Find the right people to spread the word, and your startup will market itself.

By Sarah Pike (Community Outreach Coordinator, BusinessBee)

So you’ve got your startup off the ground. Now you need to let the world know about it.

One of the most effective, strategic ways to help grow and market your business is through your influencer marketing. This could be a blog, online community or social channel – but before diving off into the world of online marketing and promotion, you need to identify and utilize the right online influencers for your business and industry.

First, make sure your business is ready for an online community. Setting up a social channel or blog just to have one won’t benefit your business.

Identify the specific goals and objectives of both your business and what you want from an online community. Be sure to balance both general goals, like creating a safe, fun place for people interested in your business to connect, with specific goals related to company growth, sales and profits.

The next step is to understand which online influencers make the most sense for your company. Influencers have the ability to change the behavior of your target audience and drive action often more than your company can on its own.

Finding the Right Online Influencers

Finding online influencers in your industry can be as simple as an online search for “top fashion bloggers.” You can also use more sophisticated methods like social media listening tools, which help you identify who is speaking the most and the best about your particular subject.

The National Mushroom Council reached out to popular dad blog, Ask Your Dad, to join them in a “Shroomtember” event where dad bloggers shared their best mushroom recipes for a whole month. It might not be obvious that there’s an influencer link between dad bloggers and mushrooms, but Ask Your Dad blogger, John, cooked up some burgers and the post was a hit.

One of the best ways to find out if an influencer is right for your business, is to join the community you’re interested in partnering with. This will give you an inside look at their social media reach (number of followers), the level of engagement in the community (are conversations active and lively?), and the quality of the content.

The last thing you want to do is align yourself with an influencer who won’t represent the quality of your company.

Connecting with Online Influencers

Once you’ve identified a blogger or community you’d like to work with, you need to make a connection. The first step is joining their online community and participating regularly. (Your first contact with an influencer shouldn’t be an ask.)

Follow them on their social media channels, comment on and share one of their posts, and participate in a Twitter chat here and there. After a few weeks (or months!), reach out to them and inquire about ways to collaborate.

It’s about community, so you want to give them opportunities to promote and share their work while they are spreading the word about yours. The entertainment team at and actress Mara Marini – known for her role as Brandi Maxxxx on NBC’s Parks and Recreation – partnered for a Skype interview, which Mara shared on her social accounts to promote her appearances on the final Parks and Rec episodes, also giving some extrea exposure to the TV blog.

Participate regularly in online conversations, join virtual groups and position yourself as a valuable resource in your industry. This will open the door for you to seek out promising partnerships.

Creating a Relationship That Lasts

Once you’ve established trust and developed a relationship, you need to keep it going. It’s too easy for something to be all the rage on the internet today and completely forgotten tomorrow. Don’t let that happen to your business. These relationships need to go both ways.

Take online fashion sensation Aimee Song, who first made a splash as an every-girl fashionista on Instagram.

Her following and influence led online retailers and lifestyle brands POPSUGAR and Piperlime to team up with Aimee for her fresh perspective, fun voice and unique take on fashion. In return, she’s been named a Guest Editor for Piperlime, which adds to her resume and gives Piperlime the street cred Aimee’s presence offers.

You can offer similar perks through an Advisory Panel that features hand-selected experts or bestowing the honor of being an ambassador for your business or product. Establishing a role that comes with respect and authority is mutually beneficial. And never overlook the impact of a thoughtful, thank you gift; be sure to include items and tidbits that keep your business in mind and communicate that you truly value their influence on your company.

There’s no denying the exposure your startup can get by teaming up with the right online influencers. Use your company’s overall mission and goals to identify the right bloggers and communities to reach out to, and tend to these crucial relationships just as you would any other important facet of your business.

Being savvy when it comes to online influencers can be the difference between barely getting by and rocketing to superstar status.

Which online influencers do you admire?

Photo credit: Yeamake via Shutterstock.