This year, let’s stop being lazy about relationship building

Some things you just want to get done, as quickly and easily as possible. Building relationships with the most influential thought leaders in your field, so they’ll tell people about you and you can learn from them, might not be one of those things, though.

The industry appears to be undergoing a shift from looking at influencer relations as something to invest minimal time in to making it a regular part of the work day.

The folks at Top Rank Marketing ran a year-end round-up of perspectives on what 2016 will bring for the field of Influencer Marketing and it was a delightful collection of smart people saying it’s time to dig in — not just skate on the surface!

Top Rank’s President, Susan Misukanis, put it like this: “We’ve had clients ask us to ‘give them an influencer list’ because penetrating influencer communities, they think, is the secret to an epic campaign. In fact, an influencer with a solid, on topic and active community presents nothing more than an opportunity. Like a match looking at a log. When a creative campaign ignites the influencer and community well, then meaningful participation can happen and opportunity is enhanced.”

That’s one way to look at it: focusing on the quality of the creative campaign.

Levels of time investment

Here’s another way to look at it.

Any task can be categorized in one of three ways: as an investment task, a maintenance task, or an optimization task.

Investment tasks are ones where the more you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it — potentially even exponential outcomes.

Maintenance tasks are more linear in the relationship between input and output — they’re things you’ve got to keep steady at doing consistently, but you don’t want to sink too much time into them because at a certain point there are diminishing returns.

Optimization tasks are the things you want to optimize for efficiency on, get them done with as little time and energy as needed.

I’d argue that many marketers have looked at influencer marketing as an optimization task: something to get over with, quickly and easily, with impersonal outreach leading with an ask, paid engagement only, etc. This shift toward understanding influencer marketing as relationship building that pays off over time, though, suggests that the work be understood as at least a maintenance task, if not an investment level task.

How to make influencer engagement a maintenance task

Let’s say you’ve decided you want to move influencer marketing from an optimization task to a maintenance task — what can you do, on a practical level?

Here are three tactics I’ve been using lately that have worked very well. Are these “just about minutes per day?” Maybe, but remember — we’re talking about moving this from optimization to maintenance. You don’t want to spend all your time doing this — but you don’t want to spend an absolute minimum, either.

Checklists

I’ve been using an iPhone checklist app to keep track of how often I’m engaging in conversations or with the content from some of the most important people in my work life. I’ve got a very short list of 5 people I try to contact weekly and a list of 10 others I try to be in touch with monthly. That might just be favoriting a Tweet so they remember I’m there, but it might be a phone call or email as our relationships allow.

Newsle

If you haven’t checked out Newsle (I pronounce it NEWS-el) you really should. It’s like Google Alerts for your LinkedIn and Facebook contacts. LinkedIn acquired it, so enjoy it while you can. It’s a great way to stay in regular contact with influential people. Connecting with people around their biggest moments is a really powerful way to build trust and good-will.

Little Bird

Little Bird doesn’t just discover influential people in any market, it also surfaces the hottest content those people are sharing each day and week. I’ve got a list of VIPs that I’ve uploaded into Little Bird and I’ve bookmarked the Hot Content page for that report. I can’t read everything those people share, but I want to make sure I don’t miss the big stuff.

It’s a networked world we’re living in, and every person or conversation discovered is an opportunity to do two things: either give to that other person or conversation, or give of that conversation to the rest of the network. Make connections, add value, keep the network live and fresh — that’s how you build and strengthen connections in a network and make yourself a valuable node in it. Those more value flows through you, the more you’ll have access too.

Those are some tactics, but it’s also about a mindset shift. This is something I’m really going to be working on in 2016 and if you want big results from the social web, I’d encourage you to consider your time and energy investment in relationship building as well.