How to Find Key Influencers in Your Niche Using Social Media

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Andy Crestodina

Some marketers live on islands. They sit alone, putting marketing messages into bottles and throwing them into the sea, hoping something will come back. They’re isolated. Stranded.

Other marketers have discovered one of the great secrets in content marketing. They’ve learned about collaborative content marketing. They include others in their work. They reach out and gather quotes. They share. They work together.

You and I are in that second group, right? We know how to find influencers and collaborate with them. That leads to better content, more traffic and long-lasting relationships. If you haven’t joined the collaboration party yet, this post will get you started…

Influencer marketing? Blogger relations? Modern-day PR?

This strategy has many names. Whatever you call it, it’s becoming a more important, more popular tactic in content marketing.

According to our most recent survey of 1000+ bloggers, almost 1 in 4 bloggers is doing influencer outreach. That’s a 40% increase over the last two years.

Influencer marketing is on the rise.

Before we dig in and learn how to find these key influencers, let’s define the term.

What’s influencer marketing? And is it effective?

Influencer marketing is focused on the key people who have already built the audience you want to reach. The goal is to connect with these influential people and collaborate, allowing you to borrow that audience in a sensitive and considerate way.

Make sense? It’s just a faster and more efficient way to reach a large target audience. Here’s data that explains why it’s become so popular:

  • The average buyer consults 11 product reviews before making a purchase decision. Most of these are blog posts. (source)
  • 84% of consumers make purchases after reading about a product or service on a blog. (source)
  • Influencers are most active on blogs, as 86% say they have them and 88% of those say they blog for themselves. (source)

This explains the recent surge in interest for the topic:

[Tweet “”84% of consumers make purchases after reading about a product or service on a blog.” – @orbiteers “]

Who should I be looking for?

There are two main criteria for picking influencers to collaborate with…

Collaborative: Is this person likely to work with me?

  • Will this person respond if I reach out?
  • Are they likely to accept my invitation to collaborate?
  • Will they look for compensation?

Relevant: Will it be an effective collaboration?

  • Is this person known and trusted by my audience?
  • Do they have a social media following?
  • Are they likely to share or promote content we create together?
  • Are they a writer? Do they create content in my niche?

Social is temporary. Search is forever.

If you’re interested in the SEO benefits of influencer marketing, that last question is very important. People who create content also create links. If they do eventually mention you in their content, it may help increase your domain authority and rankings.

These are seven types of influencers who create web content beyond social media posts.

  1. Bloggers and blog editors
  2. Journalists and columnists
  3. Authors
  4. Podcasters
  5. Webinar producers
  6. Event producers
  7. Academic researchers

Although an influencer on Instagram or YouTube might have access to a huge audience, a collaboration with them is unlikely to lead to any search ranking benefits. Here’s the difference:

If a social media influencer shares your content, the benefits are very short lived. The lifespan of your content in their social stream can be measured in minutes. If it does give you a traffic boost, it will be over before the day is done.

If a content creator mentions you on their website, this has a more durable benefit than a share on social media. That mention (and link) passes a bit of authority from their website to yours. And it’s this authority that helps your website rank.

Warning! Paying people to link to you for the sake of search engine rankings is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This is a kind of “link spam” and it’s both unethical and risky. Influencer marketing is first and foremost about people, not links.

How to find influencers on social media

Content creators who are influential within your niche are easy to find. That’s because social media is the world’s greatest phone book.

First, we’ll find influencers using a free tool for searching social media profiles. Then we’ll use a more powerful paid service, BuzzSumo.

How to find influencers on Twitter

Twitter is the fastest way to find leaders in almost any industry. The Twitter Advanced Search Tool is good, but the search results aren’t sortable. So most marketers skip this and use other Twitter search tools, such as FollowerWonk. Here’s how:

  1. Click on the Search Bios tab
  2. Click “more options” for the advanced search options
  3. Enter the niche or industry into the search field. Be specific by going deeper into your niche. Rather than “travel” or “cars” try using “island travel” or “family cars.” (ProTip: Add “Blogger” or “Author” if you’re doing blogger outreach and looking for long term SEO benefits.)
  4. Enter a minimum number of followers (probably 10,000 for most industries or a few as 1,000 for specific niches)

Now you’ll be looking at a list of people who are likely influential within the niche. They’re sorted by the size of their followings.

More followers usually mean more influence and reach, but not always. It’s easy to get lots of followers without influencing anyone. So also look at the Social Authority column. This number combines followers with other metrics like the number of tweets and the influence of followers. Low authority means the account is less likely to engage and drive traffic.

Dig deeper into the accounts that look interesting. Are they sharing lots of content? Are they interacting with other people? Are they active on other networks? When you’ve found a few winners, add them to your list of people to reach out to and collaborate.

You can also export your list into Excel.

There are a lot of paid tools you can use to find influencers and track your interactions with them. These tools have excellent search features that help you find people in very specific niches who are likely to increase your reach.

Let’s jump into one of these and see how it works…

How to find influential bloggers using Buzzsumo

Here we’ll find niche influencers to collaborate with by filtering and sorting in ways that aren’t possible with FollowerWonk or Twitter’s own search tools.

  1. Log into BuzzSumo and click on the “Influencers” tab
  2. Enter your topic and click search!
  3. Select the filters for “bloggers” and “influencers”
    It’s very useful to remove companies!

Now you’re looking at a list of niche influencers complete with data about followings, retweet ratios, reply ratios. At a glance, you can see who is likely to interact on social media.

But Domain Authority data is also here. A higher number means a bigger benefit to your search rankings if the blogger mentions you and links to your site from their blog.

This report also gives you quick access to the content they’re sharing. Dig in and pick the influencers you like best, then you can add them to an outreach list for managing your contact and collaboration.

Above and beyond this approach, our philosophy is always to be generous and helpful to anyone we connect with. Consider the advice of networking pro and friend, Dennis Shiao.

“In parallel to the tools-based influencer discovery outlined in this post, make it an everyday habit to build authentic and meaningful relationships with influencers. Because I love to meet people, I engage in this sort of activity all the time. When doing so, I’m not thinking about benefits or results. I’m not thinking about “influencer outreach,” I’m thinking instead about “meeting people.” My motivation is to get to know someone new, someone I may learn from.” – Dennis Shiao, @dshiao, DNN Software.

Next Steps

Once you’ve built a list of the key leaders in your niche, in a spreadsheet, a database or on paper, it’s time to plan your outreach.

  1. Reach out, connect, share and start building relationships
    Read 35 Ways to Connect with Anyone Online >
  2. Plan to collaborate on a piece of content together
    Read 5 Powerful Tips for Collaborative Content Marketing >

If you’re not making friends, you’re doing it wrong.

Salespeople have always known the value of a personal network. But marketers have been slow to catch on.

It’s not about the size of your following, but the quality of your relationships. These are people who can truly help you. And they’re excited to help you. Why? Because you’re friends and you are just as motivated to help them.

Make people your priority. Meet with marketers weekly. Talk to marketers every day. Here are a few other networking tips:

  • Hold open office hours before work
  • Meet for happy hour after work
  • Form a mastermind group
  • Pick up the phone
  • Send handwritten thank you notes …and get into the “forgotten inbox”

Help everyone you can and your marketing support network will grow. You’ll get more done, more efficiently and have more fun doing it. That’s really what influencer marketing is about.

Try it! It will do wonders for the future of your business, career and personal life.

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Comments (12)
  • Another tool that I use to get a starting point on an influencers value is, it allows me to search for influencers and understand their value and also see key information about reach and engagement. I can choose to reach out to see if they are interested in doing a campaign, and manage all of that in the platform. They charge a transaction fee once a campaign is completed.

    • Thanks for that tip, Tim. I’ll check that out…

  • Andy–

    I love your John Donne opening!

    More importantly, I agree with your point that influencer marketing is about building relationships. Even better take them into the real world.

    As a marketer, it’s key to examine not just what will look good for a fleeting moment on social media, but also what will resonate with your core audience.

    While many bloggers talk about traffic as their core reason for using influencer marketing, they overlook the staying power of long term relations. That goes beyond distributing one article.

    Happy marketing,

    Heidi Cohen
    Actionable Marketing Guide

    • I can relate to that image… marketers throwing messages in bottles. You and I share the same philosophy about collaboration, networking and relationships. The best friends are friends you see offline, right?

  • Influencer marketing is nothing new – it was identified in 1940 – The People´s Choice (Lazarsfeld and Katz). This new “tool” will last as long as “how much is a like worth” and “let’s all share each others Facebook pages”

    It’s one more iteration of social media being much like herding cats. Why would I want to bank my brand on someone else? As in “oh crap I need to see if i can stop payment on that check to PewDiePie”

    I cut out the middle man after spending 2 years of chasing influencers who wouldn’t let go of of the rice – so i declared myself the influencer in my niche and cut out the middle man – problem solved.

  • Andy – you know this approach has been successful for our clients. I use the Mozbar to determine domain authority and page authority when I’m looking at potential influencers – helps me cut to the chase very quickly and it’s free.

  • Great article, Andy! I’m encouraged to see that interest in Influencer Marketing is on the rise as that’s my main promotion technique at the moment. I’ll be having a look at Follower Wonk and Buzzsumo. The way I find Influencers for my roundup articles is to type into Google: experts share reveal secrets asked tips [+ niche keyword]. This search returns pages and pages of expert roundups. It’s a great technique because it not only finds Influencers, but it finds Influencers who like being included in roundups. Great work you’re doing!

  • Very helpful post Andy! I was wondering, what social media platform do you think is best to use when reaching out to influencers?

  • Hey Andy,
    Awesome article, I liked it!

    Twitter is great for an influencers research, however, in some niches other platforms will work better (Like Pinterest for recipes) .
    Also, I found that “retweet ratios” is the most accurate metric to determine the influence.

    Thanks for sharing these tips 🙂
    Heading off to tweet it now!

  • Thanks, Andy for showing me the right way to search for influencers.

  • “Is this person likely to work with me?” That’s a good one to consider because many people say they will but do not. Ironically, the greater the influence the more likely they will come through for you. The willingness to help explains how influencers have become influential.

  • Thank you very much for the insight, exactly what I’m looking for. And thank you for brining up the “sales etiquette” aspect that marketers should emulate from sales folks.

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