How to Spot Key Influencers Who Want to Share Your Content

When you hear the word “online influencer” one typically thinks of big-league Internet personalities such as Brian Solis, Jeff Bullas, and Seth Godin.  When it comes to blogger outreach, we also value a different type of influencer – the actively engaged blogger or journalist who is trusted within an online community.  
When we brainstorm for ideas, we always have the end goal in mind and try to envision our content on the site that we plan to pitch. While doing so, we do a bit of research to determine who that site’s particular influencer is so that we make sure we create something that is tailored to their interests. These actively engaged bloggers or journalists are dedicated to the niche that they report in, continuously encourage conversation amongst their readers, and strive to be the go-to source for information on a certain topic.
We  take the time to build relationships with these influential journalists and bloggers who help shape certain industries that correlate with our content.  Not only is it important for us to identify these influential connections, it is also important for us to be able to determine whether they seem open to collaboration.
One of our main goal with every piece of content is to create something that will be shared and enjoyed by the audience we are targeting. It helps us tremendously to connect with an online influencer who supports our work and is enthusiastic about sharing it with their loyal audience. In order to determine whether that person is both influential and open to collaboration, we do have a few requirements that we look for…

1. Is Their Audience Engaged?

We want our content to ignite conversations, so having them shared with a loyal audience is key.  The biggest credential we like them to fulfill is that they have their own loyal audience within the site they write for. We determine this by looking at the comments on each of their posts.
Do they typically pose a question or make a statement within their content that entices their audience to comment with their feedback?  It is always a plus when we see a long stream of conversations stemming from a post that they’ve written.  Seeing comments with more positive sentiment is a good sign to move forward with trying to begin a relationship.
As an example, Katie J.M. Barker, who writes for Jezebel, always engages with her audience in the comments. She goes beyond the typical “thanks for commenting” and instead adds to the discussion.
On the flip side, sometimes seeing how they respond to negative feedback can be even more valuable. Chances are, those who handle criticism with respectful replies are well liked via the online community.
Many huge publications have a custom-built commenting system, so be aware of how these work from blog to blog when you’re reviewing comments. When it comes to blogger outreach, theses systems can often make your job easier…
For example, Gawker Media recently introduced a new commenting system called Kinja to their 8 individual blogs (Jezebel, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, etc.). This new system brings the most helpful comments to the top of the comment thread, and moves the trolling comments toward the end. A system like this makes it even easier for us to review the valuable conversations happening, without weeding through spammy comments.
With blogger outreach, it’s pertinent to have a good idea of who is most influential from each site and spurring the most conversations. Seeing how large a following they have within their site is a great indicator, but next you’ll want to take a look at their influence outside of their site — on social media…

2. Are They Socially Active?

When profiling a potential contact, we like to make sure the person has a strong relationship with their audience on social networks. Obviously, a huge indicator for one who is actively engaged online is the amount of Twitter followers, Facebook subscribers and the amount of Google+ circles they belong to. We like to dig deeper and take an ever closer look at their social activity.
If people reach out to them via social media with questions regarding the industry that they blog about, that is a great sign that they are a trusted resource for related information. Once we determine that  they are a trusted resource for opinions on a certain subject, we definitely want them to be a fan of what we’re creating.
Another type of activity to look for on their social networks is whether or not they pose questions to their followers that allow them to contribute to a story that they are writing.  While doing so, it is also important to make sure they are receiving responses to questions that they pose– a sure sign their followers listen and are eager to engage with them. Below is a great example of posing a question that receives response, as done by  Alyson Shontell, an editor for Business Insider:

3. Are They Approachable?

While skimming their social media activity and responses to comments on their posts, we try and get a good feel for how they treat their audience.  If they seem open to feedback and tend to respond to all the social media mentions they receive, we know our chances for having the opportunity to connect with them is greatly increased.
We pay close attention to their overall demeanor. Is the person upbeat? Do they have a good sense of humor? Do they go above and beyond to help their audience? Do they seem busy and rushed when responding to others? Do they appear stressed out?  We continually make these observations about their attitude when they interact with others, and it often matches how someone responds when we finally reach out.

The Checklist

In summary, here is a simple checklist of credentials to make sure the potential contact is a good match:
  • Conversation Starters. Do they typically pose a question or make a statement within their content that entices their audience to comment with feedback?
  • Engaged & Responsive. Do they respond to tweets, FB comments, and/or Google + comments?  Do they respond to the comments that their readers post on their blog posts?
  • Open to Feedback. Are they accepting of the comments and feedback that is given?  Or do they seem defensive?
  • Upbeat and Friendly. Do they generally seem like a friendly person?
If the blogger/journalist fills these credentials and has a strong following of loyal readers behind them, you should definitely try and connect with them. Building a strong relationship with someone who has clout within a certain niche can turn them into your biggest brand advocate.
How do you spot influencers? Let us know in the comments below!


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