One of the worst feelings in the world of marketing 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 piece will give you a practical, actionable approach to writing and designing the kind of content that VIPs love to share with your audience.
Infographic by Laura Kranz
Tools you will need
Apart from the standards like a word processor, email, and Google’s search engine, I recommend using Buzzsumo to pull these strategies off. You can use the free version for the strategies I outline here, but trust me: the paid version makes this even easier to do.
How to find the influencers in your space
The first step to getting influencers to share your 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 you can mix and match these approaches all you like.
1. Google your keywords
This is probably the easiest way to figure out who the influencers are in your 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, click through to the top results, and find out who wrote them. If these folks are ranking for this search term, you want them sharing your 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.com 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 use Buzzsumo for specific websites and even authors, too—but we’ll just go with a topic for now.) 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 you really want to know who your audience views as influencers, 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!
OK, you have a list of influencers. Now here’s how to get them to share your content.
How to get influencers to share your content
You have your list of influencers. Now 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.
That means you shouldn’t just produce content for your blog and then think of ways to get others to share it! The whole getting-VIPs-to-share-your-stuff process begins with the creation of the content itself.
There are several ways you could 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? Influencers feel the same way when someone thoughtfully points out their jobs well done.
That’s why one of the best ways to get influencers to share your 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 you’re writing content, sprinkle in some nods to the people your target audience respects. That might look like pointing to their work as a case study. It might look like linking to one of their blog posts for more information. It might look like giving them a direct shout out 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, if you recognize the people your audience respects, you make it easier for them to take you seriously.
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. After that, it’s time for …
Step 2: Tell them about it.
Experts are busy people; they’re not going to accidentally discover that you’ve given them kudos. It’s your responsibility to let them know about it.
There are a few ways you can 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 shout outs to several of the thought leaders in the content marketing space, including Brian Dean, Neil Patel, and 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.
— Brian Dean (@Backlinko) March 10, 2015
But nobody likes a suck-up.
Absolutely not! That’s why as you’re writing content, you need to remember: you’re writing to your audience, not the VIPs.
If you make a blog post that’s nothing but grabs for attention, you’ll be seen as annoying and desperate by both your readership and the influencers you’re trying to court.
If you write a blog post that’s laser-focused on making the reader’s life better, your readers will love you and the experts will appreciate being included.
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. Tony’s a consultant who runs the Unstuck Group.
Disciplr is a tool specifically built to help leaders and teachers in churches save time and effort. Tony Morgan is a church consultant who helps his clients lead well and focus on what they do best. And Disciplr ended up not only getting social mentions from Tony Morgan and his consulting group, but they got 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 had 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.
I clicked through to make sure the article was a good fit. (You can read it here.) It was a perfect fit, so I moved on to step 2.
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; you’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.
Pretty straightforward. One of our designers used Tony’s content and my wireframes to create a 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.
The result: Disciplr got featured on an influencer’s blog, and 67 new people from a very, very specific niche joined our email list.
You can see the finished product here.
Are there more ways to get experts to share your content?
You bet. These are the methods that I’ve found are tried-and-true, especially when you’re trying to get noticed in a not-so-centralized market. I recommend them because they encourage bloggers to intentionally write content that experts will want to share, instead of publishing a piece and wondering how to drive traffic to it!
Want to chat specifically about how to drive more prospective customers to your website? Shoot me an email!