How to Engage Influencers on LinkedIn

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If you engage with the right people, LinkedIn can be an incredibly useful tool for any nonprofit. Using it to open up communications with influencers (and even volunteers) before you actually need them is time well spent. That way, when it comes to getting an important post shared or securing a guest-speaker for a fundraising event, you’ve already done the groundwork and it makes the “ask” easy.

Here’s how to get started:

Create an influencer list

LinkedIn has a core of verified influencers (made up of politicians, company founders, CEOs and news editors) but we’re not going to be talking about those. Instead, we’re talking about your in

fluencers — the people who already have the ear of your target audience. In order to find them, you’ll need to start joining groups. If you don’t, your search is restricted to 1st and 2nd connections. To get started, select the “group” option and type in your keywords. I’m going with “animal welfare” as my example:

You’re looking for large, active, open communities like this one.

Once you’re a member, you’ll have access to thousands more people when you do an advanced search. The nature of the group will determine their relevance to you, so there’s no point joining groups about animals if your focus is elsewhere.

As you can see, half of these filters are only available to Premium users. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to search successfully, it just means it might take you longer.

The “Keywords”, “Industry” and “Location” fields are of most interest to you. If you used vague keywords for your group search, you can be much more specific when searching for individual influencers, as you already know they’re interested in (for this example) animal welfare. When you find people who look like they could influence your target audience, create a list of folks you eventually want to add as a connection. But first, let’s reach out and warm that relationship:

Interact with influencers

Make an effort to be active in those groups you just joined — start conversations, join in on conversations (in a way that advances them), and make yourself known there. Today’s casual group interaction with a friendly like-minded person, may be tomorrow’s Executive Director at a relevant nonprofit or funding source!

Back to that list of potential new connections – try this:

  • Respond meaningfully to their posts
  • Share their posts
  • Avoid endorsing them for skills, unless you have knowledge of said skills. It might get their attention, but it will also look like you’re desperate.
  • “Like” the occasional profile update (just not their picture, or they might think you’re being friendly for the wrong reasons!). Job and skills updates are fine. Comments congratulating them show you care.

As with anything, moderation is key. Once you’ve interacted a bit, add this person as a connection. And be sure you don’t cross that fine line between connecting and comment-spamming their page, as that might get you deleted or have them remembering you for the wrong reasons. If these people are influential to your target audience, they’re probably very busy and very smart, so a flattery assault isn’t going to work, but a sincere connection will undoubtedly be appreciated.

Reap the benefits

When you need a favor — a quote for your latest article, or one of your posts shared, or somebody to give a talk at an event — you will not be in a much better position to ask. You won’t be cold-calling or interacting out of the blue, with an obvious “ask” in mind, so you’re much more likely to get a positive response – and help grow that relationship!

Readers: what are your experiences with using LinkedIn for building relationships with influencers? Any must/must not type tips to share? Please do!

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