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5 Strategies for Finding Influencers Online

With so many self-professed “gurus” and “experts” online, separating the wheat from the chaff can feel like an overwhelming process. Use the following strategies to find people in the niche you’re looking for and expand your professional connections.

Why? It’s all about who you know online.

1. Create Twitter lists

Don't know where to start building your own Twitter list of influencers? Use Google to find public lists compiled by other users. Search terms like “B2B marketing Twitter list” will reveal existing lists you can put to use.

You don't need to follow each person – just subscribe to the list for a while. Once you see who's actively sharing content and inviting discussion, create your own version of the list focusing on these influencers.

If you want your list to be public, here's a pro tip: Give the list a flattering, specific name that doesn’t suggest you’re using these people to push content. Try “Favorite local B2B marketers” or “Experts in wearable tech” rather than “Influencer list.”

2. Get Active on LinkedIn Publishing & Groups

Joining relevant industry groups on LinkedIn can put you in touch with influencers, but guard your time wisely:

  • Take notice of the most active members and focus your attention there
  • Don’t waste time on people who post sporadically
  • Don't post pieces in a vacuum; if a group isn't active – leave

It’s best to share content from your own profile as well, and work on building professional connections there so you actually have an audience.

Since LinkedIn makes it difficult to connect with people you don’t know personally, continue discussions on Twitter. After you’ve connected there, send a DM asking for their email address so you can connect on LinkedIn.

At that point you've got three points of contact with that influencer (email, LinkedIn, and Twitter). Interacting with someone on multiple platforms shows you're willing to commit to the relationship. That’s flattering, and proves you’re not a time-waster.

But how do you make sure they're not?

3. Evaluate Influence

Before jumping into the steps that follow and wasting time, you need metrics to evaluate how influential people actually are. Just because someone else found certain people worthy as influencers doesn't mean they're a perfect fit for you.

But how do you measure someone's degree of influence? There's an app for that – several, actually.

Alexa’s Site Screener gives you instant insight into just how influential a particular domain is (great for thought leaders with their own blogs) and BuzzSumo’s Top Authors tool will give you a good indication of who’s producing the content that goes viral.

Brand24’s Tab Analysis lets you drill down even deeper, and find the top publishers for a specific keyword. You can then research those influencers further, and make decisions based on brand objectives.

“Look beyond the numbers, make sure their profile fits your brand image, check if their audience matches your target demographic. A thorough research performed beforehand will help this ‘influencing marriage’ last longer and run smoother,” says Gosia Letki.

As you find additional influencers you can run them through these filters to assess whether they're worth adding to your database.  

4. Check industry news sites

Database? You need one! Especially for those found individually via industry news sites, which are spread far and wide.

When you happen upon a skilled writer at a relevant publication, jot down the niches they write in, the kind of content they tend to share, the mediums they like best, and the Alexa, BuzzSumo or Brand24 metrics you’re using to rank them.

For example, Writer A might be an expert in lead generation, and enjoy sharing informative tutorials in infographic form. Perfect – when you come across one, you’ll know exactly who to talk to.

Don’t make it an “everything” list, keep it tight – but include your Twitter and LinkedIn influencers as you get to know them. With everything organized, the reaching out and connecting part is that much easier. But there are a few things to keep in mind there too.

5. Find the mutual benefit

As tempting as it may be to "throw yourself" at influencers in an attempt to be seen, you've got to resist. Desperate plays for attention are a huge turnoff – as is making it all about you.

Letki speaks of an “influencing marriage,” offering a valuable perspective on approaching influencers — you need to think of this as a partnership, not just a way to get shout-outs. What can you bring to the table? If the answer is nothing, your relationship won't go very far.

The idea is to build friendly relationships before you need to ask for something. Even then, keep it casual: Tweet or DM with a link to your post and why they’d like it. Something like “I know you love interactive infographics about marketing, so this might be of interest!” would work.

The best way to engage influencers is to present yourself as a person first. Take it slow, prove you have something to offer them and their followers, and your "influencing marriage" is bound to be a success.

What are your top tactics for identifying influencers? 

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