How to Leverage Influencer Outreach to Build a Better Blog Post
When it comes to contemporary content marketing, most folks seem to have blogging down…almost.
It took a while, but almost everyone is using proper grammar and eye-catching images. Most people have caught on to the importance of implementing SEO best practices. An increasing number of marketers are developing posts targeted to relevant, researched audience personas with content appropriate to the reader’s stage of the buyer’s journey with thoughtful calls to action.
But sometimes we still struggle with providing value.
Too many still want to hawk their wares or services in their blog posts, expounding on features or benefits, bragging about recent press, or dishing out updates on products, when what we should be doing to create ROI for our own business objectives is to provide value to the reader through original, quality content.
We want our blog posts to be better, to offer clear value for readers, to answer questions that are important to them. In turn, we want this dedication to value to equal better results for us as well – we want to make sure that our content brings all around value to the table. One of the best ways to make sure that your content has clear value is to source it directly from influencers and active communities.
For myself and many other content creators, turning to those who represent our target audiences for input is one of the best ways to source compelling subject matter.
By talking to the people you want your blog posts to speak to, you’re able to find out exactly what is on their minds, what they want to know, what they are concerned about, how they feel on pressing issues, and all sorts of other important-to-them topics that may make for brilliant blog posts.
Some of us have built networks for this kind of research. When you create a group, you’re building a renewable resource that you can leverage again and again for inspiration.
For those of you who don’t have an established network, you may want to seek out existing communities to make connections and gain insight. One of the great gathering spots for digital marketers to come together is the Ahrefs Insider Facebook Group.
This active community, launched under the guidance of Tim Soulo, places a heavy focus on helping its members and monitors each post to ensure that every discussion is valuable. Even if you are working in a more obscure niche, you may be able to connect with someone who has worked in a related field and can provide valuable insights for when you are ready to start building your own network via influencer outreach.
Participating in an engaged community like Ahrefs Insider is a great way to gain actionable SEO insight for any aspect of your influencer outreach campaigns.
At my agency, Impressa Solutions, we find that frequently we have to establish new networks and reach out to influencers and bloggers to get one-off answers to burning questions that could steer future blog content.
As we ideate on future posts for our clients and our own marketing efforts, we focus our outreach on two types of blogs. The first set of blogs are written by those who resemble our target audience, and we ask them about pain points, challenges, goals, and accomplishments. The second set speaks to the same audience that we do but aren’t competitors – for example, our content agency may reach out to designers who serve similar market segments. For both types of blogs, we extend an offer to cite them in our upcoming post and provide a do-follow link back to their blog.
Wrangling Primary Research
Once we know what we’re going to write about, we use outreach to do primary research. When it comes to blogging, this has been hands-down the best way to infuse each piece with more value.
This is because there is so much content out there already; almost everything has been said before – or at least it seems like that when doing online research. If only I had a dollar for every time I diligently scoured the web for high-quality articles that say something new and fresh and aren’t part of the first ten search results…only to find that they heavily reference the first ten search results anyway!
Once we have an idea and a rough outline, we develop some questions or prompts for the kind of information we’d like to collect for a post. Then we reach out to people who are already talking about our topics, displaying thought leadership, and demonstrating authority. We then take their answers, often quoting them directly, and we include their first-hand responses, helpful tips, unique perspectives, and intelligent insights into the posts we develop. Again, we offer them a citation and a do-follow link in our post to demonstrate the potential value of working with us.
Collaborative Content Development
Another way to leverage outreach is to find collaborators to help you develop high caliber blog content that might typically be out of reach due to a lack of resources.
Samantha Stone Avneri with Regpack, an event registration software company, did just this. Regpack recently partnered with another small software company to develop impactful visual content for their blog that wouldn’t have been on the table otherwise.
I’ll let Samantha take it from here:
One of the best collaborations we did was with a DIY graphics software. They create, for a cost, infographics, but they were growing. We ended up with a great deal where they took an existing piece of content we had (a blog post) and used their tool to create an infographic from the data in that post.
It was a win-win for us since they were able to showcase what they did on another blog, and we were able to republish a piece of content with updated images which brought in more traffic.
The infographic not only made our content better and stand out more, but it was fun to collaborate with another company who doesn’t do the SAME thing as we do, but we found a way to marry our two businesses into one small project.
Of course, when it comes to outreach, you don’t have to limit yourself to other businesses. There are independent bloggers, consultants, and freelancers who cater to the same target audience as you do. Reaching out to them to collaborate on a piece of content where both of you lend your expertise could be mutually beneficial and can significantly reduce the costs (time and effort) of producing that content.
Social traffic is another benefit of collaboration. Imagine two bloggers. One reaches out to her network, invites others to contribute ideas and quotes …and the other just sits and writes along. The two articles go live. Who gets more shares? Of course, the blogger that includes others in her work has enlisted others to help in the promotion and will likely get far greater social reach.
To maximize this benefit (sometimes called “Ego Bait”) make sure that your collaborators are both experts at providing insights, but also generous about sharing. And it doesn’t hurt if they have a large, engaged following.
You can also use outreach to build up a network of thought leaders or one-off contributors for your blog.
Again, these will likely be people who aren’t direct competitors but do speak to the same audience or greatly resemble your target audience. Being published on your blog helps them to build up their authority and get greater reach, and in turn, you get high caliber, unique content from a subject matter expert.
Karla Pincott has built up a network like this for BusinessWomanMedia. They “focus on delivering savvy advice from successful women” with a priority on articles ‘by women for women’ as they believe “there are many issues that female execs and business owners face, that men simply would rarely recognise.” I agree wholeheartedly, Karla. With those issues in mind, BusinessWomanMedia has used outreach to cultivate a “network of contributors including conference keynote speakers, authors, and leaders from around the globe who are able to point the way for other women.”
While this is something my agency is working on building for each of our ongoing content clients, we’re not quite there yet. Currently, we’re using outreach to pinpoint luminaries who have unique viewpoints and insights that will resonate with the audiences we speak to. This means we have a small, yet growing, queue of volunteers for future guest post opportunities on our clients’ blogs.
As a blogger or publication you can’t be the expert on absolutely everything. So having access to subject matter experts in the areas you’re most likely to be writing about is absolutely essential. In my opinion, another way, besides emails, to quickly connect with the experts is Twitter! Use hashtags like #journorequest or #prrequest to reach a large audience of people who are looking for opportunities to comment on content.
If your piece of content is going to have the maximum credibility, then your sources need to be credible (of course). So do some background research into the individual of course. And then keep solid records of the people you’ve dealt with before to speed up any future content where you need their input again. That could be as simple as a spreadsheet or you could use an outreach type of CRM system.
Fostering Overall Value and ROI
Of course, content production isn’t why most marketers undertake outreach. Many reach out to bloggers, writers, and media sites because they’re looking to get social shares, promote their posts, build buzz, and generate links.
But outreach doesn’t have to serve just one purpose. I’m of the belief that even if the original intent of your outreach was to develop content, there’s no reason it can’t help you with promotion too! This is where the higher value comes in for either your business or your clients’ brands. Your outreach efforts can be used to achieve several goals, which can mean lower costs and a higher return on investment.
The focus of most outreach campaigns is on the initial “ask”. But the reality is this is the hardest part of any outreach campaign and it’s easy to churn & burn relationships if the initial outreach email isn’t compelling.
A better approach is to try and develop each relationship into a long-term relationship. It’s far easier to get someone to help you out if you’ve already established a relationship.
In some respects, this makes scaling a little more tricky initially but over the long-term it adds up to better ROI and more value.
I’ve had some great success with this over the years but the key is ultimately to ensure these relationships are mutually beneficial. An easy way to get the ball rolling is to simply ask “what else can we do to help each other?” once the initial “ask” has been completed
For us, this means that we often tell people that we’ll include them conditionally; we’re happy to feature them in our blog post if they link back to it (or to another post) once it’s published.
I should note, however, that this is done with a light touch. We aren’t trying to pressure anyone or go link for link – we’re merely creating an exchange of value that lets both of us move forward with our objectives, including our SEO work. If someone doesn’t link to us after a gentle reminder that the post is live, we let it go.
We tell contributors when the post has gone live and we encourage them to share the post on social and gently remind them to link to us. Again, this is done with a light touch, and we don’t ask them this more than once. To make sharing easy, when we promote the post on social media, we will tag the contributors in individual posts to thank them. They often retweet or share our shoutouts, which creates even more amplification than an original post would.
There are also those who are just pleased as punch to be featured. I personally fall into this category! Each time I find that I’ve been featured, quoted, cited, mentioned, or whatever in a blog post or article, I do three things. First, I add the post to the bio on my website and link to it. Second, I schedule a handful of tweets, a couple of LinkedIn posts, and a Facebook post to share the article. And third, I forward the article on to my team, and they then share the article on the agency’s social channels; sometimes they even share it to their personal profiles if the post is outstanding.
Of course, not everyone you collaborate with through outreach will be a Julie. Even though not everyone follows through with a link or social share, the 40-60% that do save us ample time, effort, and money by doing some of the post-promotion and link building for us at no additional cost.
Leveraging automation tools as much as we can further add to our ROI. For example, we use Pitchbox to discover new influencers to reach out to, send automated outreach sequences, track responses, and keep tabs on our overall outreach success rate. We even use the tool to thank our influencers after the fact and, if needed, remind them to share the post. Pitchbox halves the time we spend on outreach and managing responses, saving us a significant amount of time and money. It’s an essential part of our toolkit.
Influencer Outreach is a simple strategy that brings in significant ROI, so I urge you to give it a go for an upcoming blog post. By collaborating with new connections, you’ll be able to create unique and valuable content to delight your readers, and you’ll grow your network in the process.