I’ve been thinking a lot about influence lately. It seems that I’m not the only one. Mike Michalowicz wrote an article that talked about how you can grow your business by connecting with influencers and Guy Kawasaki gave us a real life example of how you can create a path for influencing behavior by setting up an environment for easy compliance.
So why does influence matter to small business?
Influencers matter to your business in the same way that segmentation matters to your marketing message—they simplify and cut the cost of communicating to large groups of people.
We’ve been conditioned to think of celebrities as influencers because a single mention from them can set product sales soaring. During the times of network media domination, small businesses rarely got to participate in this kind of promotion. But the advent of new media with its wide reaching social networks has made it possible (and easy) for small businesses to reach their target audience by investing their time rather than money.
Move over Oprah!
Social networks made it possible for experts in any area of industry to have their voices heard and to gain a loyal and responsive audience. The rise of the “Internet influencer” has been both a blessing and a curse for those of us looking for good advice.
On one hand, there is no shortage of expert small business advice. On the other hand, there are so many people in so many areas that it’s hard to find the people who can help you the most. So where is a small business owner supposed to go to figure out who the real movers and shakers of business are?
How to find your best influencers
In a previous post here on OPEN Forum, I discussed how influence measuring apps are helping small business owners filter through the plethora of experts on any given topic. You can use apps like Mixtent or Klout to get you started in finding those people who are most active in their industries. But that’s just the start.
Finding and building real relationships with influencers requires time, patience and effort.
- Read and comment on their content.
- Find out what their marketing and promotional goals are and look for ways to help them out.
- Contribute relevant, high quality guest post articles.
- Promote their content to your network.
- Partner with them on a mutually beneficial project that will build their audience, as well as yours.
- If they are an author, read and review their books on blogs and on Amazon.
This is just a short list that’s only limited by your imagination and creativity.
Becoming an influencer in your industry
The other side of the influencer coin means actually becoming an influencer and being known for your expertise within a particular industry or subject area. This isn’t as impossible as it might seem, all it takes is a persistence and strategy.
Here are a few tips:
- Build your personal brand. Start by following Dan Schawbel and reading his personal branding blog and magazine. You’ll find experts and advice on how to find your uniqueness and leverage it into a brand that has internet legs.
- Blog. It isn’t too late to create a smart blog. You don’t have to blog every day. Instead, be rigorous with the quality of your content. Take the time to visit blogs and sites in your industry and start mapping out their strengths and weaknesses. Then find a way to provide the industry something that’s missing. Let yourself be creative.
- Be ubiquitous in all the places that count. You don’t have to be everywhere, just where your target audience hangs out. Work at being the big fish in a small pond. Pick a LinkedIn group or Q&A topic and own it. Join specific expert groups like Focus.com and participate daily asking and answering questions and then creating articles around them.
If you combine these two strategies of connecting with influencers and becoming an influencer, you will see the cost, effort and difficulty of marketing your business decrease significantly and you’ll see the fun you’re having inside your business increase exponentially.