Jeffrey Kranz is an inbound marketing consultant for higher education institutions and the founder of GradLime. He gets a kick out of making Jeffrey Kranz is an inbound marketing consultant for higher education institutions and the founder of GradLime. He gets a kick out of making things "learnable." He lives in Bellingham, WA.
One of the worst feelings in the world of inbound marketing and enrollment is to write an incredible blog post, publish it, share it, and then … crickets.
I actually just shuddered a little bit thinking about it. (Because I have been there way, way too many times!)
It’s a lot better when the opposite happens: when you experience the thrill of seeing an expert in your space share and promote your content for you.
This post will give you a practical, actionable approach to writing and designing the kind of content that VIPs love to share with your audience.
How to find the influencers in your space
The first step to getting influencers to share our content is knowing who those influencers are. There are a few ways you can do this. And good news: they’re not mutually exclusive, so we can mix and match these approaches.
1. Google your keywords
A quick Google of our keywords is probably the easiest way to figure out who the influencers are in our space. I suggest opening an incognito window in Google Chrome and searching for a keyword in your space.
For example, let’s say you’re a university that just launched a new program in Koine Greek. You want to get some exposure for the new program, but you’re not sure who the big influencers are online.
Start by Googling “Koine Greek tips.” Here’s what I find:
Now we’ll click through to the top results and find out who wrote them. If these folks are ranking for this search term, we want them sharing our material!
2. Buzzsumo: search by topic
Another way to find influencers is to jump into Buzzsumo to see who’s creating the most popular content on your topic.
What’s Buzzsumo? It’s a Web app that looks at pages on the Internet, and then sorts them in order of how many times they’ve been shared on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
Let’s use Koine Greek as an example again. This time I’ll go to Buzzsumo and enter “Koine Greek” into the search bar.
This tells Buzzsumo to look at all the articles about Koine Greek online, and then list them in order of how much they’ve been shared. (You can also use Buzzsumo for specific websites and even authors, too.) Here’s what I find:
I can see that the most shared post, “Learn New Testament Greek,” has been shared 148 times on Facebook, twice on Twitter, and once on Pinterest for a total of 151 shares. In some cases, Buzzsumo shows me who the author of a post is. In others, I’ll need to click through to find out who wrote the content in question.
This gives me an idea of which websites are writing the most popular content on Koine Greek, which means there’s a good chance that I’ll find influencers on these sites! You can do this for any area of interest you want to find influencers in.
3. Ask your team
I did this recently with the team at Disciplr (a product in the pre-launch stages at the time I write this). I emailed the team and asked a few simple questions:
- Which websites would you love to see us featured on?
- Who does our audience look to for advice?
This returned a long list of people the Disciplr team thought of as influencers. (More on the results later in this post.)
4. Ask your audience
If we really want to know who our audience views as influencers, we can also simply ask them directly.
- Send a handful of your most engaged customers or subscribers a personal email asking them which blogs they read.
- Send a mass email to your list with a link to a survey asking them which blogs they read. (You want to use a tool like Google Forms or Survey Monkey to process all the responses.)
Find a good place to keep your list of influencers. I use a simple spreadsheet, but you can use whatever you like. The important thing is to have a place to save your list so that you don’t need to do all this research again!
How to get influencers to share your content
OK, we have our list of influencers. Now here’s how to encourage them to share our content.
It’s time to write some content for them to share. Here’s where it gets interesting, because that kind of content must meet two criteria:
- Your audience has to want it.
- It has to make the influencers look good.
We can’t just produce content for the blog and then think of ways to get others to share it! The whole getting-VIPs-to-share-our-stuff process begins with the creation of the content itself.
There are several ways to write this kind of content, but I want to focus on two sure-fire ways to make it happen.
Strategy 1: Write original content that makes influencers look awesome, and tell them about it.
How do you feel when someone publicly recognizes your good work? Warm fuzzies, right? I bet influencers feel the same way when someone thoughtfully points out their job well done.
That’s why one of the best ways to get influencers to share our content is to write content that makes them look amazing. (Which shouldn’t be hard—they’re influencers for a reason, right?)
This strategy consists of two main steps.
Step 1: Write content that calls attention to the experts
When we’re writing our content, we can sprinkle in some nods to the people our target audience respects. That might look like:
- pointing to their work as a case study,
- linking to one of their blog posts for more information, or
- giving them a direct shoutout and linking to their Twitter handle.
Doing this gives you a few benefits. First, it helps bring on the warm fuzzies for those experts. Second, when we recognize the people our audience respects, it makes it easier for them to associate that kind of quality with us, too.
Sidenote: this happens to all of us. We immediately feel more connected to people who root for the same sports teams, listen to the same bands, and chow down at the same favorite restaurants. It works the same way with experts. If I know you read my favorite blog, I’m more likely to think you know what you’re talking about.
So the first step is to write content that makes VIPs look great.
Step 2: Tell them about it.
Experts are busy people; they’re not going to accidentally discover that we’ve given them kudos. We’ve got to let them know about it.
There are a few ways to do this:
- Write them a thank-you email. Shoot them a quick email saying that you’ve referenced them in a recent article (and remember to link to it!), and thank them for making the material that you’re referencing. This is link-building expert Brian Dean’s go-to strategy, which he describes in this video.
- Tweet them a heads-up. It’s ridiculously simple. If an influencer is active on Twitter, shoot them a quick tweet letting them know you’ve mentioned them. Sometimes I keep it as simple as, “I see you, @[Expert’s Twitter handle]! [Link to my article]” (I like to add smiley faces, sometimes).
- If you know the influencer personally, text them a link to your content, or send them a link in a Facebook message.
Here’s an example of how that worked for me.
A little while ago, the friendly folks at the Buffer blog picked up one of my posts on writing content.
I had written this post with a few things in mind:
- I wanted to help higher ed institutions know how to write awesome blog content.
- I wanted to see if the big-name content marketing experts agreed.
So I worked hard on a post that was as practical, actionable, and expert-sharable as possible. I ended up with a piece that gave shoutouts to several thought leaders in the content marketing space, including Brian Dean, Neil Patel, and Buffer’s own Kevan Lee.
Then I sent some quick emails. Here’s the one I sent to Brian Dean. Remember, I’ve had limited online interaction with him up to this point.
So simple, right? I just use a three-part template:
- Thank the expert for the material I reference in my article.
- Link to the article (if it’s a long article, tell them where to find their call-out).
- Invite their thoughts and reiterate my gratitude.
Did it work? Yep.
But remember: The reader comes first!
As we’re writing content, it’s important to remember that we’re writing to our audience, not the VIPs.
If we write a blog post that’s nothing but a grab for attention, readers—and the influencers you’re trying to court—will likely notice.
If we write a blog post that’s laser-focused on making our readers’ lives better, readers will love us for it and the experts will appreciate being included even more.
Strategy 2: Offer the influencers a content upgrade.
This is one of my favorites, because it’s crazy simple. You just follow four steps:
- Find a popular article the influencer wrote that fits your target audience.
- Offer to put that content in a new format exclusively for the influencer.
- Make the content.
- Let the influencer know how to give you credit.
Sound familiar? That might be because this is based on strategy #5 in my previous post on strategies for writing content that ranks in Google: put great content in a new format. (By the way, I’m not the only one who loves this approach: Dennis at LeapFroggr recommends this, too.)
So, how does that work? Let’s use a real-life example.
Remember how I told you I asked the Disciplr team who they thought the influencers in our space are? One of the people they told me about was Tony Morgan, a church consultant at the Unstuck Group who helps his clients lead well and focus on what they do best.
Disciplr ended up not only getting social mentions from Tony Morgan and his consulting group, but getting featured on his blog, too.
Step 1: Find a popular article the influencer wrote that fits your target audience.
Back to Buzzsumo!
When we last looked at this tool, we searched for the most popular articles on a certain topic. But this time, I wanted to find the most popular content that Tony Morgan himself has written.
So instead of searching a topic, I entered Tony Morgan’s website URL, TonyMorganLive.com. I narrowed the search to show me the most popular articles on his website over the past six months. Here’s roughly what I found. (The results have changed a bit over the months since I ran my original search.)
I scrolled until I found an article that would totally resonate with Disciplr’s audience. And this one is perfect. It’s all about giving staff a healthy pace of life—something our tool supports nicely.
Step 2: Offer to put that content in a new format exclusively for the influencer
I found Tony’s email address from his website and shot him an email.
The message was really simple. I just told him I appreciated his content, and wanted to help it spread any way I could—and specifically offered to put it into an infographic to make Tony’s content even easier to absorb by visual learners.
The key part of this is to offer the influencer an exclusive. Remember, the content is really theirs; we’re just offering to put it into a new format. In my opinion, that means they should be the ones to break the news about the new content to the world on their own properties.
This creates a win-win-win situation:
- The influencer wins because they get two posts for the price of one.
- The influencer’s audience wins because they get that content in a new format that may resonate with a different learning style.
- You win because you get in front of your target audience with the influencer’s approval.
I heard back from his blog manager with the go-ahead, and so it was time to move on to step 3.
Step 3: Make the content
Next, one of our designers used Tony’s content and my wireframes to create this memorable infographic:
Step 4: Let the influencer know how to give you credit
This is tremendously important. You don’t want to put all the work into building a relationship and creating content only to let it go live without attribution.
In this case, I suggested to Tony’s blog manager that they lead into the infographic with a simple paragraph making the connection between his original blog post and Disciplr. I also gave them a link to a landing page where readers could download the infographic. Here’s how it looked when they published it:
You can see the finished product here.
The result: Disciplr got featured on an influencer’s blog, and 67 new people from a very, very specific niche joined our email list.
How do you get experts to share your content?
Publishing a piece and wondering how to drive traffic to it isn’t much fun. But when you write and design the kind of content that VIPs love to share and audience love to read, everyone wins.
These are the methods that I’ve found are tried-and-true for getting experts to share content, especially when trying to get noticed in a not-so-centralized market.
Have you tried any methods for getting on the radar of influencers and VIPs in your area? I’d be interested to hear about them in the comments!
Read Next: How to create pinnable content on Pinterest for non-visual brands
Image credit: Shutterstock
This post first appeared on Buffer.
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