started meeting some of my heroes in the industry, attending meetups, flying to conferences and getting to know others.
My network grew, my influence expanded and so did my personal name. In fact, my personal name was becoming more well-known than my brand names!
All these opportunities allowed me to speak at conferences, teach others what I was learning and hopefully add value to the marketing industry.
Why am I telling you this story?
I learned what it takes to connect with industry influencers. It wasn’t because my dad was a hedge fund manager, or because I worked for Apple or because my sister married Bill Gate’s son. (None of those things are true, by the way.)
Instead, I was able to put into place the techniques that I’m about to show you.
You can become well-connected, influential and enormously well-known.
And once you are, everything that you do in marketing will become 10x more lucrative!
Today, most connections begin on social media. So, that’s where we’re going to start — by leveraging the tools that you have access to right now to get connected to the world’s most powerful people.
Learn how I generated 195,013 visitors a month (and you can to) by connecting with social media influencers.
Establish your identity as a social media influencer
The very first thing you must do is brand yourself.
Look at it this way. If you don’t have an identity, no one will notice you.
Here is an obvious example. Would you follow this person on Twitter?
Absolutely not! They have no identity. Zero. Nothing.
What is an identity, anyway?
This is where most people go wrong. They think that an online identity is about having a nice profile pic, a good bio and being known for one thing.
Identity is all about giving people value!
There are millions of people who have a nice profile pic, a good bio and an area of concentration!
But, value is something different. When you give value, you are making meaningful connections with other people.
I like what Jay Baer said: “True influence drives action, not just awareness.”
Let me show you an example of someone who’s doing this on Twitter.
Michael Simmons is giving value to other people. His bio asks, “How can I be helpful to you?” and he is tweeting helpful stuff.
Apparently, it’s paid off, because he is a contributor to Forbes, Fortune, Entrepreneur, HBR, and Inc.
So, how do you establish your identity as a value provider?
It starts with the basics.
Create a Facebook page for yourself
Your first step is to create your own public Facebook page.
I’m not referring to a personal Facebook account. (I’m assuming you already have one.) Instead, you should make a brand or personality page for yourself.
Here’s how to make your Facebook page:
1. Go to Create Pages on Facebook: facebook.com/pages/create
2. Click “Artist, Band, or Public Figure”
3. Select your category.
If you can’t find one that describes you, just click “public figure.”
4. Type your name into the name field.
5. Click Get Started.
6. Next, you’ll fill out all of the details for your page.
7. Click Save Info.
8. Add a headshot, if you have one.
If you don’t have a good headshot, I recommend that you hire a professional photographer to take one for you. It costs from $100-$400 and it’s worth it. Don’t use a selfie.
9. Click Next.
10. Add to Favorites.
This allows you to easily click to your personal brand page anytime you’re on Facebook.
11. Create your preferred page audience.
12. Add a cover photo.
By this point, you have a your own personal brand page. Obviously, it needs some work. One of the first things you should do is add a cover photo.
Click “Add a Cover” on the default Facebook cover to do so.
Now that you have a Facebook page, you should invite your friends and other people. Link to this Facebook page from your other social media accounts and add a link in your email signature.
Then, start providing value. I’ll explain how to do this in another section.
Establish your LinkedIn profile (begin posting daily updates) – Start giving value on LinkedIn as well.
Then, post LinkedIn updates at least once a day.
LinkedIn posts tend to reach a greater percentage of your audience. When you tweet, you might reach a handful of people.
But, when you post a status update to LinkedIn, you will reach an average of 20% of your network.
Plus, LinkedIn sends 4x as many people to your website as Facebook or Twitter does, according to Econsultancy.
Post regularly to Twitter – Nearly every influencer you’re going to connect with is on Twitter. Therefore, your Twitter profile needs to be as sharp as possible.
There are four ways to keep your profile looking smart and valuable:
- Great headshot. This is where the professional photographer is your best friend.
- Clean, focused cover photo. Don’t use a picture you took with your phone. Twitter cover photos are large (1500px by 500px), so you’re going to need something with a high-resolution.
- Concise, professional bio. No need to talk about your love for beer, coffee or cats.
- Regular, valuable tweets. Some people like to retweet celebrity status updates or sports slogans. If you are targeting professionals in an industry other than celebrity gossip or sports, you’ll need to change your tweeting approach. I recommend sourcing great articles on relevant topics in your industry and sharing them.
Keep on sharing – For now, focus your efforts on sharing valuable content.
Remember, your goal here is to establish your identity as a social media influencer. The way you influence others is by adding value.
I recommend using a tool, like Buffer, to schedule your tweets, so you don’t have to spend all day posting to your different profiles and platforms.
Buffer and similar tools, like Hootsuite, allow you to load up your queue with content and schedule times to share it throughout the day.
It takes a lot of work to set it all up. Once you do, however, you will be establishing yourself as an influencer in your industry.
Publish original content
What do I mean by this? You need to create something yourself that gives people value.
Right now, you’re most likely focusing on sharing information that other people have created — blog articles, YouTube videos, infographics, quotes, etc.
That’s great and you should keep doing that. But, in order to truly connect with other influencers, you have to position yourself as someone who produces content.
I’ve been writing on my blog, Quick Sprout, for years. Right now, the blog has 890 articles that I wrote, plus hundreds of video classes, resources and book-length guides. (I deleted some of my old posts, because they were awful. Haha!)
The turning point for me in connecting with others was when I launched my blog.
Do you have to blog every week for ten years to become an influencer?
No, even though it would probably help.
Instead, what you can do is write some guest posts.
When you write a guest post, you position yourself as a someone in the industry.
When you write a guest post, you are borrowing an existing platform to gain recognition for yourself.
The benefits of guest posting are awesome and go much farther than just earning reputation. In fact, you can create content that other influencers will notice, link to and share!
Here’s how to do it.
1. Use Google to search for the following: Instead of “keyword,” of course, you will search for your niche or industry.
- keyword “submit a guest post”
- keyword “guest post”
- keyword “guest post by”
- keyword “accepting guest posts”
- keyword “guest post guidelines”
For example, if I’m a usability testing expert wanting to guest post, I would search for
usability testing "submit a guest post”
Here’s what I come up with:
2. Click on the first result: Visit the page to see if it’s a legitimate opportunity.
The page that came first in my search, blog.testfort.com, seems like a good opportunity.
3. See if you fit the qualifications: A lot of blogs are picky about whom they select to guest post.
Make sure you read through all the qualifications before you do the work of creating an article or reaching out to the editor.
The qualifications for the blog I found seem pretty straightforward and provide me with all of the information that I need to begin.
4. Pitch or write your article: Now, get to work creating your content.
This piece of content will be part of your public identity, so make sure it’s good. I recommend having several of your colleagues read it, ask clarifying questions and help to improve it, if at all possible.
When you’ve spell-checked it fifty times or so, send it to the editor.
5. Rinse and repeat.
Keep on repeating this entire process. You might receive rejections. People might never return your emails. You may submit pitches or articles to dozens of places, but don’t give up.
Eventually, you’ll gain a published piece.
Feel free to promote this piece on your social media profiles. Keep in mind, that you’ll be using this article later on, in the step-by-step process that I describe below.
Find the power users in your industry
If you’ve been following all the steps up until this point, you might be thinking, when do we get to the good stuff?
Don’t worry. I’ll give you the good stuff. But, it’s important to realize that you can’t simply connect with powerful and influential people, unless you have some basis for doing so.
I want to say to you great job, if you’ve gone through the steps above. It takes a long time to lay the foundation, but it’s going to position you for absolute success in the remaining steps.
Now, it’s time to find the big players in your niche.
Every industry, no matter how small, has their big players and major influencers. If you’ve been in the industry long enough, you can probably think of several names, right off the top of your head.
However, I’m going to give you a clear process for finding the right influencers in your industry.
Some of the most well-known names might not provide you with the best connection opportunities.
Okay, then who will?
The best people for connecting with are those who wield the most social media influence.
And, how do you find these people?
That’s where the power of Buzzsumo comes into play.
If you have a paid version of Buzzsumo, go ahead and log in. Follow these steps.
1. Search Buzzsumo with your keywords: The first thing that you should do, after opening Buzzsumo, is click “influencers” in the top navigation bar.
Next, narrow down your filters to select only “Influencers” and “ignore broadcasters.” The filter tools are on the far left. By default, all of the filter types are engaged (except “ignore broadcasters”).
Now, in the search bar, type the keywords associated with your niche. I’m going to use “content marketing” as my example, since it’s an industry that I’m familiar with.
Click “Search!” to produce a list of influencers.
That’s a great list of influencers, but what should you do with this list?
First, let me explain what you’re looking at. Buzzsumo uses an algorithm that depends mostly on Twitter to score someone’s influence. If a Twitter user’s bio contains “content marketing,” then they are likely to appear on this list.
If the user has a website in his or her bio, then Buzzsumo also pulls this information and grades the website on Moz’s Domain Authority scale.
So, just to be clear, these are mostly Twitter influencers.
2. Organize your list of influencers: On each page, there are 50 results and the search I performed above has 1,047 pages of results. 52,350 influencers is a lot of people, so I recommend organizing these people into a list.
As long as you’re sorting by “relevancy” (default), you can be pretty sure that the first 5-10 pages of results will be worth your time.
Click the check box to the left of the first entry. A toolbar will appear at the bottom of the page.
Click “Select All.”
Then “Save All Selected Influencers.”
Create a new list titled according to your original search query (e.g., “content marketing.”
Creating this list allows you to keep this search on hand for more action, which I’ll discuss later on.
Once you’ve saved the first 5-10 pages of influencers to a list, you may wish to search for other relevant terms in your industry.
If I want to dive deep into the content marketing world, for example, I might look for influencers in “content marketing system” or “strategy” or other variations.
Be sure to make new lists for these influencers.
Once you’ve exhausted all possible keywords in your niche, you can also experiment with new filters.
For example, you may want to look only for “bloggers” or “companies” or “regular people.”
The more you play around with Buzzsumo’s capabilities, the more you’ll understand which specific techniques work for you and your industry.
Establish contact with the power players
Now, it’s time to get in touch with these people!
There is a three-step strategy involved here:
- Follow the person on Twitter.
- Provide value in some way.
- Message them on Twitter (or somewhere else) to state your value and make your request.
1. Follow the person on Twitter: The first step is easy. Just follow them on Twitter.
From the Buzzsumo search results (or using your saved list), click the “follow” button to follow the influencer on Twitter.
That part was simple. Now, comes the more nuanced section. This is where you’ll need to use strategic thinking to determine the best method of establishing content with the power player.
Obviously, you probably won’t appear on the person’s radar, simply by following them on Twitter. I know that’s the case in my industry.
Often, people have tens of thousands of Twitter followers and a new follower doesn’t make a huge impact in their world. Besides, some of these people are so busy that they hire someone else to manage their Twitter for them!
So, you’re going to have to do something else.
What else can you do?
2. Provide value in some way: I want to remind you of what I wrote at the beginning of this article:
When you give value, you are making meaningful connections with other people.
How can you give value to these influencers? I encourage you to think creatively to answer this question.
However, here are my top suggestions for adding value and getting connected to influencers.
Find out where they publish content and seek to publish content there as well.
Many of these influencers are content producers and have platforms where they publish content.
They may not be prolific writers on those platforms, but they often have other people contributing to those content platforms.
When you’re considering how to give value to an influencer, consider this possibility — creating content for their website.
First, you should see if this is a possibility.
Click “View Links Shared.”
When you look at the list of links that Joe Pulizzi shares, you can see that most of them are from Content Marketing Institute.
Since Joe shares content from CMI, then I can give value to him by writing for CMI.
So, I do a quick Google search.
I want to find out if CMI accepts guest bloggers. I query “contribute to content marketing institute site:contentmarketinginstitute.com.” (The “site:contentmarketinginstitute.com” makes sure that I only get results from the CMI website.)
Here’s what I see.
CMI does accept guest posting.
There are, of course, some hoops to jump through, but that’s okay. If I’m committed to the process, I’ll make sure I do it.
Then, when I successfully publish a piece on CMI, Joe will probably tweet it.
Write an article and cite the influencer.
The people who appear on the Buzzsumo list have actively built their personal brand. Otherwise, you wouldn’t see them on that list.
It logically follows that they like to receive public mentions and citations. Who wouldn’t?
You can give value to them by providing them with more of what they appear to appreciate — a mention, a discussion, a citation or a quote.
It’s easy to do this.
First, decide on a relevant topic and create an article.
By “relevant,” I mean that it should be relevant to the influencer’s niche. Your end game is value connection with the influencer.
To see what kind of information is relevant — the kind of information that they will share — just look at the “view links shared” button. This is the kind of content that they like to promote.
Second, within that article, mention the influencer and discuss something that they have taught or written. You’ll need to search their past articles or books to find something.
Third, after publication, send a message to the influencer, letting them know about it. (More on that later.)
Ask the influencer for a quote.
Asking the influencer for a quote is another great way to get on their radar.
It’s an upfront ask, but it does give the influencer value.
I did this when I was still trying to rise through the ranks as a marketer.
I was in the process of writing an article on a new area of content marketing. I reached out on Twitter to one of the most well-known marketers in the world at that time and asked him for some insight.
My value proposition was this: I’m writing a killer article. I want to cite you!
The value to him was apparent. He would get mentioned. He would get praise. He would get recognition and his personal brand would spread. Who wouldn’t want that?
He tweeted me back with several paragraphs of valuable information!
The more recognized you become as an influencer in your own right, the more respect and response you can expect when using this method.
Solve a problem for free, then let them know about it.
Don’t ask their permission. Don’t tell them you’re doing it. Just do it.
The problem you solve will depend a lot on your niche.
As an SEO, I used to go to people’s websites and point out their broken links. I did it for free and they didn’t even know!
They loved this, because finding broken links is nasty hard work. It’s pretty easy to fix and it provides instant value.
How you provide value in your niche and based on your skills is up to you. Whatever you do, provide value.
3. Message them on Twitter (or somewhere else) to state your value and make your request: The step just above, providing value, is the most time-intensive and difficult step in the whole process.
Getting connected with influencers isn’t just about waving your hand and shouting. You have to improve their life, work or brand in some way.
There’s an entire industry around influencer marketing and most influencers are, quite frankly, sick and tired of being pitched.
What do influencers want? They want real, genuine, authentic connections with people who can add value.
That’s you. That’s what you should strive to become.
Now it’s time to connect the two final dots.
You’ve given them value. If they don’t know about you by now, it’s time to ask.
Here’s the framework you should follow when you write them a message:
- Look at the value I gave you.
- Will you please close the loop?
Let me explain.
Look at the value I gave you.
I suggest sending them a message on Twitter or whatever means you have available.
Your first line or two of the message should prove that you gave them value. Here are some examples:
- Fixing those 12 broken links should move your Domain Authority up to a 78.
- The article I wrote discussing your great idea has 1,200 shares on LinkedIn.
- The guest post you allowed me to write on your website has 122 positive comments!
Will you please close the loop?
You don’t have to ask for anything at this phase. In fact, you may want to avoid asking.
However, if it makes sense to do so, you can submit something easy and actionable for them to do.
- It was a pleasure for me to help improve a website that I admire.
- Will you be willing to tweet the article to your followers?
- I look forward to contributing to your website in the future.
Simply close the loop. Make a logical connection between your value and the influencer’s response.
If you’re plugged into the marketing scene, you might recognize some of the techniques above as influencer marketing.
It’s true that there is some overlap between influencer marketing and my process. But, I have a bigger goal for you than just influencing influencers.
What is my goal? My goal is to push you to become an influencer yourself!
There is something far bigger and better than influencer marketing and that is becoming the influencer.
On your way to becoming an influencer, you’ll want to use this step-by-step guide to make powerful connections.
I know it’s a bold statement, but you won’t improve unless you are connecting with the right people.
What processes do you follow for connecting with social media influencers?