How do I get influencers to share my content? Content marketers are forever seeking an answer to this question.

You know that successfully partnering with influencers in your field could turn your great content into viral content. But too many of us never connect with influencers because we’re stuck on this nagging question: “How will I ever get this famous/busy person to give me the time of day?”

The answer, of course, is: Add value. But we’ve heard that answer too many times. The real question is how do you add value?

Sending generic emails to busy people asking them to share your content will likely go ignored. So what do most people do? They leave their content promotion to a few tweets and positive thinking.

There is a better solution. Get the attention of and build relationships with influencers by creating content that is valuable to them and then sharing it with them in a direct, personalized way. We call this ultra-useful, relationship-building content “seed” content.

Seed content plants your relationship

I’m going to show you exactly how we amassed over 6 million impressions and 23,000 engagements (“likes,” shares, clicks, tweets, etc.) for Eyefi, a technology company in the photography space, simply by sharing seed content with a handful of influencers.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Find the influencers

Engaging seed content needs to be specific to your exact target group of influencers. So, it’s essential that you know exactly who you’re trying to reach before you create content.

Here’s how to do it.

EyeFiImage1

Use the umbrella method

More often than not, if you just look for people in your niche, you’ll be limited. In our case, Eyefi is a company that sells photo-storage products: wifi SD cards, cloud storage, etc.

If we stayed in that exact niche, we would target influential electronics and gadget critics. But that list is extremely limited. (Try naming more than three off the top of your head.) They also aren’t people who will easily share content because their entire job is to review products, so everybody asks them to share content about products all the time.

Enter the umbrella method: Don’t just look at your exact niche, reach out to influencers covered by the umbrella of a related niche.

In Eyefi’s case, a great adjacent field was photography. Famous photographers were a great influencer category to target. We knew that photography and photographers in general produce highly sharable content through visual social networks like Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest.

Pick influencers by engagement, not followers

Once you find your influencer category, you then have to find the influencers. It’s tempting to make a list of influencers with the largest following, but remember that you don’t want followers, you want engagement. Influencers with high follower numbers do not always equate to high-engagement levels.

If you’re going to toil over creating content, it’s important that people see it. In the case of Eyefi, we used a mix of proprietary methods and various online tools to identify engaged influencers, but you don’t have to get that fancy. You can use several super-fast tools to figure out if people’s followers are real, and who has the most engagement and relevancy in a particular topic.

One easy tool for this is Twtrland. You can search for a subject such as photography and filter results based on influencer characteristics.

TwtrlandImage2

Once you have a manageable list of possible influencers, take a closer look at each one and figure out how engaged the followers are. For example, here are stats for the well-known photographer Chase Jarvis:

TwtrlandImage3

Clearly, he’s in the top echelon in popularity, and he engages with his followers often (communicative). He is an influencer with whom Eyefi would want to engage.

Using tools like this and even your own manual efforts of looking at possible influencers’ social media accounts, you can quickly make a list of 10 to 50 influencers who fall under your umbrella.

Step 2: Make seed content they want to share

Next, it’s time to make your seed content.

In our case, we made an infographic of the 30 most socially influential photographers for Eyefi’s content marketing team to use as its seed content. This little infographic generated over 6 million impressions and 23,000 engagements.

InfluentialPhotogInfographicImage4

How did we create such an effective piece of content?

First, let’s note what we did not do: Send a generic promo piece on Eyefi or a discount code with which influencers could spam their audiences. Why? Influencers are inundated with those requests.

We didn’t have an already existing relationship with these most influential photographers, so the first piece of content had to stand out from the pack. We did this by:

  • Designing shareable content that directly benefited the influencers. Photographers want publicity because it helps them get more business. Our Top 30 list shone a light on their services and skills.
  • Making the request easy. We did not ask them to review a product or endorse our brand. We simply gave them a free publicity tool.

Good seed content possesses those two defining characteristics – benefit (something the influencer wants) and ease (something that doesn’t take a lot of the influencer’s time).

Note: The lesson isn’t to create an infographic similar to the one we made. Your seed content could be an eBook or a blog post with a ton of content that still adds value to influencers.

For example, if your product is sales software, you can create seed content with influential entrepreneurs by:

  • Writing a roundup post quoting their favorite sales strategies for small businesses
  • Creating an in-depth article on a sales technique touted by one or a few of the influencers you’re targeting.

There are a ton of possibilities, but an easy way to make sure the content is something an influencer wants to share is to mention the influencer in your content. It’s an easy formula for getting influencers to share content because everybody loves promoting themselves (benefit), and it takes hardly any time to do so (ease).

Step 3: Share your seed content without being annoying

Now you have your seed content and a list of influencers, it’s time for the most nerve-wracking step: Getting your content in front of them.

We didn’t tweet or share on Instagram with these photographers. We emailed them. Email is useful because it has high engagement. In contrast, social media is an ongoing stream of content that makes it easy for your message to get missed.

Warning: Don’t just send 50 influencers the same generic email. Your response rate will be low and your seed content wasted.

Follow three rules for your email:

  1. Don’t ask for anything. The last thing you want to say is, “Can you share this on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest?” It’s annoying and you’ll likely get a “no” or no response at all. As Ramit Sethi says, “Don’t make a busy person do work.”
  2. Don’t ramble – keep it short.
  3. Make it obviously personal. Don’t mass email. Research each influencer and include a personal sentence at the beginning to show your email is not spam.

In the case of Eyefi, we emailed the 30 photographers identified on the infographic, and some of them shared it. For example, check out this Facebook post from Jasmine Star:

FacebookPostInfluentialPhotogInfographicImage5

Think about how useful the content is to draw the influencer’s audience to you. Star’s fans obviously include a lot of photographers and aspiring photographers (Eyefi’s target audience), and from this one post they are exposed to Eyefi in a non-intrustive, non-pushy way.

The results: We introduced millions to the Eyefi brand – all because we followed the three steps for seed content.

SEED

You’ve heard it once and you’re going to hear a thousand more times; CONTENT IS KING. Consistently writing great content is key for driving traffic to your website.

The more you write the better chance you have of becoming a top thought leader in your industry and the more opportunities that will arrive to rank in search with each piece of content you publish on the web.

Your entire marketing strategy is dependent on the content you create. You can’t optimize your website without great content, you can’t have paid ads without having a landing page to send your audience to, and you don’t have anything to promote on your numerous social media channels unless you have content.

What about once you have created a very compelling piece of writing, posted it to your blog, and then wiped your hands clean of it, only to come back to check the search results a week or so later and realize that it has generated very few hits?

How to Seed Your Content through Social Media

Creating Fertile Ground for Content Seeding

Cue your outreach campaign. One of the best, although still challenging, ways for you to promote your content is through the numerous social media channels that are available – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, etc.

You need to create a community by building an engaged audience who is willing to like, share, and favorite your content. Without this community of followers promoting your content is just a waste of your valuable time.

How do you do this? You first need to identify the key influencers in your industry. Retweet, repost, and like their content. Drop them a comment every so often on a piece they have written. You need to get noticed by them in order for them to notice your content.

The more often you do this the better chances you have of someone reading and reposting your content.

Use Smart Guest Blogging to Expand your Reach

You can also dedicate a post or two per month to be published on someone else’s blog. Plenty of people out there are looking for guest bloggers for their own blog. Just be sure that you are posting on a reputable blog. If a website seems like they will post just about anything, stay away. Work the relationships you have been building for guest blogging opportunities.

But isn’t guest blogging dead? Not quite. You just need to make sure you follow some basic guidelines in order to avoid being penalized by Google. If you’re guest blogging, be sure to avoid links with optimized anchor text.

Branded links to the homepage of your website at the very bottom or top of the post are fine, and highly contextual links that add value to the content and aren’t attempting to exactly match anticipated search queries are OK, but if you’re an SEO company in New York City, for example, don’t link “SEO company in New York City” to your company’s website anywhere in the post.

Sooner or later that’s going to incur a Penguin-related penalty.

Guest blogging is great for building relationships, not links. That’s the ultimate goal with your outreach program, to build relationships with other trusted leaders in your industry who will help share your content. Links will naturally come after that.

Paid Exposure Provides Fantastic Targeting Opportunities

Another great outreach technique you can use is through paid advertising on the social media channels. Spending as little as $5 on Facebook to promote a great piece of writing can go a long way. Say you reach an additional 25 viewers with that $5 and only 2 (obviously the goal would be for more of them to share, but let’s just say 2 for the sake of this article) of them share it.

It will then get picked up by all of their friends/followers, which could be hundreds or thousands. Your viewership may have just sky rocketed with very little monetary investment. Facebook in particular offers some amazing targeting options; a little money can go a long way if you’ve done your homework to target the right people

Before any of this can be completed you must have great content. Content marketing is the core of your digital marketing campaign. Anything you do you after that all depends on how compelling your content is.

6 principalsTips and Tricks

  • Start at the content creation stage. Look for niche areas to write/design for, see what’s already out there and do something new and different. If the market is saturated with similar content yours won’t get a look-in unless you do it exceptionally well.
  • Consider what kind of content is needed. Infographics spread well, long-form articles not so well. If a particular site has a gap in it’s knowledge create something with them in mind.
  • Create a list of contacts. Think in, around and outside the box. Which categories will this fit into? Can you re-write any part of it to fit in on a different site? Think about the topics within. (Top tip: If you’re a manager hang onto these lists as their great equity when starting somewhere new)
  • Never send a piece of content to everyone. People will think less of you digitally if it’s not relevant.
  • Be polite. Your efforts will be rejected at times. Sending people content has a habit of making them angry if it’s not spot on for their audience, so don’t burn bridges for future efforts. Research people before you send them content and have a look at what they’re up to at the moment, who they already work with (competitors?) and how they like to be contacted.
  • Keep a record of who you’ve contacted and any good/bad results from the connection.
  • On social channels, rewrite details each time you post them focussing on a different group of people. Try posting at different times of day and think it through (e.g. Your more likely to reach a business-minded audience during commuter hours but they won’t have time for thick content)
  • Use a social aggregating dashboard like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to set up tweets at a time that won’t interfere with your natural feed.
  • Links from abroad are still useful even if your business is UK-based, but don’t focus on those.
  • Use Google Analytics or RedEye to track the results, if you don’t have those, set up a free Bit.ly account! See which content works.
  • Don’t try and high-jack a trending news story unless your business or content is GENUINELY relevant.
  • Spread out your seeding over time. Business communities in any sector are very interlinked. If you send content to lots of people at once, it looks dodgy. Seems desperate and potentially lessens it’s effect. Use your common sense.
  • You will have to seed content on your personal profiles. It’s jsut how it goes. When people hire a social media manager they also buy their contacts. Don’t make your friends sick of you though, do it just once.
  • Never just publicise your own content. Share relevant news too! If people are kind enough to share your content, find something of theirs to share too.
  • Focus on your aims, if your looking to create brand-awareness light and fluffy content will do. If you want more customers you’ve got to show expertise and quality work. To keep customers use what knowledge you have about them.
  • Track what happens once your links have shared, ask sites that use your content how well it did for them, offer more content further down the line.

A working example of seeding in action

Content: Business Infographic

Channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, email, business blogs.

Contacts: Users interested in business + infographics + SMEs

Methods:

  • Found a niche topic relevant to both our readers and seeding sites
  • Added a code for people to take the infographic under a creative commons licence
  • Made a list of helpful contacts and looked through previous distribution lists
  • Seed through work channels
  • Seed on personal social accounts
  • Upload to photo-sharing site
  • Emailed infographic to contacts
  • Write tweets to encourage people to post on their own blogs
  • Set up email campaign to relevant customers

Here’s the bottom line

We could have just emailed photographers and asked them to partner on an eBook, but with no credibility or prior relationship, the response rate would have been low.

Instead, we invested some time and effort into engineering a piece of seed content that laid the foundation of a mutually beneficial relationship with several top photographers. The influential photographers gained publicity, and the opportunity to share top-notch, relevant content with their followers. We introduced over 6 million people to the Eyefi brand. In the world of content marketing you reap what you sow, so start out with a good seed.

 

seed 1

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