Influencing the influencer.

Ninety-two percent of people report they trust social media, word-of-mouth, and recommendations from friends and family, over all other forms of advertising, according to Nielsen. That’s some powerful insight for pretty much any kind of business, because everyone wants – or rather, needs – to be part of that conversation.

The answer is influencer outreach. It’s a one-to-one communications tactic that’s gained traction in recent years as companies recognize the need to connect with key bloggers and social media personalities who have a genuine following that hangs on their every word.

Once an outreach goal is set and a target audience is identified, the real work starts. Here are just a few items to keep in mind when it comes to crafting a successful influencer outreach pitch.

Do your homework.
This is the most important and most time consuming piece of any outreach effort. Much like traditional media relations, you must create a targeted contact list, and there are several tools for doing so. One such is Cision, which allows users to search a specific topic or set of keywords, and then select influencers who are likely to be interested in a client’s product, message, or movement.

Visit each influencer’s blog, website, and social channels and make thorough notes in your list regarding their job, hobbies, and interests. Read through several posts (old and new) to get a feel for their personality and topics covered. Also use the blog’s search function to see if they mention any keywords relevant to your pitch.

If they seem like a fit, put their blog or website URL into Alexa for a glance at their web stats and traffic. Keep in mind that having a larger audience size isn’t as important as having the right audience. Don’t think you have to aim for top-tier or celebrity bloggers to make an impact. Mid-level bloggers may have a smaller following, but are more accessible and may have more influence over their tight-knit audience.

And finally, read their advertising policy. If they are not open to receiving pitches or product samples, take them off your list.

Make it personal.
Once your influencer list is vetted and finalized, it’s time to draft your pitch. Take everything you know and personalize your email with information that speaks to the recipient personally. Did they write a post that you enjoyed reading? Tell them so. Do they have a day job? Email them after business hours. Sending a customized email will give you a better chance at receiving a response and building a long-lasting relationship.

Add value.
Your pitch should be beneficial to both sides. Value doesn’t necessarily mean compensation or free products (though this is a common practice). Value can also be content that focuses on a topic that’s important to the influencer or enhances a post they’re currently writing. It’s even better if that content is not entirely focused on gain for your product or company. Think: infographics, videos, images, tips, exclusive previews, etc. Influencers are constantly searching for information that will entertain, engage, and motivate their followers – if your company can help them create content, you’re providing them with a positive service. And that means they’ll be more willing to promote you along the way.

Say thanks.
Whether or not an influencer responds to your pitch, thank them for their time and consideration. Running a blog or popular social page is a 24/7 job and most of these influencers do it in addition to another full-time job. Show your appreciation for considering your request. Who knows, they might be interested in working with you down the line. Being polite, courteous, understanding, and patient could lay the groundwork for a future relationship.