10 Steps to a Successful Social Outreach Program
I attended a session on an experiment in social outreach at the Seattle Interactive Conference last week given by Kate Morris of Distilled. She did a great job walking us through her attempt to make connections with influencers in a subject area she knew nothing about (Big Data) – her presentation is here – and inspired me to write about and augment the process for executing a successful social outreach program.
Social outreach is the process of finding and connecting with influencers in a specific content category. There are people who know a whole lot about something that have built up a following of other people who want to learn and engage with them.
Here are ten steps to putting together an effective social outreach program:
- Be clear about your goals of the program. The goal of a social outreach program is to find and create a connection with influencers in a subject matter. This will lead to you being in conversations about the topic and becoming a bit of an authority yourself. If done properly, you *may* get the benefit of expanding your network and getting greater syndication of your content and ideas. If you start out with the goal of building links, your intentions will be seen as disingenuous and you’ll damage the relationship before seeing any potential benefit.
- Plan for the Long Run – You are about to begin a courtship. You are looking for influencers who will be responsive, helpful and supportive. Treat this process as a long term relationship that you will have both the time and desire to continue.
- Build your List of Influencers – The influencer list is a way to organize who you discover, their contact information, reason for connecting and priority. Click for an influencer tracking template in Excel – which I find very useful – or you may want to set-up a shared Google Spreadsheet if multiple people are participating in the program.
- Listen, Read, Ask – Spend lots of time reading other peoples’ posts and tweets. Learn where their expertise lies, what their style is and how willing they are to share. You will learn a ton about the subject and if they only communicate their own writings, it may not be worth the energy to actively engage. Try to determine if they will be the right kind of influencer – usually someone who shares other people’s opinions and insights more than their own.
- Be Flexible – You may have gone into this process with a specific goal in mind – in Kate’s example, it was to get a quote on big data – but keep an open mind with regard to possible outcomes, opportunities for collaboration and the type of influencer you are looking for during the process.
- Give Before Receiving – Start sharing the influencers good ideas and content through Twitter by re-tweeting, LinkedIn by posting to a group and by commenting on their blog posts. These are three good ways to be seen visibly engaging in their content. By looking for good, interesting content and sharing – especially if it’s from a target influencer – you’ll start to build your own followers and develop a nice content profile when the influencer becomes interested in you.
- Be Friendly and Ask Nicely – By this point, ideally you would have established a relationship with the influencer – perhaps you’ve asked her a question or he noticed that you’ve been watching and engaging his content. When it comes time to ask for something; a quote for a post, comment on a blog, syndicate an article, mention of a whitepaper, etc. – approach the request in a friendly way, give the context for the request and position in a way that will benefit them as well as you.
- Be Creative in Order to Connect – Kate made a nice point in her presentation about one specific person she wanted to engage – He tweeted that he was cold while blogging so she sent him a Snuggy via Amazon Gifts. This is one example of connecting with someone on a more personal level and showing them that you are paying attention to their content – something we ALL appreciate.
- Run the Numbers – At some point, your boss will want to know what all this influencer tracking work is getting you and the business. There is lots of information about what and how to track metrics in social media, but for this project – pick a number of influencers to get on your list within a month, focus on how many of those will engage you and how many will help you achieve your goal. Here is a link to a webinar we did on inbound marketing metrics which included a lot of social.
- Be Prepared to Fail – As odd as it sounds, not everyone wants to be your friend. You will be ignored, not get the response you want and perhaps even get a snarky reply if you push too hard. The important lesson is to be persistent, be prepared to fail and above all – be genuine in your approach to connect with people.
Social media has changed the way we approach digital marketing from a one way push of ads and content to a conversation model. One of the most important things you can do to build your brand and business online – especially in a relatively narrow niche – is to connect and engage with influencers in that niche so that you also become an influencer. This will increase your social reach, personal authority on the topic and yes, may even garner you some links back to your site ☺.
Let us know if you have any questions, comments or have other ways to engage in social outreach and please share this post!