Looking to find key influencers in your niche to help grow your traffic and influence and generate more leads?
Or increase traffic, influence, and leads for your clients?
This article will help you find those influencers.
Influencer marketing is big business.
Because it’s too expensive to build your own audience.
It’s far more efficient to find someone influential who already has a big enough audience that also happens to be your target audience.
When I started out with my other company, RazorSocial, I made a list of the top 100 social media influencers and built relationships with them.
The result was a massive increase in traffic (1,000,000 unique visitors in year 3) and I built my own influence.
I understand the challenge of finding the right influencers because I’ve been through it myself.
In this article, I’ll walk you through strategies and tools for finding real influencers in your niche.
So let’s get right to it!
What is influencer marketing
This is how I see it:
Influencer marketing is a form of relationship building that is based on an exchange of value.
They provide you with something of value and you give nothing in return… ha, ha!!!
That’s not how it works.
You develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the people who can help create visibility for your brand/product/service (or your clients) among relevant audiences.
If they see value in what you do they are more likely to share with their audience.
You need to think about how you can create value for them.
- Promote their content
- Provide testimonials they can use in their marketing
- Buy their books
- Guest post on their site
- Pass leads to them that you can’t service with your business
Here’s a way of adding value. Give them a case study to write about. For example, Brian Dean is a very influential SEO guy who promotes his audience following his tactics:
This offers a lot of value to them and to you.
By focusing on a small list of specific influential people who are a good fit for your business, you’ll get the benefit of exposure to a targeted audience that you couldn’t have reached on your own.
I love the following quote from Mark Schaefer:
Building relationships with influencers help to build your network.
Why is influencer marketing becoming more effective than traditional paid advertising?
First of all, more and more people are using ad blockers to fight off intrusive advertisements.
….Plus, they’ll trust recommendations from influencers they follow and trust more than any ad when they make a decision to buy a product.
According to a Twitter study, nearly 40% of their users say they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer.
So many brands are investing in influencer marketing, but does it really pay off?
The ROI from influencer marketing is stronger than you may think. On average, businesses generate $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing.
If these stats convinced you to start your own influencer marketing campaign, the first thing you’ll need to do is find the right influencers to work with.
Who are your influencers?
Influencers are people (bloggers, industry thought leaders, analysts, journalists, etc.)
But influential websites could also be on your target list.
An influencer could be a person that has access to an audience you need to get access to, and their audience pays attention to what they say.
A website could rank for a lot of the top keywords you want to rank for, so they are influential because they are taking the audience away from you.
What level of influencers are there?
There are different “levels of hierarchy” when it comes to influencers. Depending on their level of influence, they will make a different impact when they share your content or promote your brand.
You’ll find many articles online that break down the influencer hierarchy, but a lot of them just make things seem more complicated than they are.
Here’s how I categorize influencers:
When someone mentions my brand or talks about a topic that’s closely related to my business on social media – I take notice!
These people may not have a very large audience, but they could still be influential and even help me engage an audience more effectively than a power influencer.
They typically have up to 10,000 followers and solid engagement rates. They may not help you reach masses, but they can definitely drive their audience to action.
A citizen influencer could be one of your social media followers, a niche blogger who’s just starting to build an audience, an industry pro who’s well-connected on social, etc.
They typically have a large audience and can reach a lot more people than citizen influencers, providing more exposure for your brand.
….as the size of the audience grows, the engagement usually drops. So it’s important to find power influencers that have not only good reach but also an engaged audience.
It may be a bit more difficult to get their attention through social media channels only, so make sure to prepare your outreach emails, personalize them, and try to build a one on one relationship with them.
Power influencers are getting emails from people like you daily, so you need to find a way to stand out!
These are the people with a large-scale reach and they can be a good option if your goal is to create buzz and awareness around your brand.
But even if they are a good fit for your brand, it may not be worth reaching out to them directly.
The only way you can build a relationship with celebrity influencers is meeting them face to face at events, or getting access to them through a power influencer you’ve previously built a relationship with.
10 Ways to Find Influencers
Here’a quick summary:
Now let’s get into details.
1. Set up a monitoring tool to track competitors’ mentions
When we built OutreachPlus, I created a project in Brand24 (a monitoring tool) to track all our competitors’ mentions.
I then hired someone to create a list of all the people and websites that were mentioning our competitors.
I wanted to have a list of the influencers that were talking about competing products because they should be talking about our product as well.
The influencers needed to meet the following criteria:
- Regularly talking about a topic that was relevant to our business.
- A large engaged social following and/or a website domain authority (DA) of at least 40. DA is a score given to a website on a scale of 1-100 and it’s a good indicator of website authority. This metric is created and maintained by Moz.
These may or may not be the biggest influencers on the planet, but they are still influential and can make an impact on our business.
They may write about our products or services, share our content, recommend our solution and/or become a customer.
2. Find one influencer and follow the trail
If you find one key influencer in your industry it’s not that difficult to find more.
Pete O’Connor runs a software startup called BulletHq. They provide a free accounting solution for small businesses. You get a complete solution for free and then you can buy add-ons as your business grows.
Pete wanted to find influencers to help promote his tool, and his approach was following the trail.
He found a couple of key influencers and then analyzed their accounts to see who they were interacting with on a regular basis.
Influencers chat with influencers.
… He produced a great list that he used for outreach.
Here’s another example:
Jeff Bullas is a friend of mine and also one of the key influencers in social media.
By using a tool called Twitonomy I can see who Jeff mentions the most in his tweets:
I know every account listed above because they are all key influencers. They are either influencers in social media, digital marketing, or entrepreneurship.
It’s not difficult to find influencers by following a trail.
3. Invest in an influencer identification tool
Finding the right influencers is key if you want influencer marketing to work for you.
There are some good tools that can help you find influencers who are relevant to your business and have the right level of reach, social influence, and overall authority.
Check out GroupHigh.
This tool has a huge database of blogs that you can search through to find the bloggers that would be the best fit for your campaign.
Like with any other search engine, the key to getting the most relevant results is determining the right keywords to use for search.
I’ve been working with a local tourism board recently to find a group of influential travel bloggers and invite them to come to Ireland for a travel blogging event. I used GroupHigh to find them.
The search terms I used for this campaign were ‘travel blogger’ and ‘travel writers,’ and the tool returned some pretty good results.
I then filtered the results to only see the blogs that have a Domain Authority greater than 50.
The tool has many other filters available so you can narrow down your list of influencers by location, social accounts available, MozRank, tactics they use (sponsored posts, guest post), and more.
Another great tool that you can use to find influencers is BuzzSumo. You can use it to search for influencers based on a topic or a keyword. When you run your search, you’ll get a list of influencers with their Twitter handles and bios.
Here’s a preview of the list I got when I performed a search for “content marketing.”
Now I can assess the level of authority for each influencer by looking at the number of followers they have, the engagement rate, as well as their domain and page authority.
Another useful piece of functionality that can help you further filter your search is “view links shared.” You can see what content they share most and from which domains.
All this information will help you determine how relevant the influencers are to your brand or a specific outreach campaign you’re planning.
Traackr is also another useful tool for finding influencers. It has a great search facility for identifying influencers and I love the relationship funnel which helps track your engagement with the influencers.
4. Search on Google
When we started OutreachPlus, we used SEMRush to do a full analysis of our competitors and all the keywords they were ranking for.
We then used those keywords to see who else is ranking for them in Google.
These are the potential influencers.
For example, when I searched for ‘email marketing outreach’ I came across this article:
HubSpot has a Domain Authority of 89 and they write about digital marketing.
They are an influencer. You see, influencers are both people and websites.
Now, how do I get HubSpot to write about me?
Well, maybe I do some amazing outreach like the one that worked for Bryan Harris.
HubSpot wrote an article about this and said it was the best outreach email they ever got:
So Brian got to write an article and also got featured in an article.
Here’s the custom example video Bryan created for HubSpot:
Searching through Google can help you find influencers, but it can also be a great source of inspiration for effectively reaching out to those influencers.
5. Spend time on social
When you spend time on social media, you can start identifying key influencers in your industry.
For example, people create lists on Twitter and add influencers to those lists. This can be a ready-made source of influencers.
Here’s a list of Irish Journalists on Twitter:
One way to find relevant lists is searching for a top influencer in your industry. On an influencer’s Twitter profile, click on “Lists” and you’ll see a) the lists they follow, and b) Twitter lists they’ve been added to by others.
Going through the Twitter lists your top influencers belong to is one of the quickest ways to find new influencers to follow and reach out to.
There’s also a good old “stalking tactic” that you can use to find influencers. It may sound creepy, but let’s be honest, we’re all doing it.
The reason being – it’s quite simple to do so! You find a couple of big-name influencers, you “stalk” them (their social profiles) and see who they chat with on a regular basis. This will lead you to other influencers!
These conversations could be happening on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook etc.
You can also find influencers by looking at your social following to find out if there are any influential people sharing your content.
AgoraPulse is a social media management tool that lets you filter your audience and see who among your followers has the biggest audience and engages with your content the most. These are the people you should add to your influencer list/s.
Another way to find relevant influencers on social media is using hashtags related to your topic.
For example, you can type in your hashtag in the Twitter search bar and you’ll get a timeline of tweets for that particular hashtag. Go through the list of tweets and find influencers that are a good fit for your brand.
I also wrote a separate article about the tools to help you find influencers on Twitter. Check it out for more useful influencer identification tools!
6. Ask Influencers
This may sound too simple to be a point in the article, but people are not doing this enough.
Reach out to an influencer you already have a relationship with and tell them you want to get to know other people in the industry. Ask them to give you the names of 2 people that they think are worth following.
Then reach out to those people and tell them their buddy recommended that you followed them and ask for 2 more people.
Before you know it you’ll have a list of influencers.
But that’s not all that happened. You also interacted with these influencers in a nice way. You are starting to build a relationship with them.
In OutreachPlus, we have a “contact temperature” feature to help you track if you’re doing enough work to build a relationship.
For the interaction from the example above, your score would have gone up by 1 point on the temperature gauge.
7. Find Influencers sharing relevant content
We’ve already mentioned BuzzSumo and how you can use it to find influencers. It’s an awesome tool, so I’m going to show you another way you can use it to find influencers.
“It’s easy to underestimate the human side of influencer relationships. Begin by joining their audience–it’s simple and inexpensive to offer your support for an influencer’s content. BuzzSumo is ideal for this type of organic influencer outreach. Once you’ve identified influencers, you can see their newest content as soon as it’s published, which makes it easy to share, like and comment on influencers’ posts. Because there is so much content available online today, influencer relationships and collaboration are more important than ever before. When writing a blog post or working on a project, it can seem simpler to work alone–no pesky email strands to follow up on! But, that’s a short-sighted view. Including others in the creation process not only strengthens the content, it increases the distribution as well because people who contribute to a piece of content are much more likely to share it.
I guess we could say, “Create alone; distribute alone. Create together; distribute together.”
I’m making it my goal this year to never work alone.
Susan Moeller, Senior Marketing Manager, Buzzsumo
If you perform content research in BuzzSumo, you’ll be able to see who shared every piece of content the tool returns for your query.
For example, I’ve searched for “influencer marketing tips” and the tool quickly showed the most popular articles for that keyword. I clicked on ‘view sharers’ next to one of the articles and got a list of people who shared it, along with their audience size, engagement rates, and DA and PA.
I can now go through the list and find influencers that are sharing relevant content. These are the people who are likely to be interested in the kind of content I’m producing.
8. Find good backlinks for top related content
Search through Google and find the top articles related to keywords you want to rank for. Get the URLs of those articles and run them through Ahrefs Site Explorer tool.
You can then find the top backlinks for that particular piece of content and pick out only relevant high authority domains.
Here’s how to locate referring domains in Ahrefs:
Site Explorer > Enter article URL > Overview > Backlink profile > Referring domains
These authoritative referring domains are your influencers! By using this tactic you’ll probably find some link building opportunities that you haven’t discovered before.
9. Attend industry events
What about industry events? Who are all the speakers and sponsors? What are the names that consistently appear? They are the influencers in your industry.
Attending events can be a great way of connecting with influencers. However, when meeting with an influencer face to face, things can get awkward if they have no idea who you are.
If they are top influencers they’re going to be super busy and may not give you the time of the day.
Most influencers I know personally are actually very approachable, but you need to do a bit of work prior to the event to make sure your name rings a bell.
This means taking action in the online world (consume their content, comment on their work, share their articles on social, mention them in your tweets, etc.) before meeting them at an event.
10. Track results from shared links
Imagine if you had a database of email subscribers. You are running a promotion and you ask your subscribers to share.
If they share and something happens (e.g. a sale) they get rewarded.
So you make a list of people that generated sales for you.
They may or may not have large followings, but they are generating sales for your business which makes them influential.
You can use your email marketing automation tool to generate trackable links or use a custom tool such as ClickMeter.
The good thing about ClickMeter is that it will track the clicks on the personalized links, but it will also track everything right through to a conversion (if there is one).
What’s the outreach process for reaching out to influencers?
I’m glad you asked this because I have an article exactly for that:
Identifying the right influencers for your brand is the prerequisite for a successful outreach campaign. And while there are many ways to find influencers in your niche, the 10 tactics we covered in this article are more than enough to help you build a list of relevant influencers to reach out to and build relationships with.
What tools and tactics are you using to find the best influencers for your brand or campaign? I would love to hear what works (or doesn’t work) for you in the comments!