Yesterday I shared a case study that outlined how to find your small business’ influencers.  For this post, I’m going to dig into how to distill your list into action-able pieces, with some tactics for handling the first contact.

After knocking out your categorized list of influencers, it can be pretty damn overwhelming. The first step to making it more manageable is, is to rack-and-stack the list based on how difficult an influencer it to reach.

Distill the List

Many prolific bloggers don’t publicly post their contact information, or even a contact form or social media links.  Push those into the “hard targets”. For influencers with a sizable following, but a good social element (Gary Vaynerchuk has nearly a million followers but is very active on Twitter even with newbies) – medium difficulty.  For influencers with lots of direct contact into a 4-5 figure fan base – “low hanging fruit”.

This is not an exact science.  Influencers may move from bucket to bucket as they become more (or less) social with the public.  Some may be removed from the list entirely when they move onto different careers or start becoming un-communicative with their followers.

That First Interaction

Most of you are probably familiar with that over-used cliche – scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Though cliche it is the best approach to take when contacting strangers with influence.  Here are some examples of ways to scratch back:

Notice the trend in that list?  Recent AND Relevant.  Most influencers are really busy, and most busy people don’t remember something they said last week, let alone last month or year.  Stick with the stuff on top.  Relevance in this case is critical.  You can also read relevance as being able to relate with them and the topic at hand. If your influencer is gabbing about his dog having fleas, then don’t comment on it unless you have dealt with a dog that had fleas.

AFTER you have scratched their back, go ahead and make first contact.  The first goal here is good conversation NOT a sale or a referral.

The “in case of emergency break glass” tactic to employ when you find yourself tongue-tied when making contact with influencers – (NOTE: I’ve blatantly plagiarized this from that raunchy comedy 40 Year Old Virgin) – Just ask questions.  Most people like getting questions from their fans, and they LOVE it when they are asked pointed and relevant questions that apply to their greater audience.

Low Hanging Fruit

Tommy Walker is on my list of influencers.  His audience size is roughly twice that of mine and overlaps into the small biz owner realm. Though suspiciously close to being a competitor, his approach is very different from mine – purely digital and bolstered with a really cool video series on YouTube covering online marketing.

This was the result of an honest, complimentary ‘back-scratch’ comment via Twitter (pictured left).  Notice his response.

A little premature perhaps.  If he wasn’t an influencer, I’d just ignore his plea for funding.  But does possess influence, and can help my brand.  Is it worth $25 to me?  Not yet.

Here’s how I responded:

Easy there @tommyismyname – we just met 😉 I’ll send something out via Twitter & FB. Email me what you want sent to [email protected] (exactly 140 characters).

It’s human.  It’s me. It continues the conversation. And it pulls it on to a more direct, harder to ignore platform.  We’ll see if/how he responds. UPDATE:  Tommy just emailed me back thanking me and including a great quote I could share with my follower and fans.

LESSONS:  Low-hanging fruit influencers are potential friends, so be friendly.

Also, define the transaction:  he wants funding for his show – I want to be mentioned/featured on his show.  That isn’t going to happen 100% via Twitter, so I am pulling it into a more formal platform.

Medium Difficulty Targets

Buffer, one of my favorite digital companies, boasts one of the best blogs and product offerings available for small biz owners.

When I found a very timely and relevant article on blogging, I endorsed it to my Twitter followers. Being the social media beasts that they are, they thanked me for the compliment (pictured left).

In all honesty, my follow-up tweet didn’t get a response. That is totally okay.  If I scroll back up and take my own advice, I should invest some more time in learning about Leo, his work at Buffer, and any potential angles for real conversation.

LESSON:  Conversation is like money.  Find the currency your target deals in, and start spending with that.

Hard Targets

On my personal list of top influencers, is Derek Sivers.  His audience is easily in the upper six-figures and includes a lot of people that I’m trying to reach – creative small biz owners and non-profits.  If you look at his Twitter profile you’ll notice something important – he prefers email!

So today, I wrote Derek an email (pictured below) thanking him for his book and his blog.  I also included a truly relevant bit about my friend Marc Fendel who went to Berklee with him.  I’ll admit,  I was sorely tempted to include links to Savor the Sound and Small Biz Triage – but that is a bit insincere isn’t it?

LESSON: Do your research and communicate on your influencer’s platform of choice.

So what now? 

Aggressively curate your list, ignite new conversations, continue old ones, dump those of low quality, and continue scratching backs. Rinse and Repeat.

Oh, and try to meet them in-person if geographically practical.  Or just schedule a phone call. The sooner you can pull the conversation off of social media platforms into the human world the better.

All I can guarantee is that IF you stay human, timely and relevant, and CONSISTENTLY reach out to influencers that you will have plenty of great conversations.  And those conversations will result in a better audience and easy opportunities to grow your small biz.

And those opportunities aren’t really selling at all.  It’s just ‘hey, show me so love’ – or if the conversation is that good, you will receive help without event asking.

And then they do share that post, or forward that email or contact that potential customer, your own following will grow.  

Eventually you will become an influencer.

Gimme any of your questions, concerns, or declarations of adulation in the comments below. And if you have started working on finding and contacting you influencers, shoot me a call or an email.  I’d love to hear about how it’s going for you.

photo credit: Photomatt28 via photopin cc