The digital world is an interesting place. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that you’re interacting with humans rather than digital entities that have profile pictures. Content marketing isn’t just about marketing content, it’s about creating content thats drives emotions and connects humans.
Building relationships is one of the most overlooked elements to a strong content marketing strategy. During the last few years I’ve built relationships with publishers, media contributors, and CEOs of fortune 500 companies. Using those experiences, I’ve outlined 6 important steps to building a healthy online relationship that will impact your content marketing efforts:
Define Your Goals
Building relationships based on goals isn’t about finding people to exploit, it’s about creating mutually beneficial connections. You should know why you’re reaching out to someone before taking a social leap. Here are some goals to consider:
- Build relationships with publishers to diversify content dissemination
- Build relationships with CEOs and other executives to have them contribute content (videos, blog articles, interviews) to your site
- Build relationships with influential people within your industry to leverage their social clout
- Build relationships with journalist to get the inside scoop on your industry and competitors
Defining goals will help guide your relationship-building efforts and help avoid wasting people’s time.
Identify Key Players
Your goals will largely impact with whom you decide to engage. Setting parameters is an important part of identifying key players. For example when I seek influential people I look at their Twitter, Google +, and LinkedIn profiles. I then dig into their followings, engagement (how they interact with their community), and published content. This helps indicate, to me, their impact’s depth and scope on the web. I’ve also created internal benchmarks (e.g. must have at least 5,000 Twitter followers, etc.) that help homogenize and streamline my efforts.
Identifying potential impactful relationships can be a little tricky. If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend simply conducting a Google search with your goal’s targeted keywords. For example, if you’re trying to connect with journalist in finance, search for “Finance Journalist” in Google. Additionally there are tools like Buzzsumo that are designed to help people discover key influencers based on keywords, topics, and industries.
Choose Your Channel of Outreach
Some people can be extremely difficult to reach. Choosing the right channel with help increase your chances of connecting. I recommend choosing channels that are a little more intimate over highly public conversations like Twitter. Here are some channels to consider that are organized from most to least personal:
In person. In rare cases there may be opportunities to connect at conventions and other meetings.
Skype or Google Hangouts. Skype and Google Hangouts are an awesome way to connect face to face.
Telephone. Numbers can be procured through personal and company websites and are sometimes listed on social profiles like LinkedIn.
Email. Like telephone numbers, email addresses can be found on both company and personal websites and are often listed on social profiles like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Private messaging. Social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn allow users to send private messages. Simply find the person within a social network and send them a message.
Public messaging. Each social networks has its own system for public messaging. You may choose to Tweet, comment, or leave a status on your target’s social profile. Each situation is different, but I highly recommend selecting a more personal approach when trying to connect with high profile people.
Connect in a Meaningful Way
Now it’s time to decide what you’re actually going to say. This may be the most important step in building a business relationship. Often times we forget that building a relationship online runs on almost the same principles as building a relationship offline. Humans have an incredible capacity to detect unauthentic and disingenuous behaviors. That’s why it’s so important to be truly interested in the person with whom you’re reaching out. In your first outreach effort I recommend including the following:
Building a relationship online runs on almost the same principles as building a relationship offline.
- Explanation of why your contacting them
- Questions about them, their brand, and/or their products
- A brief introduction to yourself and what you do
Here’s an excellent example of an outreach message I received on LinkedIn from an incredible photographer:
Thanks for adding me. It’s always good to connect with new creatives in the area. I just checked out your web page. The presence is impressive, and I was surprised to see such an advanced and relevant presence here. I really like the aesthetic and business model.
I would like to meet you in person, seeing as we are only a few miles away. I have a new portfolio book being printed up and delivered on friday, would you like to meet and have a look Next week?
You’re first outreach message should be used as an opportunity to lay the foundation of your relationship.
If You Want Something Just Ask
Once you’ve established a connection, all you have to do is ask.
Asking for something becomes extremely easy, when you’ve laid the correct foundation. Remember your first outreach was used to simply introduce yourself and learn more about the other person. Robert Cialdini author of Influence: Science and Practice wrote, “People are more likely to agree to offers from people whom they like.” Once you’ve established a connection, all you have to do is ask. Your goals should direct what you actually ask for from your connections.
Giving back is one of the most integral parts of maintaining a flourishing online relationship. Maintaining a solid relationship relies on the law of reciprocity. The law of reciprocity states that people feel obliged to return favors offered to them. Some of the driving factors of reciprocity include:
- People have a general desire to appear consistent in their behavior
- People generally look to other people similar to themselves when making decisions
- People often act in an automated fashion to commands from authority, even if their instincts suggest the commands should not be followed
- People tend to want things as they become less available
With the law of reciprocity in mind it’s important to focus on providing value to your new connections. Value can come in many shapes and forms such as:
- Contributing content to your connection
- Providing product or small services
- Publishing your connection’s content on your social networks
- Introducing your connection to other partners or leads
Your relationship should be mutually beneficial in order to last. Relationships play an incredibly important role in content marketing strategies. Use these tips above to help kickstart your relationship building efforts.