“Look, I ain’t in this for your revolution, and I’m not in it for you, Princess. I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money.”
– Han Solo
Have you ever been “in it for the money” about something? Hopefully not your current job, but how about that minimum wage gig you had when you were a kid?
Maybe you had a paper route, or mowed lawns, or worked a fast food joint. Me? I bagged other people’s groceries at our local grocery store and carried them to the parking lot, over and over again, for hours a day.
Think back to that time in your life and remember how you felt about that situation, what is was like to talk to the people you worked for, and the kinds of things you heard. Remember the work you did–and in particular, how well you were motivated.
Did you spend time imagining how that other business could improve over the previous year’s revenue and how processes could be improved? Of course not. You were probably as focused as I was when I was slinging groceries on getting to work on time, clocking out as fast as possible, and collecting a paycheck. And for a lot of work, there’s nothing wrong with that.
When it comes to influencer marketing, however, that is not a beneficial mindset to be in.
Go back in your mind one last time to that old gig, but now imagine what it might have been like to have been your boss. Consider how much better off that business might have been if they had worked with you and rewarded you for not only doing the tasks that needed to be done, but also using your mind and experience to offer insights and ideas on how that business could grow and improve.
It’s pretty easy today to find an influencer, fill out a form on their website, and pay them to tweet about your brand. But how effective do you think that approach is?
Wouldn’t it be better if you had relationships with key influencers who are talking to your target audience, and have built up so much trust and understanding that when you have something you want to promote, they’re willing to step up and work with you and offer all-new ideas on how best to reach their audience?
Today, I’m going to walk you step-by-step through my process for not only finding new influencers to work with, but turning them into raving fans and brand ambassadors. And if you’re a Star Wars fan like me, this is going to be twice the fun! Because the Rebel Alliance was a great example of next-level relationship building.
The Alliance was a collection of representatives from different worlds and systems who came together for a purpose: to defeat the Empire. They brought together leaders and resources and acted much like a non-profit organization, complete with volunteers. Now, not everyone who worked for the Alliance was a volunteer—some, like our old friend Han, were just in it for the money. But as time went on, those relationships changed and contractors developed into fierce warriors for the cause.
How’d that happen?
“Yes, Greedo. As a matter of fact, I was just going to see your boss. Tell Jabba that I’ve got his money.”
– Han Solo
Building relationships with influencers starts with identifying potential influencers, and this is an incredibly important step. More than just finding a list of influencers in your space and emailing them, a savvy business will draw up a list and start following these individuals on their preferred social networks.
These might be influencers whose names you already know, or whom you find getting published in industry media or speaking at industry events. They might be writing popular blog articles in your niche or hosting live shows or podcasts. You can also brainstorm with your team to help build a list; I recommend coming up with at least 25-50 names of influencers to start with.
Once you have that list, whether it’s in a Google Sheet or a CRM like HubSpot or Nimble, make note of their social profiles. As you’re adding links to their profile URLs to your documentation, note which ones they tend to post on most frequently or spend the most time on. For most influencers, this will be obvious, but it’s OK if it’s not.
If they do not already know who you are, avoid asking for a connection like a Facebook friend request or LinkedIn connection, at first. Instead, follow them on their preferred social network so that you can begin to see what they’re posting on a day-to-day basis. Repeat this for all of your identified influencers.
You have two goals now for each influencer you’re following:
Rapport is a concept I love to talk about because it has a deeper meaning that “relationship” and it’s critical to successfully communicating, something we learn when we study NLP and working with audiences. It simply means to create a harmonious relationship in which the people and groups understand each other’s ideas and feelings and communicate well.
I think you’ll agree: just because we’re friends on Facebook, doesn’t mean we understand each other or communicate well. We might not communicate at all!
With rapport, you achieve a level of relationship where people know, like, and trust each other. And with that rapport comes the desire to work together to achieve common goals.
So how do you build rapport quickly with influencers whom it may only be a one-way connection—you following them?
You have to consume their content—blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc.—and engage with their posts with thoughtful questions and discussion. If there’s an opportunity to actually connect with and talk to an influencer over video, that’s the best, as you’ll both be able to use sensory acuity to hear intonation and pitch of words, and see their body language, eye movement, and more.
Spend a little time each and every day engaging with your target influencers and building up a history of conversation and discussion. Every influencer and conversational history will be different, but if you’re consistent and considerate, you’ll soon be having meaningful dialogue with some of your new contacts that leads to development of rapport.
At the same time, you will be evaluating each particular influencer for what I call “brand fit.” That’s the degree to which a particular influencer is aligned with your brand’s style, voice, message, content, and overall approach.
- How large a segment of their audience consists of my target audience?
- Are they creating content and maintaining a presence that aligns with our goals and values?
- If any of their posts or comments were to come from our brand, how comfortable would we be?
While there’s no established scale for brand fit, you can certainly make notes in your Sheet or CRM for each influencer as to how broad or focused their audience seems to be, how close of a fit their tone is, and other observations. Certainly, if an influencer demonstrates that they aren’t a good fit for your brand, now’s the time to make that note!
On a warm afternoon under the dual-suns of Tatooine, Obi-Wan Kenobi strode into a seedy bar of Mos Eisley, looking for a contractor, a pilot, but not just any pilot. He needed someone with a fast ship, someone willing to carry some cargo (Kenobi, a young man, and a couple of droids) that the Empire was desperate to get their hands on, and someone willing to do all of that for a modest up-front fee plus a promise for more later.
After a few conversations, Kenobi met a colleague of Han Solo’s, Chewbacca, negotiated terms with the pair, and an agreement was reached. If you’ve seen the classic film, you know that was just the beginning of the adventure. Circumstances changed rapidly and Han was faced with an initial choice: do nothing more than he was initially paid to do (pilot the ship), or become an advocate and improvise additional actions (save the princess).
“Look, your worshipfulness, let’s get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person: me.”
– Han Solo
Once you’ve built your list, developed rapport with some of the influencers, and omitted any who aren’t a good fit, the next step is to turn them into advocates.
Remember, we are not trying to simply pay them to perform a task. That’s a simple transaction that will doubtless underperform. Fortunately, since we have a great budding relationship with each of the influencers we’re working with at this stage, we’ve pretty much already moved beyond simple transactions, but there’s something else we need to do.
In order for someone to be an advocate, they have to know what they’re advocating. An advocate is “someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.” Of course you can be friends with someone, have a relationship with them, and have no idea what they do, right?
Just ask all my high school classmates what I do for a living. I guarantee none will get it right. Your classmates probably just think you work “at Facebook” too. Am I right?
So you have some education to do in order to help your influencers understand your business. This is a step that requires careful consideration and creativity. I doubt they’ll be interested in a 90-minute webinar, particularly if it’s uncompensated. Plus, telling someone isn’t the same as showing someone, so my recommendation at this point is looking for a way that the influencer can actually use whatever products or services you offer.
At Agorapulse, if you’re not familiar, we offer a social media management dashboard, and as the Head of Strategic Partnerships, I’m always looking out for new social media influencers and educators to work with. Once I’ve created a connection and built some rapport, and have seen that there’s potential fit there, I offer them complimentary use of our tool and some time on a call with me to walk them through it.
I give the influencer full, complimentary access to the service and answer whatever questions they may have, without any expectations or cost.
And then I wait and see.
Sometimes an influencer will see the benefit your business can offer themselves or their audiences immediately, while others may need more time. They might be happy with their current solution, or their focus may be on another area of their business. Whatever their situation and perspective, you have to respect that and maintain rapport. Do not betray their trust by placing inappropriate expectations on them or monopolizing their time with requests.
Be patient and allow them to see the value for themselves.
By the way, this part is most difficult when you’re just getting started and have contacted that initial list of influencers only. Over time, it’s easier to be patient with individuals because you will have been developing relationships with many others, creating situations where you constantly have influencers at varying stages of progress. So give this time.
Pay attention to how each influencer utilizes your business and potentially begins to talk about your business online, unsolicited. Most influencers have built communities around particular niches and are often asked for recommendations for specific problems or solutions. When influencers start to offer your brand as a recommendation, that’s when you know you’ve got a new advocate on your hands!
There was a moment when Han Solo and our other friends were being chased by Empire stormtroopers through the halls of their station. The outlook was grim, and this was definitely not what Solo had been asked or paid to do. He could have quit or surrendered or re-negotiated the terms of the deal. He could have been transactional . But instead he advocated for the Rebel Alliance and decided to support them.
With Stormtroopers closing in, Han urged the young man, Luke, and the princess, Leia, to make for the ship, while he turned and charged at the attacking Stormtroopers to distract and buy them time. He had very clearly and irrevocably announced his alignment with the Alliance.
“Hey, Luke. May the Force be with you.”
– Han Solo
At that point, when an influencer is voluntarily and publicly recommending you, it’s certainly a good time to start talking influencer marketing campaigns and opportunities. Many influencers will bring it up now anyways, as they’ll see the opportunity to monetize their recommendations. And that’s great! Definitely capitalize on that and start discussing with the influencer the kinds of campaigns they’ve run in the past, what they’ve seen work best for brands like yours, and what you’re comfortable working on with them.
But I’m an overachiever and like to take this relationship one step further.
If possible, I want our brand advocates to become raving fans . Raving Fans is a book and term coined by Dr. Ken Blanchard; in this instance, a raving fan would be an influencer who is so floored and overwhelmed with your brand that they can’t stop telling everyone about it.
Sometimes this will happen naturally simply as a result of giving the influencer complimentary access to your brand’s products or services. If it’s a great solution that solved a critical need for that influencer in an amazing way, they’ll love you and want to talk about you to everyone they know.
But if you’ve already given an influencer complimentary products or services, and possibly even paid them for influencer marketing, what else can you give them to make them a raving fan?
Treat them like an influencer.
Remember that most of the time, the influencer isn’t really your target audience—their audience is—the influencer is the conduit, which means that many times, the influencer simply will not get the same value out of your company as your audience does. So you need to explore creative ways to add additional value to achieve that “overwhelmed” state. This can include:
- White glove service
- Swag & gear
- Bonus payouts
- Co-marketing opportunities
For instance, when I’m planning an upcoming virtual event and need speakers, some of the first people I approach are the influencers and ambassadors I’ve been working with. Virtual events are massive Win-Win situations where we get a talented speaker delivering great content for our audience, and the speaker gets the promotion and recognition of being a part of our brand’s event.
As a result of these efforts, advocates become raving fans who cannot wait to talk about your brand on their videos, in their meetings, and from the stages of events they’re speaking at.
A couple years ago I was sitting in the audience at Social Media Week Lima, a two-day event in Ohio that’s one of the largest social media conferences in the Midwest. That morning, the opening speaker, then the next, and then the next all mentioned Agorapulse in their presentations and talked about the brand, the tool, and me personally! None of them were paid expressly for those shout outs, they were unsolicited.
Just like at the end of Star Wars, when Han Solo had finally become a raving fan of the Rebel Alliance and offered his unsolicited help.
Luke and many other fighter pilots from the Alliance had launched a daring attack against the Empire’s massive station, but they were losing. Most pilots had perished or retreated, leaving only Luke and a few others. And just when an enemy fighter was about to take out Luke’s ship and squash the rebel’s chances, Han appeared and saved Luke, allowing the mission to continue and succeed.
Solo had already collected his fee and left. He’d been paid, and had said he wanted no part of the rebellion. But because of the relationships that he’d forged and the impact the Rebel Alliance had had on him, he couldn’t leave them to their fate and just had to help.
That’s the kind of influencer I want supporting my brand. Don’t you?
Mike Allton @mike.allton
Social Media Advisory Board Member
Mike is an award-winning blogger, speaker, and author at The Social Media Hat, and Head of Strategic Partnerships at Agorapulse where he strengthens relationships with influencers and brand partners.