How to find and engage influencers in your industry

Posted by Matthew Barby on 23 Jan, 2014
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What's the best way to get your content shared? Digital marketing consultant Matthew Barby explores how you can identify and utilize industry influencers for link building.

Within any SEO, content marketing or social media campaign, industry influencers play a big part towards their success.I always make sure that I have a thorough understanding of the content that performs well within an industry, who the major content curators/aggregators are, and the influential authors. Understanding all of this will help me to build highly successful content assets, drive more traffic through to my clients’ websites, and increase social engagement across the board.

By knowing this, I can do some of the following:

  • Create content that is more likely to be shared via social media.
  • Reach out to industry influencers to show them my content.
  • Get links from major digital publications and blogs.
  • Improve the effectiveness of my prospecting/outreach campaigns.
  • Identify the websites that will give me the best ROI for my link building.
  • Build influential brand evangelists.

Identifying Influencers

This is something that I focus a lot of my time on. In particular, I’ve been looking at ways to scale the ‘influencer analysis’ stage because I’ve found the data that can be gathered to be hugely beneficial to my SEO campaigns.

Finding popular content

I begin this process by identifying great content within my niche. To do this I use a number of tools, one of which is BuzzSumo.This is a free tool that enables you to search for influential content (based on social shares across the major networks) related to any keyword that you enter.

 

In the screenshot above, I’ve found some of the most popular link building content from the past month. You can then download this data to a .csv file for further analysis.

Pro Tip: Wherever possible, get all of your data into a spreadsheet to allow you to filter through it. You’ll be able to do much more this way compared to filtering within tools.

Another tool that I like to use to find good quality content is Social Crawlytics. Like BuzzSumo, Social Crawlytics is completely free to use - although, there is a limit to the amount of reports you can run. I won’t go into too much detail on how to use Social Crawlytics because I’ll leave you to play around with it. Essentially, you can scout through leading industry blogs or competitors to find which content has performed well.

Who’s sharing this content?

Behind all of the top performing content that I gather are the social influencers. These are the people that are getting the content seen by others within the industry, and these are the people that I want to be building relationships with. A great way of finding them is by using another free tool, Topsy.

 

Topsy is a social search tool that you can use to find exactly who has shared any given URL via Twitter (and Google Plus). You can also drill down on ‘influential users’, which is what I’m interested in. I tend to go through as much of the top industry content (depending on how much I’m able to gather) as possible and then place the ‘influential’ sharers within a spreadsheet.

Pro Tip: You can save loads of copy/paste time here by using the Scraper plugin from Chrome to scrape the names, Twitter handles and Twitter profile URLs of the sharers in a matter of seconds.

Who’s creating the content?

As well as the people that are sharing the content, the creators themselves are people that I want to be engaging with. If someone has managed to get their post shared 1,000+ times over Twitter then there’s loads of ways that they could be useful to have on my side!

Now, going in and manually searching through all of the top content to find who has produced it may take a little time – this is where I use the SEO Tools plugin for Excel to scrape this information with XPath. I should mention that you need Excel to be running on Windows to be able to install and use the plugin.

Note: If you haven’t used the SEO Tools plugin for Excel before then make sure you check out my full video tutorial on how to get the most from it.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed the plugin, open up the spreadsheet with all of the top content that was gathered within BuzzSumo. You’ll then be able to scrape the name of the author from each URL using the following formula (replace URLHERE with the URL of the popular content):

 

=XPathOnUrl(URLHERE,"//*[@rel='author']")

Note: This will only work for sites that have a rel=”author” attribute where they list the author’s name. You can also use BuzzStream to try and gather some of this information. In addition to this you can use the following formula to gather the author’s Twitter handle (as long as the URL has Twitter meta data set up):

 

=XPathOnUrl(URLHERE,"//*[@name='twitter:creator']","content")

Once you have someone’s Twitter handle, you’ll be able to gather a whole host of other information on them – but I’ll come to this shortly.

Pro Tip: You can find popular authors on big blogs by running a report within Social Crawlytics. The tool will then give you a breakdown of the top authors based on the number of social shares their content has had.

Where else do they publish content?

Finding the other places where these influential authors are publishing content will help to identify more link building opportunities. It will also give me more intelligence around where the top authors in the industry are writing and getting exposure for their content – these sites will then be my primary outreach targets.

I wrote a full post about following authors' paper-trails - here's a brief overview:

  • Search through the author’s ‘contributor to’ section of their Google+ profile.
  • Do a reverse image search on the author’s profile image to find sites where it has appeared (this will likely be in their author bio).
  • Do an advanced query within Google to search for their name and job title (they will usually mention this in author bios on content they’ve written).

Gathering contact information

Before we can start building relationships with these influencers, we’ll need to gather contact information for them. As I mentioned, once we have their Twitter URL, we’re able to get a load more information on them. We can do this using FullContact’s Persona API. If your'e using the SEO tools Excel plugin, then another way to gather contact information on them is to go back and use some more XPath to find the URL listed on their Twitter profile – which will usually be their personal website. You can do that with the following formula (just add in their Twitter profile URL):

 

=CONCATENATE("http://",(XPathOnUrl(TWITTERPROFILEURL,"//*[@id='page-container']/div[3]/div[1]/div[2]/p/span[3]/span/a")))

Once you have this URL, plug it into BuzzStream and let it work its magic to find any contact information that’s available on the site. I usually get a good success rate with this method.

Utilising the influencers

Once I’ve carried out all of my analysis and gathered contact information on all of the influencers, it’s then time to start building relationships with them. There’s no set way to go about this because the way that you build relationships will differ depending on what your objectives are and what industry you’re working within. Having said that, here’s a few ideas on how you can use the industry influencers to boost your SEO campaign:

  • Gain opportunities to write on their personal blogs.
  • Reach out to the list of sites that they write for – they’re likely to also accept other guest contributors (plus, if the top writers are contributing, the sites must be good quality).
  • Gather their input for posts on your on site to get ‘expert insights’.
  • Ask them to write on your website.
  • Share relevant content directly to the social influencers to increase the likelihood of it being picked up by and featured on major sites.
  • Have them ghost-write for you on the sites they contribute to and gain some good quality links (you’ll likely need to pay them here).
  • Offer them free use of your products/services in return for writing reviews.
  • Build relationships with them offline and work on moulding them as brand evangelists.

Summary:

It's worth spending more time on gathering information on the people that influence the market you're working on - it may feel like hard work, but the benefits can be enormous. Remember to use a combination of tools so that you can really scale out the analysis process and get the most from it. Most importantly, build relationships with the people (influencers are people too) which will increase the reach of your content, and can open doors to big link building opportunities.

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