Influencing Influencers

During T.A. McCann’s keynote at Startup Riot, he mentioned the concept of “influencing influencers”.

T.A.’s Presentation and a Picture of Miles Austin

Influencer marketing is when a business focuses a portion of resources on a small set of connectors within their industry. It could be bloggers, industry CEO’s, writers, etc . The idea is that by connecting with connectors and showing the value or your offering, they can then share your message with their large follower base.

I’ve been learning influencer marketing throughout my career and have gained a lot of lessons the hard way. Here are a few:

1. Find the right people

It all starts with focusing on a small set of people that make the biggest impact on your space. Recommended places for finding them = Twitter, trade-show or conference speaker lists, blog roles of other influencers and services like Insightpool and Followerwonk.

2. Give first

Influencers are contacted very frequently and most of the people contacting them are asking for favors. Learn to connect with them and become friends. Read their blog, follow their tweets, share and contribute. If you truly believe in the value of what they do this will come naturally.

3. Have patience

Influencer relationships can last a lifetime but can be destroyed in an instant. Don’t expect influencers to drop everything for your cause. Instead, think of the 10 year view to building a relationship of mutual value.

4. Make it easy for them

Send short and to the point emails. Use forward-able introductions, give them free/early access. Basically make it “stupid easy” for them to do what you want.

5. Know when to move on

When you realize you don’t value the influencer, or that they don’t value you, move on. Knocking on the door of someone who doesn’t care can be like getting blood from a stone.

6. Realize some influencers require cash

Just like a sponsored athlete, some influencers want compensation to support your cause (or allow you to speak at an event). In a startup, I recommend holding back on these relationships early on. Down the road as you understand the industry more, this may become a worthwhile option.

Here’s one of my favorite examples of influencer marketing while at SalesLoft. It’s an influential exchange between Jon Birdsong and Brad Feld.

Just some tips on influencing influencers… got any of your own?

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