In the last post I outlined what and influencer is, who mine were, and how to take the first steps in finding your influencers. For this article, let’s dive into the actual tactics I use to root out the truly influential humans for my clients.
Coincidentally, I was scheduled today to work on a client’s influencer list. A perfect opportunity.
Larry Pray is a published author who suffered a series of stroke early in his life. His most recent book, Thresholds: connecting body and soul after injury digs into facts of brain injuries, and discusses the impact to your mind and soul. In his words, “it is a creation story that carries us forward in ways we could have never expected or even imagined.” Inspiring stuff to say the least.
When I first spoke with Larry about his goals, he simply said, “I just want to talk to as many people as I can about my book. My story can really help people.” Not once did he ask me to wave a magic marketing wand and get him 5,000 Twitter followers, and sell hundreds of copies of his book. He wanted to interact with people that would benefit most from his story and perspective. Victims of stroke, caregivers, families, counselors, pastors, and vets.
The Prep Work
My strategy with Larry is simple. I need to help him get his story in the hands of influencers and help him become an influencer. Before diving into the analysis, we had to do some prep work to optimize what he already had (in this case a remarkably high volume of blog posts), and create some channels for him to gather his fan base (Facebook and Google+), and a better platform to reach out to influencers (Twitter).
I installed some WordPress plugins to help make it easier to find him and interact with him. In this case, we are using the free Digg Digg floating sharing bar, Disqus comments plugin, BWP Sitemaps (with sitemap submissions to Bing and Google Webmaster Tools), and All-in-One SEO Pack to make his entire site more search-engine-friendly.
Installing and configuring Google Analytics (stats) and Feedburner (RSS management) were the final touches to measure the effectiveness of our work moving forward.
Finding His Influencers
With that strong digital structure in-place, I’m confident that the outreach work we do will actually reach more of its targets and result in more real, human conversations.
As a reminder, Larry’s influencers will: have more fans than him, ways to easily reach them, and possess true influence over them.
So we start with Google.
Finding Influencers via Google
Let’s start with a basic search “stroke experts”. Before we start clicking on results we need to localize our search to Minneapolis, MN, where our author currently lives. Locality = Relevance, and relevance helps establish a quick connection that leads to a real interaction.
See the screenshot below (click on any of the images in this post to enlarge):
Then take a quick look at the results. What we are looking for in particular is the proverbial shortcut: someone who has already built the list. If you are using Google Chrome – and you really should be, press the Ctrl (or CMD for Mac users) key down and then click on the link. This will open up the results in separate tabs. I dug into about two pages worth of links, and found five webpages worth exploring.
Before reviewing those site, take a look at Google’s suggestions, and Ctrl-click those as well, and repeat the process for those searches. Those “suggested searches” are there because a LOT of people are searching for them, meaning that your prospective fans likely search for them too.
When we are done, your Google Chrome window will look downright scary. This is okay. We’ll just dig into these things one-by-one. Make notes in a separate document (perhaps the one you started based on the advice in my last post) to start getting them all one large, likely disorganized, list.
Note the search phrase that yielded the best results. In this case it was how to help a stroke victim recover. Now run the search again, and using the search tools, narrow it down to blogs.
Now this is where the art of this tactic comes in. Every small biz will have a different flavor of influencer. Here’s a few tips to guide this largely organic process:
- Don’t discount generic/un-related resources too quickly. For example, WikiPedia listings, even though it’s not an influencer, will have a list of references in the footer which may yield some more results. Or a generic site like Yahoo Answers or Wise Geek can give you more sources – who’s got the top answer? That person may be an influencer.
- Check the dates – if the most recent article on a site was over 3 months ago, move on. Influencers are by nature active in their field and communicate a lot with their fans publicly.
- Avoid sales pages – for this search I came across a few stroke medications that had active blogs. Upon a quick read, it was clear that they were strictly to help sell their product. They’re were not real “fans” in this case.
- Make note of competitors – some of them will have lists of their favorite publications in the sidebar, and in that case they’ve done some of the work for you.
- Don’t discount category or tag pages – many larger publications may not be solely dedicated to your target topic
When all this is done, you’ll have a list that looks something like this (PDF).
In my next post I’ll cover how to distill, rack and stack that list, and outline the best ways to make first contact.