Conducting outreach it is a daunting task. Where to begin? What tools to use? Who do I target? How do you keep track? Over. Whelming. Let me walk you through some points that will get you started, coupled with some possible tools/solutions, and hopefully eliminate some of the unknown.
The first thing you need to figure out is how to find the people you'd like to reach out to. If you're looking within your own community to find influential candidates your own analytics will light the way. Look for those members who are creating a lot of valuable content, participating in a lot of conversations or answering a lot of questions. Where you focus your attention will largely depend on what you're trying to accomplish. The key is to marry your criteria to your desired outcomes to ensure you're building an appropriately targeted list.
If you're using external channels like Twitter, Facebook or blogs you'll need to rely on some third-party tools (unless of course you're able to build your own, then please share!).
Google Blog Search: An oldie, but goodie. Use this to find blogs covering your product or niche. Use tools like Klout (listed below) or Kred to evaluate audience of the sites you've found.
Google Ripples: Another interesting tool from Google is Ripples. This helps define spheres of influence based on sharing and impact on Google +. Your audience on Google+ may be small now, but the SEO impact alone makes this a worthy community to look in to. Consider plugging in successful competitor content (or your own if you have it) to Ripples to see who's gained influence here.
Curalate: This tool helps you find people on both Pinterest (see also: PinReach) and Instagram. Depending on your product or niche, these sites could be incredibly valuable sources of outreach. The likelihood that an influencer on these sites will have other successful platforms (blogs, Twitter profiles, etc) is pretty high as well.
Followerwonk: I'm a huge fan. For those of you working in social, especially in identifying and finding people - this is your new best friend. Followerwonk let's you search and compare twitter accounts by followers, bio, and content. Below is a screen shot of one of my favorite features. You can compare followers of accounts to find commonalities potentially uncovering individuals of interest to engage with.
Klout: While some may downplay the actual value of one's Klout score, it is incredibly helpful to have some kind of metric and measurement tool that at least attempts to make sense of one's social footprint. Use Klout to help validate your influencer's participation and also discover other platforms they're active on. I suggest checking out Klout for Business as well. If you're unsure of where to start, try doing a search on your product terms and start exploring the results:
Traackr: If you're looking for something a bit more robust I'd suggest checking out something along the lines of Traackr. This tool allows you to search the web by keywords and other parameters you set up. It's a more rich experience than some of the more lightweight suggestions but it's also a paid tool.
Good, old-fashioned participation. There's no better way to identify the influencers in a particular community than to get involved and get to know the community. In any community you're a part of personally you know who the influencers are.... the important folks. You know this because you participate and pay attention. You've observed their expertise and authority. Use this same tactic for your business communities. Your participation will also make your presence more authentic, meaningful and better received by the members.
Managing and tracking relationships for business can start to feel a little messy as the efforts and volume scale up. Having a solid system in place from the get-go can help prevent embarrassing slip-ups and headache inducing backlogs. Cadence of messaging is mission critical and having a good tool can help you manage that as well. Your needs could range from simplistic to robust. You have options:
Spreadsheet: For many this may be all the tool you'll need at least to start with. Easily and affordably keep track of who they are, how you found them, your communication history and even goals associated with the relationship. Make sure to take special note of important facts about them including birthdays, anniversaries, and other important points. This will help you remember who they are while also providing you a way of building that relationship. Using a Google spreadsheet will allow you to collaborate with your team as well.
Twitter Lists/Facebook interest lists: These platform specific lists can help you easily navigate and participate in conversations with your identified influencers to make sure you're focusing your energies in the right places. Group them based on goal or interest even. Be sure if you're using public lists your naming conventions are respectful and appropriate.
Rapportive: A simple gmail plug-in helps you keep track of conversations, and helps to uncover a users social footprint. You can also add notes to help you remember what you've talked about or important events.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud: This is a more full service social media management platform, with relationship management capabilities built in. If you're already using a social management platform I highly encourage you to investigate whether or not it has features like conversation tracking and email built in. If you can consolidate your tools, both your measurement and reporting will be greatly simplified.
Contact Management: As you scale up your efforts and built out your pool you'll likely want to transition away from emailing one-offs and into a more robust platform like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp. Chances are you're already using an email tool for your business messaging. Look into leveraging that for your influencer outreach to help you scale and wrap your arms around your efforts.
The Art Of How To Do Influencer Outreach
Conducting the actual outreach is where the magic happens. It's a lot less science and a lot more art than anything. You are responsible for knowing your community and how best to communicate with them. Use what you know about them to build those relationships. Speak their language. Be real.
Be authentic. Smarmy tactics will get you nowhere. You're dealing with folks who have some level of influence online - chances are they've been approached before. Authenticity is your key to standing above the crowd.
Be ethical. There are laws and regulations in place nowadays that govern disclosure and other bits of the social media sphere. Be sure you know what those are so you're not putting yourself or your influencers at jeopardy.
Give to get. Just like in any relationship you have to put some skin in the game if you're ever going to be able to get something out of it. Understanding the WIIFM (What's In It For Me) of your audience will be critical to your programs success. You have to approach this relationship as an investment in the long-term so take your time and court them appropriately. Don't rush it.
Pay attention to what works. Over the course of your initiative you'll try different tactics (compensation, messaging, cadence, etc). Just like any other marketing you do, you'll want to test and measure. Pay attention to what works and do more of that, and less of what doesn't. This will show respect for your target influencer's time as well as make you a more efficient marketer.
Okay, so there you have it: A pretty comprehensive look at the how of conducting influencer outreach.
What questions does this bring up for you? What have we missed?
Kristy Bolsinger is a Senior Associate at PwC in Seattle, WA. She has previously worked at Ant's Eye View (acquired by PwC in 2012), and RealNetworks (GameHouse). Prior to her time at RealNetworks, and Ant's Eye View - Kristy was working as a Social Media Marketing Consultant and completing her MBA at Willamette University. She maintains a social media blog and can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.