If you’re like most of the other B2B and B2C marketers you’re probably using content marketing to reach your customers. It is a cost-effective way to generate leads. The problem is most of your competitors know this.
In order to grow your audience, you need to get your content in front of the maximum number of people. Now you could do this by slowly building your audience up from scratch over time. It’s possible, but it’s going to be a long painful process.
I’m a big fan of working smarter.
If you want to take the shortcut you’ll need to connect with influencers who have established large audiences. The benefits of this approach are twofold:
- A guest post on a site with a large audience will get your content in front of thousands of people
- Those backlinks will help content on your website rank higher faster (meaning you spend less time creating content that nobody will see)
I’ve applied this strategy to my own site, Launch Space. As a result of my networking, I’ve been featured across sites like Hubspot, and GetResponse. Month on month my website traffic is consistently increasing. Just as importantly, I’ve made some new friends and plenty of professional acquaintances who can help me achieve my goals.
Today I want to walk you through the approach I’ve been using to conduct influencer outreach. It’s a strategy that I’m confident you can apply to your own business.
How to Successfully Network Online
Thanks to a combination of email, social media, and professional online networks, connecting with influencers have never been easier. The crazy thing is that despite how easy it is to network, very few people do so effectively.
This usually comes down to a lack of planning.
If you want to achieve something, it helps to set goals. For instance, my content marketing goal is as follows:
- Write three guest posts a week for websites with a Domain Authority of 30+, and at least one guest post a month for a website with a Domain Authority of 70+
This target is very easy to quantify. I can tell you if I hit it or missed it. Moreover, to achieve this goal, I can tell you how many people I would need to connect with each month, and how many article ideas I would need to pitch.
Here’s what achieving this goal looks like in practice:
- Connect with 21 editors for different websites every month
- Pitch 63 guest post ideas each month
These sub-goals are components of the overall target. It’s the same system that a large company would use to set Key Performance Indicators across different departments. These targets form the basis of my scope of work. I recommend you set similar goals for your own campaign.
How to Identify Stakeholders in Your Niche
Once you’ve determined what you’re targeting, you need to identify the key stakeholders in your industry. This is where Social Animal’s research features come into the picture. You can find influencers based on two parameters – keywords, or competitors.
Now while these people may be competitors for search terms, they might not be your competition in terms of the services they provide or the products they sell. You can research if they are your competitors after you review the list generated through Social Animal.
Rather helpfully, you can also filter results to just show the big hitters or more moderate-level influencers who might be more likely to give you the time of day.
You may need to do some additional research to increase the value of this list. For example, if you want to write a blog post for a large company – not a classic influencer, but a key stakeholder in your niche – you will need to identify the correct person to speak to. I normally turn to LinkedIn to do this.
A quick search for a company on LinkedIn will show you who works for them. The editor will normally have a name like ‘Head of Content’ or similar. I normally store all of this information that I gathered in an Excel sheet. This Excel sheet will have the name of the key person to speak to, links to their social media profiles, and a few columns for outreach.
How to Strategically Connect with Influencers
Once you have a list of people to connect with you’ll need to start your outreach. I use a ‘give first’ approach to networking. Essentially, any time you pitch anything to anyone, there’s one rule you should follow. Offer first, request second.
In practice, this means providing something of value to the person you want to network with. For example, earlier this year I worked on a roundup of prominent marketers favourite Chrome plugins. I was writing the article for Business2Community. According to Similar Web, the site has 1.4 million visitors each month.
I decided to leverage this opportunity to connect with a number of influencers whose sites I wanted to get featured on. I started my outreach by asking people in my existing network if they wanted to participate in the roundup. When I had a few positive replies I started my cold outreach.
Here’s one email that I sent out to Zac Johnson.
Now I sent out about 50 cold emails in total to various influencers. More than 50% of the people I emailed responded (even if it was only to say sorry I can’t participate). This compares pretty well to the 1 in 15 conversion rate I used to see from just asking for a guest post.
In the example above I used email to conduct the outreach. However, you could just as easily apply these same principles, and I do all the time, to Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Once you’ve created that connection you can leverage it for your own guest post opportunities. Over time this will have a snowball effect. The more guest posts you write, the more people you can get involved in your content, and the more people you draw into your network. The nice thing about this approach is that over time you will also enter a reciprocal relationship with people. You’ll get asked to feed into posts that they are working on. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. This leads us nicely onto the next stage of the process…
How to Maintain Your Online Network
Once you have established a relationship with a key influencer you will want to maintain and develop the relationship. If you’re comfortable using social media this will come naturally to you. On the other hand, if you don’t like social media, and I fall into this category, you should set aside a bit of time each day for some networking.
First, you can try and drum up some discourse in the comments. This shouldn’t feel forced. Just approach your online conversations in the same way you would in real life.
It also won’t hurt to try and grease the wheels with a little flattery. As a basic structure, my go-to option would be something like ‘Interesting article! I particularly liked …. Have you considered …?’
Make sure to periodically touch base with all of the people you connect with. This way you’ll grow a strong network of influencers around you who can help support your goals. Jitendra Vaswani, the founder of the marketing site Bloggers Ideas, had this to say about the importance of networking:
“Some people don’t focus on building relationships, they just look for what’s in it for themselves. That’s ok, but building relationships with your customers, clients, & influencers is key to growing your online business.”
Influencer outreach is all about building relationships. Cynically or not, once you’ve built up a rapport with someone, you can start thinking about what value they can offer you too. You’ll have to exercise your own judgment and personal skills here.
Rounding Things Up
Influencer outreach and content marketing naturally go hand in hand with each other. Content marketing is great for creating a strong brand identity and placing your product or service in people’s minds. But you need an audience for that to work. Influencer outreach, on the other hand, is fantastic for reaching a lot of people and bring in more business leads, but it’s a process more than an outcome.
What I’ve tried to do is provide you with a simple yet effective strategy for connecting with online influencers. Keep in mind, people with a large online presence can receive dozens, and sometimes hundreds of emails a day. If you want to connect with people online you need to make your enquiry stand out.
The best way to make your inquiry stand out is to identify how you can offer value. It’s a natural starting point for any kind of online relationship. After you’ve helped them out, they are much more likely to be open to your request. Then it’s your job to maintain that relationship. Put it to the test and let me know your results.
To learn how to leverage Influencer outreach to build a better blog post, click here.