Mark Rinaldi, a New York City-based doctoral student, started a blog called “Cooked Earth.” He planned to cook dishes from every country in the world, photograph them, and post the results to his blog. One day, he sent a tweet to superstar chef Mario Batali and asked Mario to retweet a link to “Cooked Earth.” Mario gave him the retweet, his blog received over 2,000 hits, and the boost changed Rinaldi’s blogging fortunes forever.
The tweet from Mario led to “Cooked Earth” being featured in the Huffington Post and in CNN’s food blog, “Eatocracy.” Rinaldi and his writing partner then went on to become regular contributors to “Serious Eats.” Rinaldi hasn’t finished yet and only recently made it to Cambodia before taking a long break to finish his dissertation and get married — but his story demonstrates how a single share from one influencer can open up a world of new opportunities.
Sending a Hail Mary tweet to someone like Mario Batali is one strategy for getting influencers to share your content. Unfortunately, it’s not a strategy that will work for most people, so you need something more practical and effective. Using seed content — content designed to plant the seeds of an ongoing relationship — is one strategy that can help you or your business build connections with influencers.
This three-step process will help you decide who to target, what seed content to create, and how to ask for the share.
1. Target the Right Influencer
If your content can be shared by one critical influencer, it can infect a legion of their readers. Still, it’s okay to target big-name influencers, but don’t forget the importance of the smaller influencers all around you.
In his book “Grouped,” Paul Adams, a Facebook researcher who formerly worked for Google, points out that people are three to four times more likely to trust a friend for a product recommendation than a blogger or influencer.
For this reason, you might have better luck if you target many average influencers as opposed to one or two supreme influencers. Average influencers with smaller followings are more likely to be receptive to hearing from you. If your content can be shared by one critical influencer, it can infect a legion of viewers — in the positive sense, of course.
Also, it’s important to think in broad terms about who might share seed content about your product or your company. For example, Eyefi sells storage for photos, including cloud storage and SD cards. If “tipping point” thinking guided their marketing, they would target influential tech or gadget bloggers to recommend their products. However, they decided to target photographers because photographer content, thanks to Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr, is highly shareable. Their campaign, which we’ll discuss in more depth, targeted multiple influencers to earn 6 million impressions and 23,000 engagements.
- Choose influencers by engagement, not just by the number of followers. Use tools like Klear or Group High to find influential social engagers and bloggers. You can also use the Topsy search engine to find the most influential tweets on any imaginable topic.
- Think how your seed content could connect with an influencer’s close ties. An influencer with a high-traffic blog or social network presence might send out a random tweet to the audience, but your seed content will most likely get engagement if it gives the audience a way to engage with their close friends and family. For example, 1-800-Flowers created a Facebook post that asked mothers to vote for their favorite bouquets. The results were then shared with the mothers’ children in their news feeds.
2. Make the Right Seed Content
The type of seed content you should create depends on the personality of your target influencer. The type of content you’d create for a parenting blogger with a wide audience would differ greatly from what you’d create for a science blogger with a loyal but narrowly defined audience. In addition to creating the right seed content, you need to create value for your influencer. If the share benefits both you and the influencer, the influencer is more likely to help you out.
Like most people, influencers want to share content that will engage their followers. In addition to creating something your influencer would appreciate, create seed content that will appeal to your influencer’s audience. Eyefi, the photo storage company we discussed earlier, targeted photography influencers by creating an infographic called “The Top 30 Most Socially Influential Photographers.”
They shared their infographic with the photographers that they’d named in the infographic, and many of the photographers shared it with their social followers. The infographic created nice PR for the influencers and allowed both parties to benefit from the share.
- Think visual. Infographics and other types of visual content can be great for social sharing. If you’d like to create some seed videos, for example, look for influencers who are popular on Facebook, which is the best social network for video sharing. Post your video to YouTube or Vimeo, and share the link with your influencer. If you’d like to try your hand at short videos, or GIFs, look for influencers on Tumblr or Vine. Seed high-quality images with influencers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
- Focus on first impressions. If you’re sharing a blog post or an article, make sure to craft an amazing headline. The most successful headlines tend to have emotional appeal, they’re written in second person using “you” or “your,” and they discuss problems that your influencer’s audience will understand (“Yes, You Can Lose Weight Without Losing All of the Joy in Your Life.”). In addition to creating a great headline, think about how the snippet will look on the influencer’s social networks. Choose a great image, and write a short summary paragraph that will give readers an instant idea of what your article is about.
- Post where they visit. In addition to understanding your influencer’s audience, review your influencer’s social feed to see where they find content for curation. For example, if your influencer regularly shares posts from a particular site, target that site and pitch a guest blog post to the editor. Your seed content gets added credibility because the influencer respects the publisher.
3. Get the Share
After creating your most enticing piece of seed content, it’s time to figure out how to get the share. You can take a long shot, like asking Mario Batali for a retweet, or you can find more effective ways to ask the influencer.
Mentions and Hashtags
If you create some content that includes an influencer, mention the influencer’s Twitter handle, or use a hashtag that the influencer commonly uses. You can also target someone who’s an influencer of your influencer, such as a fellow thought leader or brand evangelist, and send a tweet such as “Have you seen this?” that includes a link to your seed content and mentions influencer. These tactics are indirect and less likely to succeed, but they’re worth an occasional try.
Connect Through a Friend
Rinaldi’s appearance in The Huffington Post occurred thanks to a friend who connected him to the HuffPo blogger. The HuffPo appearance connected him to fellow food writers in Queens, which opened up new writing opportunities. Although the Batali tweet story is more dramatic, Rinaldi credits the HuffPo appearance as the true tipping point for his food writing career.
Send an Email
You can go for the direct approach and send an email or direct message to your influencer. Keep these tips in mind:
- Never send bulk emails. If you have a list of target bloggers, never send a mass email to all of them asking them to share your seed content. Influencers want individual respect, so send an email that has a personal touch. For instance, you could start with a sentence about a mutual friend, mention some of the influencer’s work, or discuss a recent interview that the influencer completed.
- Don’t ask for anything. Avoid asking your influencer to share this. Instead, position your seed content as something valuable that you thought your influencer would like to know. The Eyefi infographic, for example, could have been sent in the form of a “congratulations!” message.
- Keep it brief. Keep the message short. Influencers are busy people.
Above All, Make Great Content
Don’t pin all of your hopes on sending one ingenious piece of seed content to one high-value influencer. Instead, build a steady stream of high-quality content with the help of a digital marketing agency, and become someone who curates and shares great content. You can bet that influencers will look at your own social media feeds, and they’ll examine your reputation before giving their approval to your content. You have to prove to an influencer that you’re someone worth getting behind.
Finally, don’t give up if your first seed content marketing strategy fails. Learn from your mistakes, keep creating great work, and try again another time.