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March 16, 2016 // 6:00 AM

A 5-Step Plan for Finding & Engaging With Influential People Online

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These days, collecting email addresses from people isn’t easy. After enduring their fair share of spammy messages, people have become hesitant about handing their information over to just anyone.

For marketers, this presents a unique challenge. When people aren't willing to open up a line of communication with you, it becomes difficult to stay in touch with them. How will you notify them when you publish new content? How will you keep your traffic numbers afloat without their support?

When you're building out your online presence, having a strong email list can really help you expand your reach. However, it's not the only way to get the word out about your content. Think about it: What’s easier? Connecting with 1,000 people and getting their email individually or getting to know one influencer with 100,000 connections?

Building relationships with people who already have a large network can open up a ton of growth opportunities. Wondering how to get started? I'll walk you through it.

How to Find and Engage With Influential People Online

Step 1: Identify the right platform to connect with them.

Influencers hang out in a ton of different online settings, however, I've found that email, Twitter, and Facebook groups have proven to be hot spots for this type of engagement. (I'm currently exploring Snapchat, too!)

Of these options, I lean heavily on Twitter for building connections, as it works great for real-time interactions. When I see an influencer tweet something, I use the information to drive a discussion with them while their interest in the topic is still fresh.

Keep in mind that the relationship isn't built after you send one tweet. Engaging an influencer on Twitter takes time, so be patient. And if you're having trouble coming up with a way to connect with them, check out this helpful guide for tips on effective outreach.

Step 2: Identify who you want to connect with.

When looking for people to connect with, keep this rule in mind: Never view someone as somebody to use, but instead someone you can help. Yes, we have goals, but if you can start by helping them, they'll be more inclined to help you. This is commonly referred to as the concept of reciprocity. And it's much easier to help one another when you have something in common.

Which leads me to my next exercise ...

To narrow your focus and identify influencers that you share common ground with, start by grabbing a piece of paper or opening a fresh Google Doc. Then, begin writing words that describe your brand. For example, here's what I would write:

  1. SEO
  2. Entrepreneur
  3. WordPress
  4. Blogging
  5. Email List Builder

Based on the keywords, I’m your average marketing blogger. I’m someone who wants to build an email list, which requires me to generate traffic.

Now that you have this information, pull up your Twitter account and start typing these keywords into the search bar. (You can also add hashtags to the words: #SEO, #Entrepreneur, and so on.) Then, click on the "Accounts" tab to pull up accounts that are tied to your keywords and start connecting with people.


Think your work is over? Not quite. To keep your social circle strong, you'll need to maintain those connections beyond just following them. How do you do this with hundreds of people? It’s simple.

Step 3: Maintain your relationships.

With Twitter, maintaining relationships isn’t that hard. In order to remain connected to the folks you just followed, you'll want to start by creating a list.

To do so, simply visit a user's profile and click the gear symbol and select "Add or remove from lists..." from the menu.


Then, add them to an existing list by checking the box next to it, or create a brand new one. If you're starting a new list, I ’d suggest creating the list based on their expertise, such as SEO. That way you'll know what to focus on when engaging with members from that list.


Now that you have this down, you need to pump up your exposure. It's helpful if you can convince someone to follow you back, as that will provide you with an opportunity to appear their feed and to make another impression on them. How do you get people to follow you? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Retweet them. "The influencers you target will receive notifications each time you retweet them. You’ll still making your face and name familiar," according to the folks at Social Caffeine.
  • Write posts that mention them. Whip up a list post for your blog that features an example from their website or portfolio. Then, send them a tweet to put the post on their radar.
  • Add color to your message. Researchers found that colored visuals increase people's willingness to read a piece of content by 80%, so try adding a colorful image to your message.
  • Do your research. Find out when the influencers that you are targeting spend the most time on social media and reach out to them during those hours.

Step 4: Take the relationship to the next level.

You’ve been staying in front of them with Twitter, and from there you know who responds the most. Based on this information, the next step is to turn that social conversation into an email exchange, invite, call, contract, wave of traffic, or whatever you need.

To initiate this, try sending them a simple tweet telling them you have a proposal and request that they follow you to receive a DM. If that doesn't work, start by subscribing to their email list and begin engaging with their emails. If you like something they sent out, tell them. If you run into a 404 error page after clicking one of their links, let them know. If they publish something about a challenge they overcame, share a story with them about how you dealt with a similar situation.

When I interviewed Social Media Examiner's Mike Stelzner on my podcast , he told me that the best way to get an influencer's attention is by making them a video and sharing your message that way. He said out of 10,000 emails a month, it was rare to get a message this way. The lesson? Often the best way to stand out is to study what everyone is doing, and do something different.

Step 5: Set a connection goal.

You now know all the steps it takes to effectively engage with an influencer -- from identifying the right platform to building out the initial relationship. Now what?

It's time to set a connection goal. This goal will make it easier for you to hold yourself accountable for conducting regular outreach. Personally, I try to aim for 10-20 a day. Do I always hit this number? No. But it helps me continue to make steady progress. And that's what it's all about, right?

Working towards my goal has helped me to not only land guest posting opportunities and initiate some consulting inquires, but also connect with influencers such as Neil Patel.

What can this process help you achieve? Give it a try to find out for yourself.

free guide to influencer marketing

Topics: Social Media Professional Development

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