I was originally going to call this article “3 Ways to Use Influencers to Grow Your Business.” And, then it hit me. You don’t use influencers. The only way to reach influencers and benefit from their influence is to provide mutual advantages. Influence is a two-way street, so pay attention to these tips in order to build good relationships with influencers in your industry.

Ashton Kutcher - Lenovo product engineer

Calling All Experts—Time for a Roundup Post

What’s a roundup post? It refers to getting a group of experts together to discuss their opinions on a topic in your industry. Basically, you start by posing a question to other bloggers and making it clear to them that their answer will be posted in your article. They then begin chiming in with their answers.

Many influential individuals will be happy to provide a brief answer for your blog post because it will get their name out in front of your audience. And, they’ll likely link the article to their own blog and social media so their followers can see their answer. This creates a mutual advantage between yourself and the influencer.

People who may not stop to read your 1,500-word opinion may take notice when they see a few names they respect.

A great thing about roundup posts is that they offer multiple viewpoints, and that means a larger number of readers may see an opinion that they agree with or resonates with them. This can also greatly increase the activity in your comments section as readers discuss the various viewpoints and ask questions. You may also want to see if some of your influencers are willing to answer questions in your comments section along with you.

The roundup post then gets shared by you and each expert you interviewed, generating far more views than if you simply posted your own article. Of course, you may want to reach out to top bloggers in a friendly way before you just hassle them for content for your post.

The best way to go about a roundup article is to shape a very clear idea in your head of the topic you are addressing before you even begin contacting influencers to contribute. This does not mean sending out an email to influencers saying, “My blog is about online marketing innovations. Please provide insight.” You’ll get responses that go in all different directions. Ask a more direct question that unifies the responses you get, such as “How do you think the Facebook See First feature has changed the game for online marketing?”

When you do begin reaching out, feel confident, and don’t forget that you are offering valuable backlinks to your roundup experts. Most importantly, don’t take rejection personally. Not everyone is going to have the time or motivation to participate on your blog post.

I recommend you to read this article titled “The Definitive Blogger Outreach Guide” for more insight on blogger outreach for crafting a roundup article.

Speaking of Rounding Up Experts…

You don’t have to tackle a group of influencers at once. If you make a connection with just one influential expert, you can do an interview post. This works especially well if you and the influencer have similar audiences and write about similar or complementary topics.

Interviews are popular with podcasts, and you can even build a blog post around a podcast recording. However, they work just as well as a question-and-answer format on your blog, like this one.

A great way to take advantage of your chance to interview an influencer is to get them to touch on topics that are relevant to your audience but you may not be an expert in. This provides real value to your readers and pegs you as someone they can go to for niche information. Let’s say, for instance, that you regularly provide content on how to independently publish and market a book. If you interview an influential author on what it takes to write a book, you are providing content that is undeniably useful to your target audience, but that you may not know much about if you specialize in publishing and marketing.

We already talked about how you need to build a connection with your influencer before reaching out with a request. The good news is that after you’ve successfully connected with even one influencer, you’ve opened the door to easier connections from there! Each influencer has a vast network of other experts they are already connected with.

If you simply ask your interviewee who else might be interested in being interviewed, they can give you the name of another person to reach out to. And, when the next person now shares a mutual friend with you, they’re more likely to want to learn who you are and what you do, and possibly work together. This also works with roundup posts, by the way. Once you get a single participant, you can name-drop them in order to persuade more people to join in.

Gary Vaynerchuk interview
Gary Vaynerchuk – photo credit: Thos Ballantyne / Flickr

But It Doesn’t All Have to Happen on Your Blog

Remember that building connections with influencers is about give and take. An easy way to create a mutually beneficial situation is to provide your product to an influencer to review. You can do this in a few different ways:

Let Them Test for You

Every product requires testing throughout various stages of development. An influencer in your industry will likely be flattered if you ask for feedback as you build your product. Of course, they may also be quite busy with their own projects, so don’t get discouraged if you get a few no’s before you find someone to work with. What you are building of course has to be relevant to them, and solve a problem they could be having, or make their job more efficient.

Send Out Your Product

If you’re confident about your product (and you should be), you can reach out to an influencer to test it out and write a review. The catch is that an honest review can praise or lament your product, so be sure it’s ready for launch before you contact your influencer.

The person doesn’t have to be an expert on your product. The product just has to be useful to them, and they should share your target audience. For instance, when American Giant CEO, Bayard Winthrop, produced what he called the world’s best hoodie, he wanted to target the computer geek crowd, who he knew made up a large portion of hoodie purchasers. So, he sent one of his hoodies to Farhad Manjoo, the acclaimed writer for Slate. Manjoo has a large readership built in, and his positive review created growth for American Giant.

You can also send your product to celebrities. Celebrities are influencers who can span multiple target audiences because of their wide popularity. A celebrity likely won’t write a review for you, but a photo of them using the product or a short endorsement on social media can be a game changer for your brand.

Hire Them

It’s also perfectly acceptable to pay someone to take time out of their usual schedule to review your product. Going this route typically guarantees a positive review, but you want to be careful that the review comes across as sincere. When your audience feels like the opinion of the reviewer was bought, they don’t take that testimonial very seriously. Even so, don’t underestimate the impact of reaching out to hire a reviewer with a wide audience. Top brands do this with celebrity endorsements all the time.

Just as important as finding an influencer to work with is keeping in contact with after the fact. You don’t want to be that person who simply used someone else for a quick reward. Keeping those relationships growing will keep your business growing.