When it comes to building your business, the best kind of party to have is a third-party endorsement. Sounds silly, I know—but the thought behind it is 100% serious.

In our social media-driven world, it’s possible to connect with third parties who will speak on behalf of your business and advocate for your brand. I’m speaking specifically about unpaid endorsements, no-strings-attached advocacy in which third parties organically come to know and like your business and choose to share the good news with their social networks.

Third parties can be just about anyone relevant to your flooring retail biz: in-store customers/walk-ins, non-competing businesses or brands (including the makers of the products you sell), design bloggers, as well as industry pros such as interior designers and installers who rely on your products and services. Of course, the more influential the third parties—and by “influential” I mean have lots of followers on social media, the more powerful their advocacy will be.

What’s to gain in getting “in” with the in-crowd of social influencers? The potential benefits are vast. Here’s a quick list.

  • Sales and Repeat Business - the chance to attract new customers, build relationships and land their loyalty and repeat business; new customers may be the influencers themselves or their like-minded connections on social media who often fit within the same, desirable demographic.
  • Online Reviews - the collection of positive testimonials for Facebook, Houzz, Yelp, Google, your website, etc.
  • Shareables - the sharing of social posts that reach uniquely targeted audiences and may then be re-shared by you and others to increase brand awareness/interest.
  • Photo Gathering - increased likelihood of photos being captured and shared that feature the products you sell, as well as increased opportunity to gather those pictures for your own purposes.

Mind you, getting “in” with influencers does not harken to high school days; this is about digital clicks, not teenage cliques! It’s well worth your time, strategy and effort. Put these ideas for influential relationship building into action, and hopefully you’ll learn firsthand just what I mean.

Up Your Show House or Parade of Homes Participation

Think “influencer connections” when planning your participation in a regional show house or parade of homes event.

Don’t let organizers randomly assign you to a space or pair you with a designer willy-nilly; step ahead in the process so you can align with influencers.

  • Ask upfront for a list of participating designers/builders.
  • Do your homework on the list provided to see how these pros use social media.
  • Look at the number of followers on all social platforms, check frequency of their posts and how recently they’ve posted, and assess the nature of their posts (do they only self-promote or do they give shout-outs to friends and brands?).
  • Review their websites to see how they brand their businesses and check out the quality of their work, as well as determine if they maintain blogs.
  • Don’t see the right influencers on the list? Suggest a designer or builder that you know does great work and has lots of influence online.
  • Follow and engage with all participants for the event across your social platforms. That way, all the right connections will be established in advance of milestones, making tagging and interactions more simple along the way.

Once you’ve orchestrated your place and pairing for an event, make the experience exceptional for the influencer you’re working with. Blend wonderful “in real life” interactions into opportunities for online engagement.

  • Take the lead, sharing posts to launch online banter and get the influencer ‘talking.’ Create posts in advance of the event sharing the great news about working with the pro.
  • Write a blog post that puts the spotlight on the designer or builder.
  • Be sure your event partner has all the right social media handles and hashtags you’d like them to include when he or she posts about the collaboration.
  • Like and comment appropriately on just about everything your partner posts on social media. Engage not only about the show house or event, but express interest in all the things she’s sharing and working on.

During and after the event, continue the good will and excitement.

  • Write reviews on all relevant social accounts such as Facebook and Houzz, referencing the positive experience shared for the show house or special event. Invite reciprocal reviews.
  • Share and share alike. Provide your partner any photos you took or collected during the event. Repost, retweet, regram and share her social content whenever possible.
  • In addition to offering thanks online, send a note of appreciation and a gift. This kind gesture is the right thing to do and deepens the root system of relationships.
  • Extend the VIP treatment. Offer to work with the partner on other projects and ensure that your staff is on the ready to assist with future endeavors.

Go National to Find Local Connections

A great way to identify and connect with valuable influencers in your area is to tap into sources at a national level first. Brands and other entities with national reach often have social media programs and insights that can be useful on local levels.

Make direct connections with the people who manage social media endeavors for the brands you sell. Social leaders at the brand level may have already done the heavy lifting in identifying top connections in your area. Find and communicate one-on-one with these folks to ask about who they may “know” through social media in your area and request introductions. In the process, make sure your local biz becomes known to the national brand; they will likely be inspired to engage even more with you online as a result.

Find Twitter chats that may attract influencers you want to know, and use those opportunities to introduce your biz. A good chat to check out is the Kitchen and Bath Tribe Chat—@kbtribechat and #kbtribechat on Twitter—that happens Wednesdays from 2 to 3 p.m. EST. Designers and brands from nationwide and beyond gather for these topical chats; if you find a designer in your area who’s participating, it’s reasonable that they might be socially savvy and a potential influencer worth knowing. (If you’re curious about how Twitter chats work and how to participate, connect with me via my website; see link at end of article.)

Be a keen observer of who’s participating in national design-related events so that you might find a local pro with a national platform. Who’s speaking at trade shows and association conferences? Who’s being selected for show houses sponsored by national media outlets such as Traditional Home or Coastal Living? Who’s participating in Modenus’ Blog Tours (modenus.com) or attending the annual Design Bloggers Conference (design-bloggers-conference.com)? Sometimes the biggest influencers skip the smaller, local events to put their energies into higher profile opportunities.

Invite Influencers

Be bold, and bring influencers into your fold.

  • If you’re hosting an event, invite influencers to attend—even if they’re not yet customers. Tag them in social posts and event photos to spark online engagement.
  • Looking for a speaker for a lunch and learn? Ask an influencer. You’ll benefit from all the social and online posting she’ll surely do to promote her participation to her followers.
  • Invite influential guest bloggers to write for your website. You’ll get more traffic to these blog posts because of the already-engaged audiences the influencers bring to the mix.
  • Consider trade-outs with select interior designers. In some instances, it may be worthwhile to contribute products to high profile projects at no or reduced cost with the caveat being that the designer provide a prescribed number of social posts, blog content, or other shareable media that you may use indefinitely. This can be a great approach, so contact me via my website (link below) if you need guidance on how to do it right.

Need more insights on the ins and outs of connecting with influencers? The digital marketing consultant is in! Contact me at msg2mkt.com/blog for ideas and guidance for your biz.