How to Engage a Social Media Influencer

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How many social media blogs and white papers have you read where one of the first points of advice reads:

“Find the key influencers in your space and engage them.”



Finding key influencers is not that hard.  Engaging key influencers is much more difficult than most people realize.  In fact, most social media managers struggle with this task because they have never been trained on how to approach an important influencer.  OK, I can already feel the heat rising from that last statement and you may very well disagree.  Let me explain my B2B point-of-view before you turn on the flames.  First of all, it’s not just social media managers who fumble with the influential.  Most people approach key influencers incorrectly because approaching key influencers is not unlike approaching a key executive decision maker.  So, how many of your employee’s had training specific to the approach of C-level “shark tank” type buyers?  Is your answer zero on the social media marketing team?  Key B2B social media influencers are like top B2B executive level decision makers for the following reasons:

  1. They have an audience who listens to them. In many cases that audience is much larger and more loyal than any corporate executive could ever hope for.
  2. They have their own point-of-view and agenda. Of course they do.  Did you think they became influential by being a social profile wall flower that only curates other people’s material?
  3. They have a healthy ego. That is they are confident in their knowledge and comfortable expressing their own opinion. Don’t try to put your words in their mouth.
  4. They are responsible for capital. Social capital and in some cases a real P&L.  Like all top executives they are not going to just hand over a piece of their capital without getting value in return.  So, have you even thought about a “value proposition?”
  5. They are human. That means first impressions matter. Yes, they are sizing you up in the first couple of seconds.  It also means they ask themselves “what’s in it for me?” each time you make a request for their time and attention.
  6. It’s personal. It’s always personal; don’t let anyone tell you different.  If you’re using social media automation (auto DM’s, etc.) to get your messages through you’re wasting your time.  They are not going to just pop over and “Like” your Facebook page.  In other words, don’t expect results from your automated “call-to-action” requests.
  7. They are busy. That’s how they became influential.
  8. You must learn to listen with rapt attention. Key influencers like key executives want to be heard and understood.  If your initial communications suggest that you want them to “find out what you do” so you can “see if there is a fit” you are really kidding yourself.  You need to prove you are listening (reading their blogs, tweets, etc.) and engaging with their agenda first.
  9. You must have unlimited energy and patience. You may need to engage them for a very long time before you catch their eye and they start replying to your comments.  This rapport building time is necessary and cannot be avoided.
  10. Do not think in terms of “closing” the influencer. Key influencers like key executives do not like to “be closed.”  You want to build a long-term relationship with the influencer and that means working to show them how you are “opening doors,” not closing deals.


There are additional points I could raise, but these are a good start.  Can you change your current mindset in order to work with B2B social media influencers?  Your intern may know how to set up a Facebook page and search for hashtags on Twitter.  But are you providing training on how to swim with the sharks?  You need to because in many cases B2B social media influencers and key B2B executive buyers are one in the same.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Alan – these items include some sound guidelines for online etiquette. For some people, the supposed anonymity of online conversations creates the belief that they can become more direct, more mercenary, and more gratuitously self-promoting. “Before we talk further, I MUST tell you about my product, and what it does.”

    I stick to the idea that if you wouldn’t talk a certain way when meeting someone in person at a social event, then don’t engage that way online. The reverse is also true. Which brings up an important caution. While it’s important to respect people online, the tone of the communication must not be obsequious. Be honest, be sincere, be considerate of people’s time, and take the risk of being wrong or misstating something. That works no matter who you are talking to. The best conversations are thoughtful, but rarely ‘perfect.’

  2. Hi Alan – thanks for sharing this interesting piece. Effectively using social channels is a challenge for everyone – both privately and in business. Social media is a whole new ecosystem for humans who have conversed in other ways for a lot longer. However, at the end of the the day, the one thing that has not changed is the fact that the people using social media are STILL human! If people remember that and focus on keeping their social content relevant and focused, they should be able to influence effectively.

  3. I’ll often refer folks interested in this subject to the book, The Influentials, co-authored by my colleague, Ed Keller, CEO of Keller Fay. Ed also co-authored The Face-to-Face Book with Brad Fay In both books, extensive coverage is given re. how brands can target and leverage the word-of-mouth power these individuals represent. The role and value of B2B and B2C social media influentials was also addressed in an early article on customer advocacy behavior: http://www.slideshare.net/lowen42/wragg-lowenstein-customer-advocacy

  4. Nice Post. Building a relationship with social media influencers can be one of the most challenging aspects of running a good social media marketing campaign. It’s a long, complicated process, but it can really pay off once you begin a relationship with a powerful social media influencer. The truth is, engaging with social media influencers is much like dating.

  5. Thanks Mr. Alan for sharing your views. I am new in the field of Online Marketing. I keep reading the blogs & books of experts to increase my knowledge. And your views has helped me alot. Its very true that influencer are very busy but once we got their attention then it becomes very easy for us to take our social media campaigns to new heights. I am having one question here that if the influencers are already at the great heights in their field then why they ask for in return profit from startups?

  6. Thanks Marc, there is no short answer to your question because each executive/influencer is working in a unique situation. Pro bono (free, for the public good) work is generally associated with the legal profession, but that’s not to say other organizations do not offer it to some degree. In general I would say that executives/influencers ultimately answer to the stakeholders of their organizations no matter what “heights” they have reached. Now, “stakeholder” is also a very broad term whether you are dealing with a large public company or a one person SMB. Having said all that, most stakeholders in the “for profit” world do not like to see work or products given away for free. So, in three words: “Time is Money”

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