Image by Chris Potter via flickr

Grow Your Social Network, One Influencer at a Time

Whether you’re just diving into the social media world, have hit a digital slump or are a business entering a new phase, there’s always opportunity to expand your online reach. But, it can be daunting to try and connect with strangers. While in real life, a smile and a hello might do the trick, the digital world is a different beast.

Many social media experts suggest nurturing online relationships, being a giver and not a taker, and showing off your insider expertise as long-term strategies for expanding your network.

Find the right people

The first step is to figure out who you want to connect with.

It’s smart to look for influencers in your industry or field. These relationships can be hugely beneficial if established leaders choose to follow, retweet or like your material. Remember, they’re likely to have large followings themselves.

If you’re having a hard time figuring out who to hone in on, you can use Hootsuite to search for influencers by filtering your home feed or search column with Klout.

Narrow the list down to a manageable number and identify what long-term gains you want to achieve from this potential relationship. Maybe you’re seeking a collaboration, looking for some advice or hoping they will eventually share your material.

Go to their turf

Once you know who you’re looking for, find their profile on all the social media platforms they use. Check LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube and any other social hub.

Just as if you were hoping to run into the person in real life, determine on what platform they spend most of their time. If they have thousands of followers on Twitter, but only a barebones LinkedIn profile, you probably want to reach out by tweeting.

You increase the likelihood of a response by catching them on their social turf.

Sharing is caring

Self-promotion is an easy trap to fall into on social media—after all, you want others to rave about your work or product. But, a broader appreciation for and knowledge of an industry earns you credibility (and more loyal followers).

Show others you know and value their work. Check back on their social networks frequently so you don’t miss any of your targeted influencer’s self-promotion and Google their name to stay up-to-date on any online mentions.

When you spot some of their new work, share it on your social networks. Ensure that they see it—and others know who it belongs to—by tagging them in the post.

Don’t just share, but add value to the conversation by offering some insight. Use this as an opportunity to impress them with your knowledge.

Find a conversation the person is already having and contribute to it. Look to see if the person participates in Twitter live chats, attends Google+ hangouts or posts in a LinkedIn group discussion board. It could even be as simple as answering a question they have tweeted to their followers.

Jump in on the conversation and again move the discussion forward.

You don’t have to limit these types of interactions to a single occurrence. You’re trying to become a visible, valuable part of their network.

Get personal

The digital world can seem like a big, faceless void. So, send the person you’re trying to connect with a more personal message.

Do your research. Spend some time on their social media profiles and discover what you have in common by perusing their interests, work experience, connections and recent posts.

Be patient and don’t expect an immediate response. Continue nurturing the relationship by engaging in their online discussions.

Hopefully, if you catch their attention with your industry knowledge and involvement within their social network, they will want to connect with you as well.