By its very definition, crowdfunding relies on a large group of people to fund a project. But when you’re starting a new project, how do you find your “crowd”?

That’s where high-quality relationships with strong social media influencers becomes important.

Who Are Social Media Influencers?

Social media influencers are your crowd leaders. They’re trusted, credible voices that lead the conversation and drive action within their networks and communities. A strong relationship with your influencers translates into strong relationships with your target audience, ultimately leading to a successful crowdfunding campaign.

But who are influencers on a more practical level? Small Business Trends has identified five types of influencers online:

  1. The Social Butterflies. Social Butterflies are the people that seem to know everyone. Because of their large network, they have a wide reach, making them valuable when it comes to getting the word out about your campaign.
  2. The Thought Leaders. Thought Leaders are the ones your target audiences trust the most. Partnering with Thought Leaders boosts your authority, and by connecting with them you’ll have access to their loyal networks. Having Thought Leaders retweet your tweets or blog about your campaign is remarkably beneficial.
  3. The Trendsetters. Trendsetters are the early adopters. They’re always looking for the next big thing to share with others. If you give them the scoop on your campaign, they’re likely to blast it out to their followers.
  4. The Reporters. The Reporters are the key bloggers, reporters and news outlets in your industry. Connecting with reporters gets you press, coverage and links. In the age of digital marketing, reaching out to the Reporters is typically most effective when it is done through a mixture of social media and traditional public relations.
  5. The Everyday Customer. The Everyday Customer typically has a smaller reach than the other influencers on this list, but their influence is strong. When influencers in this group find something they like, they’re likely to share it with their friends and family, further extending your network and leveraging potential backers.

Finding Your Influencers

Understanding the importance of connecting with influencers on social media is fairly simple – but how do you determine who your influencers are?

Consider using the following tactics as you compile your list of influencers:

  • Take a look at your industry. Identify key players, thought leaders and other “big names.”
  • Utilize websites like Topsy.com to search and analyze tweets and socially shared content.
  • Use tools such as hoosaid.com to find the Twitter handles for leaders on any subject.
  • Create your own Twitter lists and subscribe to others’ lists.

Ultimately, good old fashioned research is most important when it comes to building a list of influencers. Take the time to analyze your competitors’ social media, search for articles and blogs relevant to your industry, run a Twitter search for industry keywords, and analyze your audience to see who is interested in your campaign.

Connecting With Your Influencers

Keep in mind that influencers are people and should be treated as such. The goal is to build meaningful connections – you aren’t plugging an algorithm into a machine.

When connecting with influencers, make sure you’re approaching those who would be genuinely interested in your project. If they’re interested in your campaign, rather than just potential perks, they’ll be much more likely to bring organic growth.

As you interact with potential influencers, remember that engagement goes both ways. Consider sharing their content – engaging with them this way often leads to network building. Once you have a relationship with your influencers, educate them about your campaign, ask them to engage with your target audience and share your campaign, and consider giving them exclusive offers and perks in exchange for their leverage.

Above all, make sure you appreciate your influencers. Publicly thank them for their help on your website, blog or social media platforms – not only is this the polite thing to do, but it also encourages them to work with you in the future.