Don’t Reach Out To Influencers “Just Because…”

I read a lot of blogs and articles on the topic of blogging. I would, since I write about it all the time. Something I keep coming across these days is this topic of “influencers” and how to reach out to them to help you gain traction and influence yourself.

Heather Saffer and Me

Heather Saffer & Me

I’ve never been one to go out of my way to connect with someone I felt was influential. Though I’m connected to a few people who could be said to be influential, there’s only one person I’m connected to who I followed first, on Twitter; all the others followed me before I decided to follow them back.

I take pride in that fact, but I also take pride in the fact that I’ve never reached out to any of them with the express purpose of doing so to try to promote myself or to get anything from any of them. Well… let me back up briefly on this statement because I actually did it one time… but there was a qualifier on it.

Back in 2008 Guy Kawasaki was looking for a few people to help him edit his book Reality Check. I knew who he was but didn’t really know a lot about him, but thought it would be fascinating to help out and get an early read. I contacted him saying I’d be honored to help out, and within the hour I was on my way helping him with the edits… which had to be completed in a day!

Some months later I received a copy of the book in the mail that he’d autographed; that was pretty cool! Around that same time he’d started a news aggregator site called Alltop. I sent him an email, mentioning who I was and asked if I could get my business blog listed on the site under the heading of leadership blogs… and he acquiesced! That was cool also! The coolest thing was learning years later that my name is actually in the book I helped edit; oh yeah! 😀

That’s the one time I reached out to an influencer for anything… but I felt justified in doing it. What makes my doing so different than the norm I’m reading about these days?

Because I’d actually done something for the influencer without thinking about how it could benefit me later on. I wanted to help and thought it would be fun to read his book before anyone else, never thinking my name might be included in a book I didn’t write or expecting anything else. I benefited later on, but my initial intentions were pure… well, other than wanting to read his book for free (which I do all the time around here; check out Rasheed Hooda’s book).

I often talk about the lack of effort people who want to have guest posts on a blog do beforehand, which irks the heck out of me. I hate form letters the most because all of them obfuscate by telling me how it’s going to benefit me to have the article without mentioning how it’s going to help them more.

I only accept sponsored posts on a couple of my blogs and I’ve had some of these people, who are willing to pay initially, get incensed when I “dare” mention that whoever writes the post has to respond to any comments the article gets… are you kidding me? One of my pet peeves is seeing blog owners not responding to comments (see #7). If someone writes a guest post on a topic I don’t know all that well, it can’t be me responding to any comments; writers need to do it. Years ago I wrote a guest post for Ileane Smith (she asked me lol), and not only did I go out of my way to make it an epic post but I responded to every comment… and there were a lot of them!

Back to the topic at hand. I don’t support reaching out to influencers for your benefit. If your intentions aren’t pure, then what’s the point? This doesn’t mean you should never reach out to them; just have a reason for doing it.

One way is to comment on their blogs if they have them. Another way is to comment on things they write in places like Twitter. Trust me, if what you have to say is intriguing enough, they may take the time to check you out to see what you’re all about. That’s a much better strategy than hounding them, trying to break them down so they can help you grow your audience. You’ll feel better about yourself if you don’t look desperate… believe me, they’ve seen it all already.

These are just my thoughts on the subject; what are your feelings on this topic?

16 thoughts on “Don’t Reach Out To Influencers “Just Because…””

  1. This is true, and I also agree. There’s a time and place for everything. I’m sure that even if one project doesn’t work out that another will, just be careful with how you approach the other artist and make sure you give them the respect that they deserve

    1. I’m with you there Patrick. People should give before they try to get, but it’s better if they’re giving because they want to, not because they want something in return. It might happen anyway. 🙂

  2. Hi Mitchell, great topic. I like to get to know them first – by reading their content and commenting on their blogs. IF they don’t respond to comments I usually move on. I also share a lot of their stuff on Twitter and such and if no response I move on.
    I like helping others in that way and sometimes it doesn’t matter if they are a super star or a newbie.
    Some people you can connect with and chat – like I do with you Mitch. I love that kind of connection online with others. You get to know them.
    But to connect just to connect is too phony for me, it’s like being a brown nose at work offline. Not I!
    My philosophy is keep it simple and keep it real.
    Very cool about how you helped Guy. I just noticed traffic this a.m. from Alltop still. It’s been around quite some time now.
    I hope you have a nice day Mitchell!

    1. Good stuff Lisa. I’m more apt to look at the website/blog of someone I just met than go searching for someone who’s a big name. Not that big names don’t garner attention; there were a few people who got some unwanted attention by going after Lebron James for something he said… on HIS Twitter page… that way more people agreed with than what they had to say. Yet, I’m not connected to him in any way, and I can’t imagine doing so “just because” he’s the top basketball player in the world at the present moment.

      I like your philosophy: “Keep it simple and keep it real.” I might have to steal that. 🙂

  3. Hi Mitch,

    Wow what a great share. I sure you had learned so much editing that book of Guy’s. That’s where people get confused. We can call him an “influencer” because of the fine work he does. But if we are not into that niche, why even bother to connect?

    Reaching out to “influencers” has become the latest craze. I’ve always reached out to folks that I found interesting, weather they are influencers or beginners. Once David said to me “Do you know who that guy is you are chatting with?” Yes, I replied and gave him the name. No No….he is the top guy of (I’ll leave this blank) but we had so much to work together with, I didn’t care.

    Glad you brought up this topic. Maybe now I don’t have to trash so many comments in my back office lol.


    1. LOL! If you get too many of those comments send them the link to this post. 🙂 A funny thing is a friend of mine is connected to some formerly famous people and he had no idea until I mentioned it to him. I think that’s more intriguing than anything else.

  4. Mitch, with you on this philosophy. This medium gives us plenty of opportunity to reach out to interesting people and not just to influencers. That would be such a waste to engage only for that reason. Love that you decided to do the edit just for the fun and experience
    When you so things in that spirit lots of good things can and do happen. Surprises are fun.

    1. Thanks Margaret. It was a fun book to edit, and maybe I’m a bit naive but I never expected to get a free autographed copy later on. At the same time, if I didn’t think my leadership blog was worthy of being with the big guns I’d have never thought to ask… as I never asked for this blog to be listed on the site (at the time I really didn’t know what the focus of this blog was going to be, but it was way more popular lol).

      I love engaging with people who seem… I’m not sure of the word I want to use so I’ll go with interesting. Not saying influencers aren’t interesting but they’re less likely to talk to you than others would.

  5. Even if your intention is to ask for something in return, you just shouldn’t do it. It would make sense in almost any other social setting to offer before you ask for something. Practice proper etiquette!!!

  6. I hear what you’re saying, but when reaching out to an influencer, aren’t you always going to have somewhat of an agenda. Why not take some risks? You will never do it with completely pure intentions, right?

    1. Mainly because it irritates the people you reach out to, which could end up hurting you more in the end. People get wary and they have long memories.

      I actually didn’t have any intentions when I first reached out to Kawasaki, but once the book showed up in my email I was happy to be reading it before almost anyone else. I just wanted to help out, and it worked out for me later on, with a very minor request that probably took him less than 15 seconds to do.

  7. I’m with you, and I rarely go out of my way to meet or try to influence influencers. I am in facebook group where I’ve met a few naturally via the interactions and helping bloggers with their questions.

    1. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it? 🙂 I’m not gonna lie, it’d be cool to be able to say “I know so-and-so” on a regular basis but I don’t want to abuse it nor strive for it unless they come up to me first.

  8. Absolutely agree – it is hard enough to find the time to write to people and engage in conversations where you are trying to get something out of them – imagine being on the other end with no obvious upside to you! That’s very cool that you edited Guy Kawasaki’s book too – and its a great example of a genuine connection for a specific purpose. Good stuff!

    1. Thanks Dane. Yup, you get it; those folk always have someone trying to get something out of them for their own benefit. No wonder so many of them can’t figure out who to trust.

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