Influencer marketing is all the buzz. As consumers change the way they engage with brands and buy products online, there has been a huge shift as to the importance of influencers and brand advocates. While marketing strategies such as paid advertising can be effective in reaching your audience, there’s no substitute for getting a shout-out from key influencers your customers trust.

In fact recent studies reveal that 92 percent of people trust recommendations from individuals over brands. So whether your goal is to get mentioned in a popular magazine such as Forbes, on the blog or Facebook page of a guru in your industry, or an interview on a hot podcast, similar rules of etiquette apply. Those rules can seem a bit cryptic if you don’t have a background in public relations or media. Here is a quick crash course in the social etiquette for approaching influencers and building brand advocates.

Don’t Waste Their Time

Most influencers protect coveted relationships with their audience and followers. That means if you are going to get them in your corner you need to make it about them, not you. We all love talking about what we do best, but to succeed in winning over influencers and brand advocates, keep your focus on helping them and their fans. Read up on what they are passionate about and think of ways you can make their life easier and further their cause. If you approach them with the idea of being a resource, instead of the idea of selling them on something, it will be easier to develop a working relationship that benefits you both in the future.

So how do you do that? First, don’t just go after influencers with the largest fan base. Smaller, micro influencers  may be a better fit for your niche products and services and give a big boost to your brand. In fact a recent study by Markerly shows that the larger the influencer the lower the engagement rates:

influencer marketing
Image Source: Markerly

Cater to Their (Content) Needs

If you still want to target larger influencers or media outlets, request the topics they are most interested in and ask for an editorial calendar so you can submit a pitch or a guest post at a time when it will truly help you target an influencer. Looking to reach multiple media influencers? Find out about media stories in progress through tools like Help a Reporter Out, a free service—best known as HARO–that matches reporters with sources. Besides traditional media, some larger blogs use the service, as well.

To avoid being seen as a pest, don’t submit pitches if you don’t fit an influencer’s requirements. For instance, if you’re responding to a HARO pitch asking for ideas for locally-made gifts from South Carolina artisans, don’t submit photos of your products if they are made in Los Angeles. Instead, look for a publication that is hunting for gifts made around the country or a LA publication looking for local gifts.

Make sure your email subject line tells the recipient exactly how the information you are sending will help them. For instance, for the query seeking gifts made in South Carolina, you might write a subject line like: December gift guide submission: Award-winning, South Carolina-made scarves that sell for less than $50.

Go The Extra Mile

Prepare resources ahead of time. Don’t expect an influencer to have the time to create descriptions, content and images about your product or service. Invest in having professional photos and videos created of your business or products, so you have them ready to go if an opportunity for publicity arises. Even if you don’t win media publicity at first, hiring a pro to create your wares is still a good investment. You’ll still be able to use the assets in your marketing campaigns.

A great way to get influencers and brand advocates engaged is by demonstrating how your products or services work and the benefits you deliver for their audience. To show value, get samples or trials of your products in their hands – and don’t forget to show appreciation for their time. Whether you are working with influencers or brand advocates, you need a neat influencer gifting strategy. Sending a gift card to their favorite coffee house or other personal gifts can be a great way to say thanks you for their support and efforts. Either way don’t be stingy with the freebies. If you want an influencer to promote or review your brand, give them the right resources and incentivize them.

Follow Up (But Don’t Be a Pest)

Once you connect with an influencer, follow up gracefully.  What if you send a pitch and get no response? Don’t take it personally. Many influencers get hundreds of pitches a week, and it probably got lost in the shuffle.

It’s fine to re-forward your pitch and say, “Just making sure you saw this.” If you still get crickets, then assume your pitch did not grab the influencer’s attention. Ask an objective colleague to take a look at it to see if your content really solves a problem or challenge for your influencers target audience. If not, make some tweaks and take a new angle-re-submitting your pitch with a fresh perspective.

Following up once or twice by phone is perfectly acceptable as well, but don’t stick a virtual foot in the door. If you get a no, ask if there is some other way you can help the influencer, and then move on gracefully, without arguing. You’ll have plenty more opportunities to grab influencers’ attention if you focus first and foremost on how you can be helpful.

Influencer marketing can play a major part in growing your brand and reaching your target audience. By using these simple etiquette tips to keep your manners in check, you stand a better chance of winning the hearts and minds of important brand ambassadors and influencers alike.