How To Start A Partnership With A Social Media Influencer

Influencer marketing has developed significantly over the past several years. When first introduced, most marketers saw it as a gimmick—a valuable gimmick, but a gimmick nonetheless. Now, online marketers are starting to see influencer marketing as less of a “get rich quick” scheme and more as a viable long-term strategy for developing a brand (usually a personal brand).

The key to achieving that long-term success is to see your influencer engagements as partnerships—not a way to get a quick favor or a one-time boost. So why are these partnerships more effective, and how can you build one from scratch?

Defining a “Partnership”

First, let me explain exactly what I mean by an influencer “partnership.” Yes, if an influencer shares one of your articles, you’ll instantly generate new visibility for the piece—and possibly hundreds of new followers in the process. However, earning that one-time share will only yield you value for a few days—usually a week at the most. If you can regularly exchange value with an influencer, and build a social relationship with them, you’ll earn many of these opportunities—and you’ll also gain the reputation benefits of being in that influencer’s inner circle.

Building Initial Authority

Before you can start a meaningful partnership with an influencer, you’re going to need to become a bit of an influencer in your own right. That doesn’t mean you have to have tens of thousands of followers before you can engage in influencer marketing, but it does mean you should have a decent following to start (for help, see 101 Ways to Get Social Media Followers).

Otherwise, your target influencer may not take you seriously; having a bigger following and a more recognizable reputation means not only that you have more experience, but that you’ll be able to offer more value to the influencers with whom you work throughout the partnership.

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With that being said, let’s look at the three main ways you can start developing a relationship with an influencer.

Option One: Make a Contribution

Your first option is to go out of your way to make a contribution to your influencer. In this scenario, you won’t be asking anything of them; instead, you’ll be giving the influencer something of value.

For example, you might write a review of their latest book, in which you cast them in a favorable light, or you might link to their website in one of your guest posts on a high-authority publication. This will often immediately get their attention (especially if you tag them on Twitter), and because you’re doing them a favor, they’ll think more highly of you than if you come to them with a request.

The only downside here is the transition; sometimes, it’s hard to get noticed unless you speak up and identify yourself.

Option Two: Engage

Your second option, then, is to speak up and identify yourself. In this scenario, you won’t be doing the influencer a specific favor—you’ll just start engaging with them. When they make a post, leave a comment about it. If they ask an open question, give them an answer. If you see them responding to an active social media thread, get involved, and consider asking them a question related to their field of expertise.

Don’t be annoying about this, but do get involved regularly. It may take a few weeks, or even months, but eventually, they’ll notice and start engaging with you on a more personal level (especially if you have professional expertise to back up all your comments).

The key here is to be consistent and impressive—the more you know your stuff, the more likely they’ll be to see the value in engaging with you.

Option Three: Make a Request

Your third option of entry is to make a formal request for assistance or collaboration. This is the riskiest approach, but it’s also the most fast-paced. You can make any type of request you want; for example, you could ask an influencer to share one of your latest articles, or you could invite them to work with you on a research piece you’re developing.

However, the less effort it demands from them and the more useful it is for them, the better. Remember, these are people trying to build their own authority and visibility, and they’re very busy—so you need to make it worth their while.

Escalating the Partnership

No matter which option you choose, the introduction is only the first step of the process. Once you’ve identified a target influencer and have engaged with them in some meaningful way, you’ll need to gradually escalate the partnership over time.

For example, after engaging with them in conversation for a month, you could ask them if they’d mind sharing one of your latest articles. After that, try to get a quote from them for a new piece you’re developing, or invite them to be interviewed on a podcast.

Once you’ve worked on content together and you feel comfortable exchanging greetings and information casually, you can sit back and maintain the relationship, rather than escalating it. Reach out occasionally with new information, new favors, and new favor requests, and keep them in your circles.

In the meantime, you can expand your reach even further by identifying more key influencers and engaging with them simultaneously—as long as you can devote the time toward maintaining each relationship.

Article Written by Jayson DeMers of Forbes