There are times when I’m working on a project and the best thing for its success is to reach out to people who might be interested in talking about it – these would be those with some considerable influence and could include bloggers, members of the press, celebrities or Subject Matter Experts. But for small businesses interested in reaching out to these influencers within their communities, what’s the best way to start and go from there? You could obviously pick a large agency who might have a good chance at already having a relationship with a few influencers and they could help you frame your message and work on your outreach strategy. OR you could do the work yourself and discover some fascinating new tips. In this post, we’ll focus on the latter.
But before I begin, I’d like to point out that this isn’t a blog post on how to pitch an influencer, but rather how to leverage the Internet and the technologies it presents itself as a means of finding the people you’d want to either solicit, pitch or have a conversation with.
Understanding your community
One of the first things you should do is to list out who you think you would like to reach. Sure, your company might be releasing a new “widget” soon and you think it’ll work great against a specific target market like say, photographers? So in this instance, what type of photographers would you be looking for? Amateur? Professional? Those who write product reviews or write about gadgets? Are you going after bloggers or photojournalists? These are just some of the things you’d need to narrow down before you begin your outreach. An idea would be to jot down on a whiteboard or a piece of paper what specifically are you trying to accomplish with this outreach and what type of people are you trying to influence. This will help get you started on who you should go after.
The Internet tools at your disposal
Social media has opened up a whole new realm of research for you to find the right person who can be an influencer for you. And through the use of several of the free tools out there, you shouldn’t have a problem determining who would be a right fit for you to include on your outreach list.
FIND OUT WHO’S WRITING ABOUT YOUR INDUSTRY
When conducting a search for people who are talking or writing about your industry, the first place most people think are search engines like Google and Bing. These are great resources and will pull up a pretty comprehensive list of results including videos, images, blog posts, news and other miscellaneous websites. Another important resource that you shouldn’t overlook is AllTop, a magazine rack-style website designed to show you the most popular blogs out there based on specific topics.
In our example about finding photography influencers, I went to AllTop’s website and selected the “photography” category. Most of the major topics are categories on the site and will pull up a variety of blogs and sites talking about that specific topic. As you can see in the image above, there are numerous sources and underneath each source is the five most recent things written on the site generated through the source’s RSS feed. By glancing the titles of each of the posts, you can get an idea of what these writers are talking about and whether it will pertain to your “widget”. By looking to see what they write about, you will also accomplish another part of reaching out to your influencers: know something about them before you talk to them.
DO SOME MORE RESEARCH
Don’t be fooled by the easy nature of finding bloggers and writers in your community because there’s still some other steps you’ll need to take in order to find your influencers.In fact, AllTop is just one step of the puzzle in understanding your community. Remember that AllTop is just a magazine-rack style website that focuses on the top bloggers and websites. There are billions of websites out there and there’s no real way for one site to aggregate them all, especially for you to find the ones you want. However, there are other tools out there that you should leverage to help determine who is an influencer and help you get the research and knowledge you seek. Another website that you should go to is Technorati.
Long known as one of the largest websites on the Internet, Technorati has built its reputation on being the first blog search engine and focused a lot of its effort on determining blogger’s authority. When you see a blog with “high authority” on Technorati, you can be sure that the site not only receives a lot of traffic, but also is influential – whether in a good way or bad way is left up to you. And while you might see some overlaps in sites from AllTop with Technorati, one handy feature that separates Technorati from AllTop is the ability to search for keywords based on specific posts. So instead of parsing through dozens of websites that talk about photography, you can find out if anyone has wrote a specific post on a topic in the photography category. Another interesting effect of looking for individual posts is that you can typically find out who wrote that article/post and then you’ll know who to specifically contact so you won’t have to write to an anonymous email account, thereby making it less targeted.
So in our photography example, what I did was generate a search using the “photography” keyword and the above image is part of the results that I got that talk about photography. All you would need to do is to look at the different search results and find out which one you think is better in tune with the needs of your outreach. Don’t just select the one with the high authority because you think it’ll get you the most attention. You need to find the right blog that will be the most effective and will be able to write the most convincing argument for why customers should buy your “widget”.
SURF THE CROWD TO FIND WHAT PEOPLE KNOW
It’s tough being the only one searching for research. But with the Internet, you’re never really alone. In fact, every day, millions (if not billions) of searches are being done and millions of new sites and pages are being created. For those that happen to be stumbling upon any of these pages, there’s just not enough time in the day for you to seek them out. But that’s where you turn to social bookmarking tools like Del.icio.us or StumbleUpon for help in finding out what people are talking about. If you’re looking for interesting posts that you may not have ever found, then social bookmarking is the avenue to pursue. Just type in specific tags that you’re looking for. If you search for “photography”, you might find some interesting posts and the ones that get bookmarked the most might be worth investigating to see (1) if the author is someone you want to get to know more, (2) is the content of the post relevant to your needs and/or (3) why are people bookmarking this particular site.
As you can see in the above image, I’ve done a search for “photography tips” and it generated several posts that I might be interested in learning more about, especially if it’s something that ties in with the “widget” that my company is about to release. Another tip that you might want to try is to see how frequently someone’s posts are being bookmarked. To do this, just take an author’s name and enter it into the search field and see what pops up. Obviously this is predicated on the fact that people who bookmark have this particular author’s name as a tag, but if this doesn’t generate any worthwhile results, then you can simply try their blog title and see what pops up. This same process could also be repeated for StumbleUpon as well as a means of finding more resources and determining which blog has influence.
But that’s not all…
There are many other tools at your disposal to help you find influencers and in the next segment, I’ll explore some of the other tools that will help you find the influencers you seek. We’ll cover other areas like social media services, how to use monitoring tools, and others. So stay tuned!
Photo Credit: ispap / sxc.hu