This article by Sam Hurley is part of our Blogtober event, which features blog posts written by industry influencers in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Brands large and small have saturated the Internet with content. Even when your content is of the highest quality and worth readers’ attention, it’s hard to stand out. This is why promotion and outreach has become so important in content marketing.

Make your promotion more effective by reaching out to recognised experts in your industry—who have the audience and credibility—and asking them to share your content. There are easy, yet powerful tactics any business can use to reach out to influencers online, whether you’re an individual or brand. This article will show you how in a 3-step approach.

Step 1: Discover Influential Leaders Relevant to your Content Topic

Thanks to an array of platforms at your disposal, this process needn’t be painful. All of these tools work best when you use them together—no single one will tell you everything you need to know. Mix and match for best results.

Use Twitter

Advanced search operators on Twitter work similarly to how they do in Google search. For example, type the phrases, in quotation marks, “small business” (you can replace this with your chosen keyword) and “thought leader” into the Twitter search box. Then use Twitter’s navigation options to segment your search.

Alternatively, there are many other terms you can try instead of “thought leader”, including “influencer,” “speaker,” “Forbes top 10,” “Forbes top 20,” and “contributor,” to name a few. You can find more ideas like these in influencers’ profile bio sections.

A few more tips for searching for influencers on Twitter:

  • Use the navigation options in Twitter to segment your search.
  • See what topics the “Top” search results cover as you could include these gems in your content.
  • Check out people relevant to your search under the “Accounts” tab.
  • Select “More options” to refine by date—you will have greater chance of success reaching out to those who have recently posted an article.
  • Use the extremely handy Klout browser add-on to quickly determine an influencer’s social authority.
  • Use –rt in Twitter searches to exclude retweets.

Use Followerwonk

This is a great Twitter analysis tool by Moz that helps you quickly find everyone who works for an organisation. Type in your targeted company and find influencers who work there.

Play with the results to find the influencers you want to reach out to. Try sorting by social authority as a gauge, then by largest number of followers. A healthy balance between those two categories and number of tweets is a great indicator of how active the influencer or brand may be. Use the “Analyze” tab to see who your target influencer is following. It’s highly likely that some of these people are influencers too.

You can export the results into an Excel document for further segmentation and analysis.

Further down the page you will find lots of in-depth data, segmented by categories such as follower counts, of those who the influencer follows, recency of tweets, and social authority. Analyse the influencer’s followings to gain further insight into Social Authority.

Click the blue numbers to the right to dig down into the data and see the people behind the stats. This may help you create a new list for you to follow and contact.

Clicking an authority category leads to a new screen where you can view in-depth stats for each person who is followed by your influencer.

If you’re using the free version of Followerwonk, it’s not possible to sort and export with the click of a button. However, you can highlight everything inside the box and paste into Excel. (A nice trick, but it can take a while!)

Use BuzzSumo

Discover influencers, journalists, and blog writers for your topic: BuzzSumo has powerful filtering options you can apply to find influential people.

A few more tips for searching for influencers on Buzzsumo:

  • Sort results by their reply ratio and average retweets, plus highest domain authority if they have a website.
  • View the recent links they shared so you get a sense of what interests them.
  • Use the advanced search function similar to how you would in Google.
  • Click the “All Links Shared” button to see the influencer’s most popular shared content. This is a very powerful feature.
  • Use the “Content Research” tab to gain valuable insights into a topic of your choice, including which posts and topics are performing best. This will return lots of websites to target for outreach and consequent guest blog opportunities.

Use Google & The Moz Toolbar

Let’s say you’ve just launched a content marketing microsite that aims to provide tips for small business owners to save time. Now you’re looking for effective ways to promote it. For this topic, a great technique you could use is one that harnesses the power of advanced search operators in Google itself. Advanced Search Operators are exceptional for discovering fresh web content on your topic.

Search for recent blog posts on your topic, build a relationship with the writers and see if they will be happy to include a link to your content. The trick here is to add value to their blog post—does your microsite provide a new perspective on their points, or expansion on a particular subject they briefly touched on?

In the search box, type:
inurl:blog “small business” “tips” -inurl:twitter

This search says you want “blog” to be in the URL, the page has to contain the phrases “small business” and “tips,” but they don’t have to be together. You don’t want the URL to contain Twitter this time because you’re looking for websites.

Use the Moz PA (page authority) and DA (domain authority) rank bars to gauge authority of the pages and websites. You can also filter the search by those pages freshly crawled within the last month.

A great way to use this search method is to research your chosen influencers—what are they up to? Where else have they written? Who’s mentioned them, and on what topics?

For instance, see what Rand Fishkin has been doing with this search:
-inurl:moz "rand fishkin" "author" -inurl:twitter inurl:blog

There are plenty more tools out there—try this advanced search:
"top * outreach tools" "bloggers"

Or search for social tools:
"top * social media tools" "bloggers"

Step 2: Source, Gather, and Collate your Findings

Once you’ve gathered all recent influencer articles in a list, it’s time to discover their contact details.

To find influencer email addresses:

  • Explore their primary social media profiles and bios (keep your mind open as they may be prevalent on varying platforms).
  • Find these profiles by investigating particular website sections such as Meet the Team and their company’s Blog. You can also use Google advanced search to find them on Twitter:
    “influencer name” inurl:twitter.com
    (Replace twitter.com with any social network of choice.)
  • Use Google advanced search:
    “influencer name” “email” OR “influencer name” “contact”

If you have no luck searching for contact details online:

  • Connect with them on LinkedIn and send a tailored direct message.
  • Follow them on Twitter and publically ask for their email address because “you would love to gain their input on a project.” Don’t be bland; be humorous, quirky, and stand out. I personally use funny images to stand out on social media and gain influencers’ attention

Collate the information:

  • Use Excel to manage and sort the data in columns.
  • Include names, email addresses, Twitter handles and company contact details.

Find as much information about the influencer as possible.

This takes time, but the more you know about these guys, the better your chance of receiving a positive outcome.

Step 3: Begin your Outreach

For Content You’ve Already Created

Your first point of call is most likely Twitter. It’s hugely accessible, quick and easy—minimal effort is required from either parties. PLUS you can add all your prospects to a private Twitter list for quick navigation and easy sharing.

You can then choose to create a private list or add to an existing one. Private lists mean you can keep tabs on the influencer without notifying them.

Begin the nurturing process by showing a genuine interest in the influencer’s material.

Cultivate relationships:

  • Retweet and share their latest projects and articles.
  • After a few interactions, begin to converse with them and applaud their most recent work.
  • Following this basic conversation, experiment with more in-depth questions.

Use scheduling tools to make life easier:

Buffer is an exceptional ally for outreach. Its dashboard is simple to use and aids social scheduling for outreach.

If you’re constantly sending out multiple tweets on the same subject, it may be deemed slightly spammy (and off-putting) to anyone who views your tweets and replies section. Using Buffer, you can stagger your tweets to go out at certain times, making outreach appear much more natural. Custom-build your posting schedule to suit your outreach needs.

The “Analytics” function within the app is great for exploring your tweets’ performance. Have they been clicked? Which influencer’s mention ensured your tweet was seen by the most people? These are takeaway stats that will aid your future outreach efforts.

For Content Yet To Be Created

Figures of influence will be more inclined to share and promote your material when they have been involved in the planning of your project. As an influencer, they’re happy with this opportunity because it’s free promotion off the back of your work. In addition, their input and status is valuable to you. This mutual benefit can be leveraged to great effect.

Include influencers from the start:

  • Quick option: Create a round-up piece, collecting quotes of influencers from around the web and making a deal of who they are, alongside a prominent mugshot. Link to their social profiles and let them know via social media.
  • Tailored option: Tweet the influencers and ask them for their inspiring quote on your topic of interest. Twitter is a great way to gain fast input from influential people.

  • Tweet the influencers for their feedback on a topic you’re thinking of writing about, and then include their input in the finished piece.
  • Tell them you’re going to include links to their resources within your content.

Sometimes a simple offer isn’t enough. If that’s the case,

  • Explain the piece will be shared regularly across all your social platforms. If you have adequate followings, be sure to mention the total combined amount. (A solid strategy and accurate measurement of your social media should already be in place.)
  • Suggest an ongoing relationship and more features in your projects going forwards.
  • Ask them to write on your blog.

  • Notify them of your future plans, like video and podcasts for interview opportunities.
  • Suggest that you can make their headshots stand out in the project so it’s impossible for anyone to miss them and their respected involvement.

Conclusion

Social media is a fast and effective way to contact influential people in your industry. It’s extremely rare that such people won’t be on any social network.

On occasions, it’s a good idea to target lesser-known writers, sometimes listed as “contributors,” since the popular influencers (usually listed as “featured” authors) can be unreachable or simply too busy to consider your requests. This is a great way to gain links on reputable websites and shares from their popular social platforms.

Sam is Head of Search at Midas Media, holding 6+ years’ experience in the Digital Marketing arena, both agency and client-side. Catch him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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