Technology – for better or for worse – has created the ability for you to connect with almost anyone, whether it’s a business professional you admire, a peer you desire to partner with or a potential future investor. In the movie “Wall Street,” Bud Fox had to regularly call Gordon Gekko’s assistant to try to get into the door. Nowadays, you can tweet, follow, “friend” and comment your way into a dialogue with just about anybody, including those people who can help you and your business.
However, when it comes to making those connections, far more people are bad at taking advantage of the opportunity than are good.
There is a protocol to getting noticed if you are looking to establish a relationship. Here are some of the do’s and don’ts that can help you meaningfully connect with influencers.
Don’t lead with an ask: Do not ask for something in your first few interactions. Building a relationship takes time and if you truly need assistance, insight or even some swag, influencers will be much more inclined to do so if you have done something for them first or at least built up a relationship.
Do be helpful: Offering your help and advice for a cause or endeavor important to an influencer is a good way to earn brownie points. If you comment on their blog, share their tweets, buy their book and send them a note about it or find other ways to be helpful, it can be a great way to build up trust with the influencer. But do it authentically. It’s obvious when someone sends an email saying they love your blog but clear they aren’t an avid reader. That’s an immediate turn-off for influencers.
Do be genuine and engaging: It’s clear when you are being yourself and clear when you are being a phony, even in 140 characters. Authenticity goes a long way, as noted above. Being funny doesn’t hurt either, but only if you have a good handle on the other person’s sense of humor – not everything translates clearly in writing.
Do talk about the influencer’s favorite topic – them: Everyone is open to flattery, although I advise that you don’t go overboard or you will look like a kiss-ass and/or a moron. Share what you admire about the other person’s work to start the conversation.
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Don’t be rude, offensive or defensive: Sometimes, people get their undies in a bunch if they don’t get the type of response they are hoping for when they reach out to an influencer. Building a relationship takes time, so be patient and influencers, almost by definition, are busy. If you act entitled, your targeted influencer will never engage with you. Being pushy isn’t a recommended method for making friends either.
Do be patient: As noted, influencers are busy, so it may take weeks or longer for them to respond. If you build a relationship and you have an “ask” that may take a long time to get completed, plan accordingly.
Don’t make it difficult: If you want an influencer you connect with to do something for you, like be quoted in your article, invest in your business or write a foreword for your book, make it as easy as possible to say yes. This means don’t have them jump through hoops, click links or do something your way; do everything you can to make the process painless and seamless.
Do help them make money: If you have a referral for their business, that’s a great way to start or further a relationship. But make it legitimate, which means “getting in on the ground floor of your investment opportunity” does not count.
Do know the line between persistence and annoyance: There is a difference between being helpful and being a pest. Always leave them wanting more. Also, remember that everyone needs to get some work done too, no matter how interesting you think you may be.
Don’t cross the line or be creepy, even as a joke: Seeking stimulating conversation is one thing. If you are looking for something else to be stimulated, look elsewhere. Remember trust isn’t implicit; it is earned. When the other person doesn’t know you from Adam (and yes, even if you are both on a social media platform, they don’t really know you), the creepy radar will be on high. Don’t make jokes that make you sound like a serial killer. You don’t want to end up on their list of people whose houses the police should check under if they go missing.
About Carol Roth
Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness.
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