Not too long ago, The Peekskill Coffee House (run by yours truly) sent out a tweet to its nearly 200 followers (a modest number, for sure) that read, "We finally won something! Thanks@PeekskillPatch." Having just recently been awarded the Reader's Choice Award for favorite coffee shop in the Peekskill Patch (to stiff competition, no less), the coffee house's tweet was then retweeted by Senator Greg Ball's Twitter account to his over 3,000 followers, turning a seemingly innocuous message into an incredibly powerful source of branding.
But it wasn't as if this was some sort of random, unsolicited response to something that the campaign team at Greg Ball's headquarters found especially interesting or relevant that day. It was the indirect result of a relationship that was built up over the course of months of interactions between Greg Ball and The Peekskill Coffee House, and something that eventually resulted in that particular retweet.
And it is inherently that factor -- the capability to foster relationships -- which makes social media such a valuable, important tool for businesses and people alike.
Still, it's important to recognize that develop those relationships doesn't simply happen overnight. It takes time, patience, some luck, and a lot of commitment in order to foster real relationships with influential individuals through Twitter.
But here are a few ways that local brands and businesses can get influential individuals to interact with them through social media.
Stay on Top of Local News
Chances are, if you live around Peekskill and the Westchester County, there are plenty of available news sources for you to peruse on a weekly basis, like the Peekskill Patch, the Peekskill Daily Voice, Westchester Magazine, or one of the other various hyper-local newspapers available in print or on the web.
Beyond that, setting up Google alerts for relevant news articles in your area -- i.e. for Peekskill or Westchester -- can help you quickly collect (and digest) important news articles in the morning before you begin your day.
Staying on top of all of those big announcements will help you anticipate what the important events are that may be coming up within the next few weeks, and will help you brainstorm ways in which you can leverage those events in order to foster stronger relationships with your target audiences.
Be Active Within the Local Community
Here, active doesn't necessarily mean that a business has to go to every local rotary club event, attend every town hall meeting, or sign every local petition.
That said, being 'active' does imply that you're contributing to the local community in some positive way. Whether that means hosting local artists or musicians at your respective venue, sponsoring a little league team or simply selling event calendars for a local charity, getting noticed by the big influencers within your community does take some additional effort beyond simply being there. Influencers are looking to interact with businesses that are not only seen as popular, but also influential and impactful within their respective communities.
In most cases, these influencers are trying to develop partnerships with businesses that they can later leverage to build support for their message. Embrace that.
Don't Be Afraid to Interact With Those Influencers
Though some might construe it as annoying, or perhaps invasive, contacting those influencers directly through social media is a great way to take the first step towards developing a relationship between your brand and that individual. Twitter is perhaps the best medium with which to do so, solely based on the way in which the network (and the information that flows through it) is structured. On Twitter, anyone can connect with anyone.
So contact those influencers directly, asking for their support, or to simply strike up conversation regarding a local event. A note of caution: Have something valuable to contribute or ask. Nobody likes spam, and they definitely don't enjoy empty conversation presented as a shallow attempt at stirring up free advertising.
Be interesting, be active, and, most importantly, be transparent. If you're trying to get something out of someone -- like a retweet, or a share -- tell them.
Find the individuals that are the most active on social media, and the most influential within your local community, and simply connect with them like they're normal people because 99% of the time, they are normal people.
And then at that point, once you've developed authentic relationships with your audience and those influencers, getting retweeted by someone like Greg Ball won't even matter. Seriously. The level of engagement you'll be getting from your regular audience will be so substantial that even a retweet from a hugely influential local community member will still only be a small blip on the radar.
Now a retweet from someone like Kanye West, on the other hand? That's something entirely different.
How do you foster relationships with key influencers in your local community?
Michael Kilcoyne is the Marketing Director at 360W3, a Westchester County-based online marketing company. You can read more from Michael Kilcoyne at 360w3.com/blog