So you had this great idea to start a blog, but after the initial launch date you realized the only readers you had were your mom, your grandma, and the friend who proofreads your posts. How will you ever be discovered? Influencer marketing, folks. Make friends with people who are cooler than you.
Ok, maybe they’re not cooler than you, but they do have a wider reach/bigger audience/more fans. You’ll get there. It just takes some strategizing.
Approaching strangers (and sometimes friends) for a collaboration can be super awkward. Awkward to the point where you would just rather not do it and go about your business with an unfulfilled dream. Don’t do that. You’re the only one who can get your blog off the ground.
Do your research
You should make a list of the it-would-be-so-cool-with-work-with-them bloggers you follow. But be realistic. If the blogger is a big name blogger, there is a small chance they have the time or publication space to work with a new blogger. I’m not saying it would never happen, I’m just saying don’t put your effort there first. Something else you need to consider is the bloggers’ audiences: they should match your target audience.
Know their audience and influence. Before you even send them an email you should know exactly who their audience is. You don’t want to waste their time and in turn, your own time if it wouldn’t be an excellent fit.
Something else to think about is their level of influence. You can find tools online to check their reach like Alexa, but that’s not always accurate. Other areas to check would be the number of followers on each of their social media accounts, the number of comments on each blog post, the amount of engagement with each social post, and if other bloggers in the blogosphere ever reference them.
How do they interact with their audience? Some bloggers can get away with simply distributing content without interacting with their audience, but that’s rare and not usually a formula for success–especially if you’re looking for a solid collaboration partner. You want to shoot for people who respond to their followers’ comments, listen to feedback/requests, etc. Read their comment section and social accounts to see what they’re about.
Wide and shallow vs. narrow and deep. You could take the ‘wide and shallow’ approach and connect with as many bloggers as possible even if their audiences aren’t the exact fit. Just be sure they’re close enough for you to make a strong case for why the partnership would make sense.
Another option is to pick only a couple of bloggers who have the perfect audiences for your new blog. I’m partial to ‘narrow and deep’ since your efforts can be more intentional and therefore more likely to be well received by the blogger, but it’s up to you and your goals!
Network. If you have blogger meetups in your area, go! It’s a good place to talk to other bloggers, make connections, and hear about other bloggers you may not have thought to reach out to. For some people, sliding a collaboration idea into a face-to-face conversation is much easier than sending an email.
Have a great pitch
The warm intro. If the blogger has seen your name before, the pitch is going to be much easier. Tee it up by commenting on their posts for a while before reaching out. And it has to be a quality comment, not “great post!”. You have to join the discussion and add something memorable.
Something else you can do is share their content with your followers. Whether it’s a retweet, a link, or something as simple as a like on their Instagram picture, everyone likes when their content is noticed.
Focus on collaborating. Don’t ask for a favor. A collaboration represents a mutually beneficial relationship which is more alluring than a one-sided favor. Think of what you can bring to the table, too. Maybe you have a bit more expertise in an area that you’ve seen them write about. Offer to contribute your knowledge to a post on their site.
Social proof. If you have a few key bloggers you want to target for a bigger project, focus really hard on one to get them onboard and then mention their name to the other bloggers when you pitch them. Classic name dropping. If a blogger isn’t so sure about you but they know the other blogger you recruited, they’re much more likely to come aboard.
Content ideas. If you don’t want to ask them to write for your site right away, you can start small. Ask if you could do an interview. Interviews are appealing because they don’t require a ton of prep on the influencer’s side. The blogger is much more likely to accept the request if they know the project won’t be too time consuming for them. You could also extend this to a group of bloggers. Ask each one a specific question about the topic at hand and compile it into a themed post. You’re likely to get some good ‘share traction’ this way.
Remember their brand. The influencer’s reputation rides on their readers’ trust. If you pitch them content that isn’t on brand for them or content that seems forced, they will certainly decline it. Loyal followers can see through the BS and influencers know that.
Giveaways. I had to. Coming up with an awesome prize idea and reaching out to a few bloggers to host a group giveaway is such an easy pitch. If you offer to create and manage the giveaway the other bloggers will have a hard time saying no (depending on your prize selection). Then in the entry options you could add a mailing list sign up for each participating blog. At the end of the giveaway, each blogger gets the subscriber list of new entrants from each participating site. See? A mutually beneficial relationship.
As a side note, I should remind everyone not to go crazy with the entry options. If you add multiple entry options for each blog involved, the giveaway could start to look spammy. Stick to only one or two.
Measure and expand
Test and analyze your partnerships. It’s possible the blogger you thought would be a home run for your blog’s growth ended up being a dud. That’s ok, it just means their audience isn’t exactly who you’re going for. Live and learn, eh? Acknowledge it, thank the blogger for the partnership and move on.
Some things you should monitor in Google Analytics to determine success: site visitors coming from the other blogger’s site, number of email subscribers collected after the collaboration, influx in comments and shares.
You get into trouble when you stick with something that isn’t working.
Find a new partnership. Seems obvious, but I would imagine a lot of people get to this stage and say “I tried Influencer Marketing and it didn’t work”. It’s not going to work if you target the wrong influencers, and you won’t know who the right influencers are until you get out there a try a few. See the issue? Stick with it.
Work your way up. Once you’ve made stable connections with a few influencers, try to add in bigger influencers. It’s no secret there are levels of influence in the blogging world–work your way up the food chain!
But on your way up, don’t forget the newbies. You were there once, and the fastest way to get ahead is to help other people.
Reaching out to influencers could be the difference in growing a healthy audience in one year versus growing one in five years. Put yourself out there and accelerate your growth. Hone in on your niche and find the influencers willing to collaborate.