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Building A Targeted Social Influencer List For Outreach

There’s a lot of advocacy for influencer marketing right now, and it’s difficult to look past all the reasons why you should be doing it. In his recent influencer marketing tips article, Barry Feldman of Feldman Creative, lists the following as valid reasons to devote resources to this new PR and digital marketing tactic:

    • Influencer endorsements lead to greater brand awareness and increased traffic referrals within their network.
    • Influencer engagement in the early stages of a campaign facilitates candid feedback before you’ve invested resources, potentially saving you money and – more importantly – ensuring you create truly desirable content.
    • As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together. You’ll reap the benefits of increased credibility when your brand comes to be associated with the influencer and their area of expertise.
    • New business opportunities often arise from mutually beneficial relationships built on trust, which is exactly what influencer marketing should be.

The infographic in Feldman’s post offers great high-level tips for finding the best content creators, but if you’re looking for something more tactical to get started right now, try out this checklist for reverse engineering a targeted social influencer list for outreach.

Step 1: Figure out where thought leaders and innovators are discussing your topic.

If you have the privilege of working in the same vertical to serve all of your clients, chances are good that you already know where these places are. If your agency works in areas across multiple verticals and you’re trying to find experts in a subject you’re unfamiliar with, it could be a bit trickier.

The key to success is not to go too broad or too narrow in your quest to discover the expert content goldmines you’re searching for. Once you’ve picked a keyword or phrase to describe what you’re looking for, search for it in Google. If you only get e-commerce sites in the results, try using Google Blog Search to filter out websites selling products. 

If you still don’t see any trends with regard to outlets publishing thought leadership on your topic, see if Quora can help. In some instances, someone has already asked, “Where is the best place to read about ____?” and in other instances, you’ll be the one asking that question. 

Finally, BuzzSumo is a great resource for finding popular blog posts on a particular topic. 

Step 2: Figure out who is writing regularly on your topic.

Once you know where to look for thought leaders in your niche, the next step is to actually find them. 

Most outlets feature a variety of writers, each with their own unique focus and area of expertise. Use website navigation to find the best category of content (the “Health & Wellness” tab, for example, if you’re looking for someone who cares about back health on a golfing website), and browse published content to determine who is writing frequently on topics similar or related to the one you’re targeting. 

It’s important to take the time to actually read the articles and review the authors’ archives to make sure their writing style aligns with your client’s brand, and to validate your suspicions that they might actually care about your client’s brand.

Once you’ve found multiple people and/or articles that are relevant to your topic, take your research one level deeper with this search string:

inurl:[] AND “targeted topic” AND “back health”

This tells Google that you’d like to see all articles on this domain that contain the topic you’re researching. You should see many of the same articles and authors you did while browsing the category tab, but you might also come across older posts with richer content that’s even more relevant. Make note of these articles on the list your building; you’ll probably want to reference the influencer’s past writing if you pitch them later in the campaign.

Now you’ve identified not just a media outlet, but also a person (or persons) who write on topics closely related to the niche you’re after. But how do you get in touch with them?

Step 3: Figure out how to get in touch with them.

What should be the easiest step in the process can sometimes be the most difficult. Here’s what I would suggest, in chronological order, to obtain an influencer’s contact information.

  1. Check your preferred PR Database, such as Cision, to see if they’re listed.
  2. Whether or not they’re in Cision, follow them on Twitter (or add them to a public Twitter list) so they receive a notification that you’re following their posts. Engage with their tweets occasionally, but not obsessively.
  3. Do they have a link to a personal website listed on their Twitter profile? If so, follow that link. Contact and biography pages, as well as sidebars with introductions, are good places to find a contact email address.
  4. If you strike out with a personal website, use this search string to locate their Slideshare account:  [influencer name] AND [Slideshare]  – Influencers are important people. Many important people speak at conferences and then load their decks onto this website. Most conference slide decks include contact information on the first or last slide.
  5. If you still can’t find an email address, consider filling out the contact form on their personal website or reaching out via Twitter (after weeks of sporadic engagement with them) to ask if you can take the conversation offline.

Creating your influencer list is only half the battle. It’s easy to get caught up in “the hunt” and forget the ultimate goal of influencer marketing: to put a brand or a product in front of someone who previously was not aware of it (or had forgotten about it) in hopes of enhancing their life by doing so.

How do you identify influencers in your niche vertical?