Social Media Case Studies, Influencer Outreach

5 Ways to Open the Social Side Door and Build Relationships

Ian Greenleigh (@be3d) is a social media and content strategist. He’s writing a book titled The Social Side Door: How Social Media Has Rewritten the Rules of Access and Influence, and he works at Bazaarvoice in Austin, TX.

Social side doors are avenues of access and influence made possible by society’s adoption of social media. It has never been easier to avoid the gatekeepers and engage with decision makers in meaningful ways. It no longer makes sense to compete for attention by traditional means alone, or to stand in line for a chance to be heard. Social side doors are all around you. Here are five ways to open them.

1. Get there early.

Early adopters are given unique access to others. New tools and platforms tend to be more open and barrier-free, encouraging reciprocal communication. The basis of this engagement is shared interest in the medium; it has little to do with the status one has before she enters the new circle. New communications technologies tend to be democratic, access is open, and attention is earned. As more users arrive, some abuse the privilege, and access is constricted.  Think about all the technologies and personnel we use to block unwanted access by phone (including voicemail, DND and executive assistants). The circle grows; ease of access diminishes—so get there early!

2. Show up in unexpected places.

5 Ways to Open the Social Side Door

Even the best marketing emails, resumes and cold calls are given short shrift today, and it has more to do with the medium than the message. We’re trained to ignore these expected approaches.

Standing out through social is about making oneself known in an entirely different context. I learned just how effective this was when I took out a Facebook ad and targeted decision-makers at the company I currently work for, Bazaarvoice. My resume had been passed on by recruiters, but my ad caught the attention of a senior marketing exec that happened to be browsing Facebook and I soon had the job. Another effective tactic is to find out where the people you’re trying to get in front of go to learn, and who influences them. Leave thoughtful comments on these blogs, build relationships with their influencers, and eventually submit a guest post. If you do this well, you’ll be demonstrating your expertise as you build visibility—the killer combo of influence and access.

3. Write Rocket Content.

It never makes sense to focus only on the decision maker. They’re the ones with the highest barriers to access, and they’re quickest to say “no thanks” to outside approaches. That’s why you need to write kick-ass content that helps others in their decision ecosystem sell for you. The right content is irresistibly shareable, makes the person sharing it look great to those above them, influences at every rung of the ladder, and ultimately convinces those at the top to take you seriously as a vendor, job seeker, or whatever you’re going for. What I wrote in 2010 is still true, but let’s give it a social update: “If you can’t easily imagine your readers emailing [or tweeting, sharing, LinkedIn messaging, Chattering, Yammering] what you’re writing to their bosses, it’s probably not rocket content.”

4. Be three-dimensional.

“I’ll be interested if you’ll be interesting,” read a poster at this year’s SXSWi. People have more than one dimension, but they often choose just one boring, incomplete version of themselves to show the world. Social side doors open when your online presence truly conveys who you are—not just your area expertise and authority, but also your personality and values.

We like to do business with (and hire) people we genuinely like. Each touch point should convey some of who you are. When I was in sales, I found that people were far more interested in what I had to say after we had interacted through more than one medium. If we had tweeted, for example, they would reply to my emails more often, or pick up the phone when I called. When people associate the “from” line in an email or the name on their caller ID with someone they’ve had pleasant, authentic interactions with across social channels, that feeling cascades into other mediums and areas of conversation (like what you’re selling or why they should hire you).

5. Understand ego capital.

Normal people like to be praised and recognized, and that’s good news for you. Ego capital is, “anything that we feel will help us look better in front of others.”

Two things happen when ego capital is properly “served.” First, the subjects of your positive coverage tend to make themselves more accessible to you. If they know that you ask great interview questions that position them as an expert, you’ll have an easier time reengaging with them later. Second, they are extremely likely to share content that makes them look good, and they’ll often link to it as well.

The perfect person to reach out to is someone that is a highly-regarded authority on a subject with a large following of people in your target space. The most effective ways to leverage ego capital are quote requests and interviews. After all, who doesn’t want to have third-parties featuring them as experts in their respective field? And if it were you, wouldn’t you share it? (Perhaps you’d add #humblebrag to it, but you’d still share it, right?)

But ego capital can absolutely be abused. Always make sure you’re developing content that will actually be enriched by an expert quote or interview, and that it will still stand on its own if your request isn’t met. And don’t treat it like a numbers game, racking up as many expert quotes as you can cram into a blog post. Be selective with your ego capital, treat people with respect, and see what it does for you.

These are just a few of the ways to use the changing social landscape to build access and influence. What social side doors have you found in your life?

Facebook Comments


  1. MikeWilliamsPro says

    Ego Capital, I love that concept. It is a very true statement. Who doesn’t like to look good in front of others. Some of the newer bloggers are making waves by coming up with a awesome new concept or a old concept taught in a different and catching the eyes of a bigger blogger who shares the concept. Ego capital, great read.

    • be3d says

       @MikeWilliamsPro Thanks, Mike. It’s a powerful concept. But making someone feel good in a substantive way (beyond flattery) has always worked.

  2. mellissathomas says

    Great article, Ian. I think #2 is the most important point, especially for newer bloggers like myself. It’s a point I also learned from DannyIny’s book, “Engagement from Scratch”. Proactively bringing our content to our audience is the only way to be seen. In the words of JonMorrow: “it’s not who you know, it’s about who knows you.” And people don’t usually seek out who they don’t know.
    Thanks again for the great insight.

  3. KerryGorgone says

    @RonGreezy Hi! Agree with many of those points. Being 1st on the scene to a new platform pays dividends if it catches on. CC @mellissathomas

  4. m2lewand says

    It’s interesting that you mention the 3-dimension aspect to social media presence. My gut feeling tells me to follow your logic, although recently I read an article (I can’t find the source) where the author argued that building expertise is much more important on the web, and therefore any time spent on diversifying into other topics is wasted. What do you think about that logic? 

    • be3d says

       @m2lewand If the author meant that you should build expertise at the expense of building relationships, he couldn’t be *more* wrong. Expertise must have a platform to flourish. Even in the academic world, experts must network, attend functions, etc., to get research dollars and opportunities. 

      • m2lewand says

         @be3d What the author meant is that one should build relationships, however, one should not digress into different topics when posting content. For example, if you’re an ‘expert’ on social media strategy, you should refrain from posting content about politics or environmental issues, and rather focus on content directly related to your expertise. 

  5. SocialGamePlan says

    Great content as always.  The ego-capital subject is particularly interesting…I need to look more into that.  Seems like a cool concept that could be helpful in the future.

  6. says

    Great article, I like your point on letting others sell for you. Also being yourself and letting that piece come out. Great advice and things to ponder on.

  7. ChrisQueso says

    You’re the second person in as many days to mention taking out ads to land your ideal job. Excellent post Ian from a fellow Texan (born and raised in Houston).

    • be3d says

      @ChrisQueso It’s an effective tactic- and pretty cheap, all things considered. I’m only a Texan by residence, not by birth. But I love it!

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