It’s (really) hard to sell something when people don’t know who you are.
Even with name recognition, chances are you’re not a known commodity. To achieve that, you need to couple brand awareness with trust. Enter: influencers.
If your product or service has been around forever and remained insanely consistent, like Coca-Cola, this trust may come naturally. In most other cases, you’ll need to connect to external influencers, who are already trusted by the prospect audiences in your industry, to widen your reach.
Today, people tend to disregard information that comes directly from a company. Rather, they prefer to hear opinions from friends, colleagues or independent experts – who they deem credible. There are a number of ways to connect and leverage the credibility of influencers, and below I’ve outlined a few.
Step 1: How to Identify Influencers
How do you find the right influencers in your industry? What would have taken serious leg work and research in times past is now just matter of clicks. For this we owe our thanks to 3 tools: Google, BuzzSumo and Twitter.
Using Google to Quickly Find Thought Leaders.
Before you start looking for influencers, make a list of company-related keywords. Not just industry buzzwords, but the keywords that describe your company’s expertise.
Start by using Google Trends to understand which terms are most frequently used to describe your product or service. Limit the date range to the past year, and scroll down to “Related searches” to find additional keywords that are trending in reasonable volume within your target market.
Then, pair up the keywords words such as “influencers,” or “thought leaders” and search in Google. You’ll likely see a number of articles, blogs, and SlideShares with lists full of them. If you’re looking for influencers who wield social media clout, you can also add “Twitter” or “LinkedIn” to the end of your search query.
Identifying Social Influencers with BuzzSumo
Using BuzzSumo, you have two basic routes to take in looking for influencers. The first is to search for influential content and then sort through the results, looking for authors that meet the desired influencer parameters. The second is to search by topic for BuzzSumo-identified influencers.
For content, BuzzSumo provides data on Facebook shares, Linkedin shares, Twitter shares, Pinterest shares, Google+ shares and of course, the total number of social shares. You can sort your results by any one of these dimensions and/or filter by date.
For influencers, BuzzSumo provides data on Page authority, Domain authority, Followers, Retweet ratio, Reply ratio, and Average retweets. Sort your results by any one of these dimensions and/or filter out Bloggers, Companies, Journalists, Regular people (yes, that’s what it’s called). I recommend sorting by Average retweets and paying attention to the reply ration to gage for engagement.
Twitter is Where Influencers Live
You’ll notice in BuzzSumo that you’re given the option to follow influencers on Twitter. Knowing this, you can add to your influencer bank by combing the Twitterverse.
At the top of each influencer’s Twitter profile, you’ll see a tab titled “Lists.” Here you’ll find lists of Twitter handles that the person either subscribes to/compiled, or was included in. Lists are a great way to track what influencers are saying and sharing in real-time, and makes it easy to track trending topics and retweet.
Often your influencers will be a part of a larger list of relevant influencers or curate their own influencer list. Feel free to subscribe to any list that serves your purposes, or alternatively, go into the lists and manually mine them for your ideal influencers, and repeat the process on their profiles. You can compile your own list as well, with the option to make it available to the public or keep it for your use alone.
Unfortunately, as of the date of this post’s publishing, you can’t search Twitter for lists. Quick tip: to search for Twitter lists, enter “site:twitter.com inurl:lists” into Google, followed by your search terms.
For example, if I’m looking content marketing influencers, I’ll search “site:twitter.com inurl:lists content marketing influencers.”
Step 2: Reaching Out to Influencers
Before you can reach out to an influencer, it makes sense to do some research. Check out their various social media profiles, read previous interviews, look into their website, and see if they’ve written blog or guest posts.
Ask yourself these 4 questions while doing the research:
- In what social media channel is the person most active?
- Are there any posts that you can reply to, bringing something new and valuable to the conversation?
- Do you have information that can help him/her or advance his/her interests?
- What are the most natural lines for your potential collaboration?
Obviously, you’ll want to reach out through whatever channel the individual is most immersed in. If you can initiate contact relating to something they’ve posted, then it will have less of a “cold call” feel. Before you reach out, make sure you know what your purpose is. A great way to start off is by offering to interview the influencer for a post on your blog.
The more value you can bring to the fold, the more they are incentivized to positively respond to your overtures. You don’t want to force a relationship. You want to cultivate one.
If a reply or comment isn’t in the cards, you must consider whether a tagged public post or a private Direct Message (DM) has a higher probability of being well-received.
Remember that BuzzSumo ranks influencers – among other metrics – by the Reply ratio. If the percentage displayed on BuzzSumo is high, you’ll want to go the public route. If not, and if your message is somehow personal, a direct message might be the way to go.
If you’re sending a DM you don’t have the visibility of the public eye to encourage responsiveness on the part of the influencer. In that case, you’ll also want to consider sending an email. With Twitter – even in a DM – you’re still tethered by 140 characters. With an email you’re free to flush out your message to best express yourself.
Bear in mind that as with any undertaking, it’s wise to hedge your bet. Reach out to multiple influencers to increase the likelihood that any one of them responds positively and in a timely manner.
Step 3: Interviewing the Influencer
Okay, so you found your influencer and reached out to ask for an interview. To your great excitement, he or she responded favorably. Now what? Using your research, compile a list of questions on which you’d want to hear the person’s take.
You could also turn to your own social network and tease the interview, asking your followers what questions they would like to ask Joe Influencer.
Round out these lists by looking for past interviews and seeing what if anything was left unaddressed, as well as tone and style. You can turn to BuzzSumo to gauge how different interviews have fared – emulate what works, avoid what doesn’t.
Always ask whether the influencer prefers to be sent the questions in advance, and if possible, set up a live interview. Remember to use a program such as GoToMeeting so you can actually record the interview itself, and the easily transcribe it for your blog post.
Step 4: Time to Start Writing
Congratulations! You’ve conducted the interview and you have social marketing gold in your hands.
Now where do you deposit it?
Relax, you have options…and they are:
- Upload and share the recording as a podcast
- Based on the interview, create and share a presentation using SlideShare
- Break up the interview transcript into easy-to-digest blog posts
- Break it down and Tweet it as a series of questions and answers
- Weave influencer quotes into your own social messaging and content
Step 5: Keeping the Connection Alive
After you’ve created your influencer content, don’t forget to promote it through all of your channels. It would be a shame to have spent all that time and effort and put together something really good only to have no one know about it. Tweet and post the heck out of it.
If you’ve been following the steps I’ve outlined, then your influencer wants this to succeed just as much as you do. After all, it bears his/her name on it. Encourage the influencer to share the finished product.
I hope I don’t need to tell you this but don’t be a jerk. Once you’ve gotten what you want from the influencer try not to disappear into the ether. Aside from being a poor and short-sighted business model, it’s just not nice.
Maintain contact with your influencer and explore the possibility of future collaborations. Tweet at him/her and continue to leverage his/her network to bolster your visibility and credibility.
What’s true of customers vis-à-vis retention vs. acquisition is also true of connections. Its always easier to keep them than to make new ones. Never burn bridges and always be networking.