How To Identify Social Media Influencers In Your Industry

February 24, 2015 Social Media Strategy

A comparison I like to draw for social media is from the music world.

When new artists come on the scene they might have a little following, but to reach more and more people they need industry influencers to help them out.

New artists often go on tour with established stars. The newbies get access to the stablished audience. These days you’ll find hot new artists often doing duets with established stars.

And it’s not a one-way street. The established stars might partially do it out of the goodness of their heart, but they’re looking for something in return. They want someone to build the crowd up with good music. They want a fresh sound to rejuvenate their careers.

So the idea for growing your social media following is to find influencers that share your audience and figure out a way to build a relationship with them so you can help them and in return they can help you.

Here’s how to do it.

Step 1. Define An Influencer Profile For Your Industry

You might have an idea of who a few influencers are in your industry already. Maybe they’re the CEO of a similar or complementary company. Maybe they’re a consultant or maybe they write for an trade magazine.

If you have one just create a mental description of who that person is. If you’re not sure then look for people like that by searching on Twitter. You could even mine your network of people you’ve met at conferences or through business you do. Maybe it’s a client or a vendor that has a really strong social media following.

Identify the persona and take a mental note so you can find more people just like them.

Step 2. Search For The First 5-10 Influencers On Twitter

If you have a few influencers in mind then follow them on Twitter. In fact, create a Twitter List. Call it [Your Industry] Leaders. People like being added to lists with a title like that. So it’ll be SaaS Leaders, Marketing Leaders, Tourism Leaders or whatever your industry is.

Add the first 5-10 to your list.

Step 3. See Who Those First Influencers Follow And Follow Those People

Now is where you start digging and discovering more people.

Influencers are typically choosy with the people they follow. They likely only follow other influencers. They don’t need to follow anyone else. They know the best people to follow.

And the great thing about Twitter is that you can see who those first few influencers follow. On their Twitter profile click on “Following”. You’ll get a nice list of influencers complete with their names and descriptions.

Start adding those people to your list.

Step 4. Re-Share, Comment And Reply To Their Updates

Now is where you start taking action.

What would you like people to do with your social updates?

You want re-shares, comments, replies and all that good stuff.

So start paying it forward and give something to the influencers. You’re not looking to spam the same person over and over. And you’re not looking for simple things like “Good idea!”

You want to add value to the conversation. Ask them questions. Respond to the questions they ask. Retweet their best content or respond to their best content by saying what you liked about it exactly.

Also, follow your list intently. Check it all the time and see what these influencers are talking about, sharing, etc. This clues you into the topics that matter to them the most. This way you can better prepare yourself for conversation when you want to ask them questions or answer their questions.

If you care about what they care about they’re more likely to build a relationship with you.

Step 5. Add Those Same People On LinkedIn

The next best network for finding influencers and getting value out of it is LinkedIn. Once you have a good list of influencers on your Twitter list and you get an idea for who they are then start adding them on LinkedIn.

People can choose to connect with you on LinkedIn and you don’t want to simply follow a bunch hoping that a few will connect. It’s negative to have a lot of connection requests turned down.

Look for people that have 500+ connections. Start building a relationship with them first using re-shares, comments, etc. so they know who you are.

Then connect with them on LinkedIn. From there you can see if they’re part of any groups. Join those groups. Begin building a connection.

Final Thought

As you build a relationship with influencers on Twitter and LinkedIn where they’re responding to you and maybe even retweeting your updates then you’re in good shape. Now it’s time to ramp things up.

The next steps would be to see if there is any possible way to do a piece of content together. It could be a blog post. It could be a podcast or maybe even a long industry guide that you do together.

But when I say “together” I mean you do 90% of the work.

Tell them about an idea you have for an industry guide that your followers would love. Present the idea and an outline. Get their input on the outline and what content they would want to include. Then offer to do all the writing. Have them look it over and suggest changes.

Then publish it (probably on their website) as co-creators.

The influencer gets great content and you get access and credibility in front of the target audience.

Image: JD Hancock