Regardless of how much you love working from home in your PJs, there’s a limit to how antisocial you can be.
The web isn’t all about algorithms, even though automation, marketing software and analytics have their place. The truth is, you still have to deal with people. The more connections you have, the less you need to struggle, which leads us to this topic— how to connect with influencers the right way.
As someone who constantly networks with industry experts and enjoys a good outreach, I wasn’t always aware of the nuances that can convert a simple pitch into a relationship.
Here’s how you should get started.
1) Start with building a list of experts exclusively relevant to your business
It stands to reason that you connect with people who work in your niche. However, I can’t help but notice so many people fail to follow this simple principle. As a result, after sending their pitches to the people who couldn’t care less about their message, they get ghosted. I’ve also learned that it’s a common practice in the digital marketing industry to go after influencers who took part in expert round-ups, which may gather a lot of people who are no longer active or whose interests have changed.
Here’s a great example of a company that decided to create a list of SEO experts but mentioned a good number of people who don’t belong there:
With that being said, how can you make sure that your pitch will resonate with a chosen influencer and, what’s even more important, that he/she is worth building a relationship with?
Here’s what I do when I create an outreach list:
A) Check what’s the primary focus of this expert. It may be speaking, creating content, or possibly both. First of all, Google a person’s name, and if the name isn’t unique, then you can specify your search query. For instance, if I search for ‘Jesse McDonald’, I’ll get generic search results:
But if I add another word to it— “Jesse McDonald SEO” — then here’s what happens:
However, you don’t want to dig through tons of data to figure out whether this expert is still actively contributing to the SEO community. That’s when a handy little filter comes to the rescue to give you a bit of the most recent contributions:
Another quick way to get a scoop of someone’s most recent blog posts is to use BuzzSumo. You can search within this tool by typing in an expert’s name:
Side note: a person we just looked up on Google may be an active member of industry communities. However, this information is only accessible on Twitter and LinkedIn. It gets tricker with Facebook because experts choose to communicate in private groups (and it’s not that easy to get accepted to them).
2) Investigate their business interests, what they’re currently working on, and start building relationships on social media and beyond
This step will help you personalize your further communication as well as reduce the chances of being forwarded to spam.
The easiest way is to follow them on social media. I’m a huge fan of Twitter because it allows you to create lists of people that spark up your interest. To help you with your endeavours, there’s plenty of social media management tools that will save you your precious time.
On a general note, here’s a list of common things that will help you establish genuine relationships online:
1) Experts enjoy having meaningful conversions on social media, and the best way to do it is by sharing your thoughts or experience on the subject following an expert’s tweet or post. Other forms of engagement (e.g., likes and shares) don’t express appreciation that much.
2) Using your personal account will be a great advantage. People trust other people, not companies. However, if you only have a company account at your disposal, then sign your name at the end of every post to add a touch of a human interaction.
3) Check if an expert has any upcoming speaking gigs (webinars/events). If so, post a shoutout on Twitter or LinkedIn and support it with a custom-made image.
4) Find out if an expert is selling any educational courses online, and if so, promote them across your channels.
5) Comment their most recent posts. It’s always a winning move because it makes your brand stand out a little bit more. Besides, being the first commenter boosts your visibility in the expert’s community. I happen to be the first to comment on a blog post, just like I did with Robbie’s article, because it’s a strategy, in a way.
3) If you followed the previous steps, it’s time to send them your first email
A couple of tweets and several comments won’t get you a long-lasting relationship. There’s more to it. That’s why, I recommend avoiding pitches that demand something at all cost. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
The pitch deserves some credit, no doubt about that. It’s just, man, you’re asking for a little too much. What’s even more baffling, is that to return the favor, this person is offering to promote for me a post that has already gone viral. This offer has little value for someone who has a regular column on a top online source.
But the following email takes the cake. It also proves that skipping personalization won’t take you anywhere:
Even though I do write about digital marketing, I don’t talk about CRO or even eye-tracking, so this topic isn’t my cup of tea. Plus, I can’t think of the last time I posted something on my blog, so better luck pitching me next time.
Alright. So what does it take to create an email that gets attention and sparks a conversation?
1) Ask about something reasonable. A quote about your new piece, an invitation to participate in a round-up post, and so on. Frankly, I prefer to involve experts in content production. By doing so, I can bring them additional value and earn some extra karma points.
2) Begin your email by talking about them, not you. And show that you truly care (in my case, I decided to share a post on social media).
3) Another technique is a casual tone, which proved to perform well. A form of storytelling helps to hit it off the right foot, in a laid-back manner.
4) Keep it short and sweet.
You do realize your email isn’t the only one that lands in that person’s inbox? Good. So, no need to write an essay and weird that person out with awkward praises. Not only do you need to make it as simple as possible, but you also need to stay focused on amicable footing right off the bat, sending him/her an email on a topic of interest to them.
5) Be a good egg.
Be positive and spread content that is helpful to others. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with another’s point of view, but be respectful and provide detailed reasons for your perspective so people can learn from both sides.
6) Always follow up.
We all get busy and things tend to fall through the cracks. That’s why it’s important to reach out again because it’s probably going to take more than one email to get through to someone with an intense schedule. As Andrew Dennis recommends, follow up every three to four days to keep your outreach fresh, and keep it unique each time to remind of yourself.
To wrap up
Rome wasn’t built in a day. So don’t hold your breath for Seth Godin or Rand Fishkin to answer you the following morning.
You may not get exactly what you were hoping for, but if you work hard, other great things will find you on your path to building many successful relationships. Again, work hard, do your research, stay relevant, be a good person, and it will all work out in the end.