When it comes to building your business, the best kind of party to have is a third party endorsement. Sounds silly, I know—but the thought behind it is 100% serious.

In our social media-driven world, it’s possible to connect with third parties who’ll speak on behalf of your business and advocate for your brand. I’m speaking specifically about unpaid endorsements, no strings attached advocacy in which third parties organically come to know and like your business and choose to share the good news with their social networks.

Third parties can be just about anyone relevant to your biz: customers, non-competing businesses or brands (including the makers of the products you sell), bloggers, as well as industry pros who rely on your products and services. Of course, the more influential the third parties—and by “influential” I mean “have lots of followers on social media,” the more powerful their advocacy will be.

Side Note: You should never discount the influence of anyone’s advocacy of your business on social; even those with smaller accounts can drive traffic to you simply by their sharing of authentic endorsements.

How do you identify the influencers relevant to your biz? I truly believe the best way is through direct, ongoing observation on social platforms. Basically, you should treat social media like an ultimate market research opportunity. Many social media automation platforms have integrated tools that they say will help identify influencers, but I am here to tell you that those tools often lack the human intelligence needed to really pinpoint. your best influencers. You should be actively aware of your social media audiences anyway, so be there with intention and identify those accounts you want to connect with accordingly.

What’s to gain in getting “in” with the in-crowd of social influencers? The potential benefits are vast. Here’s a quick list.

  • Sales and Repeat Business – the chance to attract new customers, build relationships, and land their loyalty and repeat business; new customers may be the influencers themselves or their like-minded connections on social media who often fit within the same, desirable demographic
  • Message Amplification – Beautiful things can happen when the right influencer regrams or retweets your content. I can tell you firsthand that that is a great way to attain new followers and get a jolt of happy mojo for your posts.
  • Online Reviews – the collection of positive testimonials for Facebook, Yelp, Google, your website, etc.
  • Shareables – the sharing of social posts that reach uniquely targeted audiences and may then be re-shared by you and others to increase brand awareness/interest
  • Photo Gathering – increased likelihood of photos being captured and shared that feature the products you sell, as well as increased opportunity to gather those pictures for your own purposes

Mind you, getting “in” with influencers does not harken to high school days; this is about digital clicks, not teenage cliques! It’s well worth your time, strategy, and effort. Put these ideas for influential relationship building into action, and hopefully you’ll learn firsthand just what I mean.

Up Your Event and In-Person Networking Participation
Think “influencer connections” when planning your participation in or attendance at events such as trade shows, association meetings, networking gatherings, charitable events, galas, and openings.

  • If you’re considering sponsorships for any such events, don’t let organizers randomly assign you to an exhibition space or paid placements in promo materials. Be strategic about how your biz info will be shared and seen, and vie for opportunities to connect with influencers who will be present, as well.
  • Ask upfront for a list of participating speakers, as well as other exhibitors and sponsors.
  • Do your homework on the list provided to see how these pros use social media.
  • Look at number of followers on all social platforms, check frequency of their posts and how recently they’ve posted, and assess the nature of their posts (do they only self-promote or do they give shout-outs to friends and brands?).
  • Review their websites to see how they brand their businesses and check out the quality of their work, as well as determine if they maintain blogs.
  • Don’t see the right influencers on the list? Suggest participants and companies that you know do great work and have lots of influence online.
  • Follow and engage with all event participants for the event across your social platforms. That way, all the right connections will be established in advance of milestones, making tagging and interactions more simple along the way.

Once you’ve orchestrated your place and pairing for an event, make the experience exceptional for the influencer you’re aiming to connect with. Blend wonderful “in real life” interactions into opportunities for online engagement.

  • Take the lead, sharing posts to launch online banter and get the influencer ‘talking.’ Create posts in advance of the event sharing the great news about working with the pro.
  • Write a blog post that puts the spotlight on the influence; invite them to be interviewed and contribute images that link back to their site or social platforms.
  • Be sure your event partner has all the right social media handles and hashtags you’d like them to include when he or she posts about the collaboration.
  • Like and comment appropriately on just about everything your targeted influencers post on social media. Engage not only about the r event, but express interest in all the things they’re sharing and working on.

During and after the event, continue the good will and excitement.

  • Write reviews on all relevant social platforms, referencing the positive experience shared for the special event. Invite reciprocal reviews.
  • Share and share alike. Provide your influencer connections any photos you took or collected during the event. Repost, retweet, regram, and share their social content whenever possible.
  • In addition to offering thanks online, send a note of appreciation and a gift. This kind gesture is the right thing to do and deepens the root system of relationships.
  • Extend the VIP treatment. Offer to work with the influencer on other projects and ensure that your staff is on the ready to assist with future endeavors.

Go National to Find Local Connections
A great way to identify and connect with valuable influencers in your area is to tap into sources at a national level first. Brands and other entities with national reach often have social media programs and insights that can be useful on local levels.

Make direct connections with the people who manage social media endeavors for the brands or services you sell. Social leaders at the brand level may have already done the heavy lifting in identifying top connections in your area. Find and communicate one-on-one with these folks to ask about who they may “know” through social media in your area and request introductions. In the process, make sure your local biz becomes known to the national brand; they will likely be inspired to engage even more with you online as a result.

Find Twitter Chats that may attract influencers you want to know. and use those opportunities to introduce your biz. f you’re curious about how Twitter chats work and how to participate, connect with me by clicking here

Be a keen observer of who’s participating in national programs and events so that you might find a local pro with a national platform. Sometimes the biggest influencers skip the smaller, local events to put their energies into higher profile opportunities.

Invite Influencers

  • Be bold, and bring influencers into your fold.
  • If you’re hosting an event in-person or online, invite influencers to attend—even if they’re not yet customers. Tag them in social posts and event photos to spark online engagement.
  • Looking for a speaker for a gathering you’re hosting? Ask an influencer. You’ll benefit from all the social and online posting she’ll surely do to promote her participation to her followers.
  • Invite influential guest bloggers to write for your website. You’ll get more traffic to these blog posts because of the already-engaged audiences the influencers bring to the mix.
  • Consider trade-outs with select influencers. In some instances, it may be worthwhile to contribute products to high profile projects or photo shoots at no or reduced cost with the caveat being that the influencer provide a prescribed number of social posts, blog content, or other shareable media that you may use indefinitely. This can be a great approach, so contact me here if you need guidance on how to do it right.

Need more insights on the ins and outs of connecting with influencers? Get ready for Indie Biz Academy courses to help you really get strategic with influencer marketing. Sign up TODAY to be an Indie Biz Insider!

Happy connecting!
Irene Williams head tilter and marketer