In this episode, we're going to talk about influencer outreach and how to use automation to help kickstart your outreach process.
Do the influencers in your niche know who you are?
If they don't, how do you start building awareness and a relationship with them?
One of the best ways to start is by reading and commenting on the content that they publish.
The challenge is that this advice has been around for a while, so many people try to do this. So how do you separate yourself from the crowd that just writes “great post, have you seen my article at XYZ…”?
Two ways: be the first to comment on the content AND provide the most insightful comment.
In this episode you'll learn:
- Why building authentic relationships with influencers is important
- How to start building a relationship with influencers who have never heard of you
- How to get automated alerts whenever an influencer publishes something new
- Step-by-step instructions for implementing the automation
- Download the PDF below with step-by-step instructions for building the automation
- Make a list of the influencers in your niche
- Begin building authentic relationships by adding value to their audience through commenting on their content
Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
Transcript DownloadDownload a PDF of the Transcript
Hey, everybody. Dave Ziembicki here. Welcome to StrongStart.fm. My mission is to help you design and automate and outsource the technology of your online business. In this episode, we’re going to talk about influence or outreach and how to use an outreach process.
Generally, the term influencer is used to talk about somebody who has a large audience or a large following in a particular niche or topic area. In the area of online business, there’s a lot of influencers out there; probably, your subscribers to their podcasts and so forth as I am. These are the folks that have a large audience have created a lot of valuable content and have a following of people that tend to follow their advice by their products, go look at the recommendations that they make, and so on.
One of the strategies for anybody that’s new in trying to break into a new niche or topic area is to try and build relationships with those influencers so that in some point in the future, you might be able to have them give you some help; be there, give a link to your site, or work together with you on a project, or any other form of basic collaboration. One of the things that a lot of people recommend, myself included, is to start some form of the influencer outreach or influencer of relationship building as early possible in the course of building your online business.
The first question to ask yourself is; do the influencers in your niche know who you are? Do they know about your site? Do they know about your brand or your products or services or the content that you’re creating for your audience, or especially for the audience that you might share with them? If they don’t, how do you start building awareness with those influencers of your brand and your content and your services?
One of the best ways to start that process is by making sure that you read and comment on the content that they publish. One of the things that gets attention the most from influencers and other online business folks out there is when people are reading their content, putting it into action, and actually getting some results.
That’s the reason most of us are in this business, is to help people get results in their particular topic areas that we focus on. One of the ways to do that is to let the influencer know that, “Yeah, I’m reading your content, I’m putting it into action, I’m getting some results, and then I’m sharing it back with your audience.”
One of the best ways to do that is to be one of the first to read and comment on the content that they do publish. Think about when an influencer publishes a new blog post or a new podcast or something like that. What you want to do is try and be one of the first people to comment on that and provide some value to their audience.
The challenges that this advice has been around for a while, so a lot of people try to do this. How do you separate yourself just from the crowd that sits there watching and tries to be the first commenter and all they put in there is, “Hey, great post. Hey. By the way, you want to check out this article that I wrote over here on my own site?”
That’s obviously a very spammy and not really providing any value to the audience. It’s clear, those types are just sitting there trying to get some attention in the hopes that maybe they’ll get a couple of clicks off of the traffic that influencer gets on their blog post. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about trying to initiate and build legitimate long-term relationships with those influencers. Basically, through some joint value creations, some gives and some gets.
Really, what we’re talking about here is a two-part strategy to separate yourself from the spammy-types that are out there. The first part is being the first or toward the top of the list of people commenting on the post that the influencer puts out there. Then, the second is providing the most insightful comment out of the first 10, 20, 50 comments that is going to be made on to that post.
Being first increases the likelihood that the influencer is going to notice your content. Most influencers, if they check their comments at all, or probably only going to do it for the first day or two after their post goes live. After that, they’re moving on to the next one and to various other things that they might have to do. You definitely need to be toward the top of the list so that you’re providing your comment during the period, A, that the influencer’s going to be looking at it, and B, where the largest percentage of their audience is going to be reading that post as well. That’s generally going to be within the first day or two after it goes live.
The second part is the most important though, which is being insightful. Being insightful is what provides the value to their audience. It shows that you are reading and thinking about the content and trying to synthesize it and put it into action. When you do both together, being first and providing one of the most insightful comments, it really increases the odds of that influencer or that author remembering who you are, especially if you’re there on most of their content that they post.
What I mean by that is if you consistently do this process over time, and you’re always one of the first to comment on the content that they publish, and you’re providing comments that are very helpful to their audience or help tie together different things that they may have written in the past or provide an example that backs up the point that they made in the content; that influencer is going to start to remember that. They’re going to start remember your name and your avatar and the fact that, “Oh, yeah. This is Dave. I see he usually comments on my content. I know he reads it. He usually provides some form of value back to my audience, and he’s a really positive supporter.”
Once you’ve established that over the period of a couple of months, now imagine you send an email to that influencer. They’re going to know your name. It’s going to stand out in their inbox compared to probably hundreds of other people that are paying them, asking for something. If at that point you do want to ask them for something, you have already established a track record of providing value to their audience. They’re going to be much more likely to want to think about replying to your email or listening to your pitch or whatever you might be asking them to do.
The question then becomes, how do you do this type of process at some scale? If it’s just one or two influencers, that’s one thing. Generally, to really make an impact and have a larger cast of people to build these relationships with, you’re going to need probably a list of 20 to 30 influencers, at least.
One of the reasons that I embarked on this project here in the last couple of days is I’m starting a much larger influencer outreach and relationship-building campaign over the next couple of months, because I have a few large projects later in this year; launches and summits, and things like that. Then, I’m in the middle of planning where I’m going to want to be recruiting in a fairly significant number of the influencers to provide content and help out in the scenarios. I’m starting four to six months ahead of time, ahead of what I want those launches to happen so that I can really start building this list of folks. Hopefully, out of 30, 40, 50 net out, maybe 10 or 15 or 20 that are going to be willing to work together with me on some of those projects.
In terms of doing it at scale, the first challenge is how do you become aware of all the different blog post or content that these influencers are putting out there and be notified in a way that’s fast enough for you to be able to log in with their content. Think about what your comment to be, write the comment, and then make sure you’re toward the top of the list as we’ve talked about.
That challenges a perfect one for automation to solve. In the rest of this episode, I’m going to talk about the automation that I set up that gives me that notification when my target list of influencers has published something. What was interesting was about this blog post that I wrote and the automation that you’ll see here is that within 24 hours of setting this up for the first influencer on my list, I already got a great result. I’ll talk about that towards the end of the podcast episode here.
If you want step-by-step instructions for all of the automation that we’re talking about in this episode, be sure to head over to the show notes over at strongstart.fm/014. In there, you’ll have step-by-step instructions for how to set up the exact automation that we’re going to talk about here. Whenever you think about establishing a new automation or a new workflow or something like that that you’re going to automate in your business, you want to break it down into a couple of different categories. The first is your goals. What is a goal for your particular piece of automation?
In this case, my goal is to get an SMS alert anytime a new blog post is published by anyone of the influencers on the list that I’m maintaining. Now, since you and I will both likely have a lot different automations running all at the same time, we need to define what types of alerts that we want to use. What I mean by that is what do you want your alert or notification platforms to be?
For general alerts like a lot of the stuff I have in the background, making sure my WordPress site is backed up, making sure that I run security scans, making sure I run performance test and all these things against my site. For this, I just like to get emails. Those are background tests. They’re going to run. The only time I want basically an urgent alert is if there’s something wrong in those processes. For general alerts, I use email.
For higher priority or time-sensitive alerts like this one, what we’re talking about here, when my influencers post something and I want to be one of the first to comment, for those I prefer an SMS message or text message on my phone.
Again, I have defined my goals there and in terms of what I want to have happened in this automation. Any time something new is published, I want an SMS alert. The next thing you want to do is you want to break goals down into triggers and actions.
The trigger for this automation is pretty simple. Anytime there’s a new item in the RSS feed for the influencer’s blog feed, I want this automation to run. In this particular case, most content sources like blogs, podcasts, or social media, they have notifications or APIs that can be tapped into to trigger and to run when they post something new to those channels.
In this particular example, I’m going to focus on blogs first. In the near future, I’m going to be setting up something similar for when anybody posts something significant on social media or whenever they have a new podcast that comes out. The bottom line is, for the overall approaches for any of these influences, whenever they publish any form of content that’s significant, I want to know about it so I can go consume that content, either comment on it or share it on social media or some form of other, basically, outreach to that influencer.
With my trigger defined, which is a new item in their RSS feed, the next thing I want to think about is what action do I want to take place when that trigger is fired. As we mentioned, the action for this automation is to send an SMS message to my smart phone.
Inside of that, there’s a little bit more detail because I don’t just want a text message that says, “Hey, Joe just published a new blog post.” I want that message to include the title of it as well as a link to the post directly so I can just tap that on my phone and instantly be reading the post and then be able to provide my comments as quickly as possible. The action has to be not only an SMS message, but it has to include the title of the post and the clickable link to the post, so I can go into it as quickly as possible.
To implement the automation, you need to choose a platform that you’re going to utilize there. There’re a lot of different platforms out there that help you do basic automation. In this case, we’re going to use if, this, then, that, or IFTTT.com. There’s Zapier, there’re a bunch of other ones. There’s Flow, I think, in the Microsoft realm. There’s a number of different ways that you can do basic automation like this. For things like these though, IFTTT tends to be the most common one. They have hundreds of different integrations with different services that are out there.
One of the things that you don’t want to think about over time is which platform to use and how many of them to use. Generally, the choice has come down to does that particular platform have the integrations with the different services that I need? In this case, does IFTTT have integration with RSS feeds and with SMS? That’s going to be the first step you want to do in planning out your implementation, is figure out which platform has the services that you need for the triggers and the actions that you’ve already documented.
Hopefully, you’re familiar with the IFTTT, because it’s a super valuable tool. If you’re not, the quick summary is that — Basically, rules or automation engine that lets you create recipes, which they now call applets of triggers and actions. IFTTT defines applets and services this way.
For applets, they call them — Applets bring your services together to create new experiences. Services are the apps and devices that you use every day. Each service has useful applets that you can turn on. Pretty generic descriptions there, but basically, what that means is an applet is a recipe. It’s basically a trigger and an action. Any time the trigger fires, you want this particular action to take place.
Now, in the last six months or so, the IFTTT has gotten a little bit more advanced. If you sign up for their developer platform and a couple of other things in their site, you can actually start doing more complex scenarios like multiple triggers or multiple actions. Generally, I try and keep it simple inside of IFTTT and basically have one trigger and one action and that defines what I call an automation, what they call an applet.
With this case, I happen to know already that IFTTT has the trigger and the actions that I’m looking for. If I did not already know that they have a great search functionality. Basically, what you can do is you can log into the site, go into the search bar, and you can just type in RSS or SMS or Trello or anything else that you might want to integrate with. The search will return all the different services that have some form of integration with whatever you typed in there.
When I type in RSS, there’s a couple different options, but the main RSS feed has the trigger that I’m looking for, which is a trigger that will fire any time there’s a new item in the given RSS feed that you specify. Then, when I go over and I do a search for SMS, I see that there is integration to that service, too. I can configure which mobile phone number I want the alert to go to and I can also see the different pieces of data that can be sent in that SMS message; the texts, hyperlinks, images, so on and so forth.
Once I do that quick check of the automation platform to make sure that the services that I need to connect to are in there, then I can go into the step-by-step process for actually building out this automation.
As I mentioned, the blog post that has the step-by-step guidance and instructions and screenshots for how to set all these up is available over in the show notes at strongstart.fm/014. I’ll just quickly describe the steps here and then talk about the results that I saw within the first 24 hours.
The first thing you want to do is if you don’t already have an account over at IFTTT, you want to head over to that site, create a free account, and log into your account. The next thing you want to do is set up the SMS service. Like I said, you can go up to the search bar, type in SMS, click on that. What that will do is that’ll bring up the settings dialogue where you can configure a couple of things for that particular service. The main thing that you’re going to configure in there is just the mobile phone number that you want those alerts to be sent to.
Once you get to the service, you can click into edit connection. Once you’re inside of the edit connection, you can type in your phone number, and then there’s a button there that says “send pin”, and what that means is it’s going to send a message over to your phone with a pin number on there. That basically confirms the end-to-end flow of sending a message to that phone number that you’re the owner of that phone number and that you can click the pin.
Once you’ve got the SMS service set up, and the next thing you want to do is create a new applet. When you’re logged in, if you go up into My Applets, you’ll see a button that says, “New Applet.” Again, that’s basically going to help start setting up a new automation for you. Once you click the New Applet button, you’ll see a big screen that just says, “if, this, then, that.” The this is part of that state is a blue hyperlink. You click on that, and that’s basically saying, “Okay, I’m going to define the trigger.” If this happens, the trigger, then do the action. Once we’ve clicked the this button, you’re going to get into that choose a service dialogue box again. That’s basically saying, “What service do you want to use as the trigger?”
In here, you’ll see RSS feed is actually at the top of the list already but if it wasn’t there, you just type RSS into the search window. Once you click that RSS trigger, you’ll see two items there. One is a trigger that fires when there’s a new item in the feed, and then another, when there’s a new feed item that matches a certain phrase.
I’m going to use the new feed item, because basically, what I want to do here is I’m going to have the RSS feeds from the influencers that I’m interested in. Basically, I want to be notified any time there’s a new item on that list.
Now, in your particular case, it might be different. If you are following an influencer that covers a really broad topic area, then you actually might want to choose that second item and just say, “I want to trigger this when a new feed item matches a particular keyword or phrase,” that you want to zone in on from that particular influencer.
Instead of seeing every post that goes into their feed, it might just ones that match a particular topic. As an example, if you’re following maybe some of these new sites or just sites that publish 10 times a day, you’re not going to obviously get alerts and comment on 10 or 15 different articles a day most likely. You might zone that down and say, “Okay, I just want to be notified when something comes out that has this particular keyword. The RSS service in IFTTT provides you both of those options.
Again, in my particular case, we’re just going to select the new feed item. Once you click on that, the only thing really that you need to enter for this service is the RSS feed itself. Now, if you’re not familiar with this, it’s a little bit different than just somebody’s site name or the URL for their blog. The RSS feed is usually a little bit more custom URL that gets configured in WordPress or whatever blog platform they’re using.
In a lot of cases, it’s just the domain name of the site with a slash and then feed, but you need to confirm that, because obviously, if you don’t put the right URL in here for the feed, you’re not going to get these alerts fired. The easiest way I found the RSS feed for any blog site is to use this site called Feedly.com. A lot of use use Feedly as an RSS reader where we manage all of our blog and RSS subscriptions. It’s also basically a search engine for RSS feeds as well. You can go over to Feedly, go into their search window. There, you can put in the URL of the site or the blog that you want to find the feed for. Once you click search, it’ll give you a return result that shows the blog, and then the URL bar of your browser, in that search result, what you’ll see is the URL for the feed.
Again, in the show notes, I have instructions for how to do that if it’s not clear for my description here. It’s basically pretty trivial to go figure out the RSS feed for any blog site. Once you have that feed for the influencer that you’re going to set this automation up for, just copy it, paste into this trigger field, and then click the create trigger button.
Once you do that, you’ll be taken back to the top of the applet screen, and then what you’ll see is where it says, “if, this, then, that.” The this will be replaced by the RSS logo, and then the then that turns into a hyperlink. You click that and then that brings up the dialogue for configuring the action that you want to have happen any time that trigger is fired.
Under action, again, you want to search services here and you want to type in SMS and then you want to click on the SMS icon to choose that service. Now, in that service, there’s only one option, which is send me an SMS message. As you’ll see, if you build out this workflow, that’s actually pretty flexible in and of itself. We want to click the icon that says, “Send me an SMS message.”
What’s nice is, by default, IFTTT is going to automatically configure a draft message for you. What it’ll say is something like new post, and then in brackets, it’ll have the feed title, the title of the post, and the URL of the post. That default right there is actually exactly what I want. We said one of our requirements is we want the name of the posts so that we know the general topic area. We also want that URL so that we can click right in the messaging app and click right over to read that post.
Now, what’ you’ll also see if you build this automation is there’s a button that says ingredient. This is where you can do some customization if you want to. In here, if you click the ingredient button, there’re other fields that you can select off of that RSS feed to include in the text message. One of them that might be useful to you is author.
Again, if you’re in a scenario where the feed that you’re using is a multiple author blog or something that publishes a lot of content, you might also want the author name to come through on your text messages as well. You might say, “Well, I’m really only worrying about one of the three authors that publish on this blog or something like that. Again, just click that ingredient button and check out some of the other things that are in there. You can use that to customize the message as you see fit.
Once you’ve got the message set up the way you want it, then you just click the create action button. At that point, your automation is finished. You’ll come up to a review step where it’s going to tell you, “Here’s what’s going to happen.” If there’s a new feed item in this RSS feed, and it gives you the link, then send me an SMS message at this particular phone number. Once you do that, you’re basically ready to go and you can click the finish button. That basically creates the automation and sets it up and ready to run.
Now, as with all automation, what you want to do before you start relying on it is to test it out. In this particular case, since I have a blog, I set up this exact notification to send me a text message any time I publish a new blog post. As I mentioned, I was documenting this process as I was building it in a blog post. Basically, once I had the automation set up, I had all my screenshots in there, and I have my blog post done, I click the publish button. Basically, within a couple of minutes of clicking the publish button, I saw the SMS message pop up on my phone. I took a look at the content, it had the title of my blog post, it had the URL to click to read the post, and it went to my mobile phone and the proper phone number.
In this particular case, it’s pretty easy to do a test because of using my own blog that I had been planning to publish a post outlining all these stuff anyway, so a quick successful test of the automation. At that point, I clicked publish. After that, I just set up one or two other influencers there and I’ll be setting up more this week.
One of the first ones that I set up was Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income. Obviously, a big influencer in our space fall in line business, and he’s somebody I’ve read all of his content and I’m a fan of his content. Just as a secondary test, I put that in there and I figured out I can’t wait and see when Pat publishes a post. This week, I’m going to add 30 or 40 more in there.
Now, as I mentioned at the top, the stars aligned on this because within about six hours of putting this automation in place and publishing my own blog post, Pat actually had two new items show up in his RSS feed. One article was basically a top 10 list of things to think about, and then in terms of how to improve your online business or blog. The second one is a new thing that he’s working on in terms of creating physical products and doing some validation and so forth around physical products.
What was interesting was, like I said, within about six hours, I got two text messages there that says, “Hey, Pat Flynn just published two blog posts.” Great. It went over to my phone, and I did a quick read through of both of those articles and I wrote some comments. Like I said at the top of this episode, some insightful comments, a couple of paragraphs there.
One nice thing is when this is legitimate, when you are a legit fan of the influencer that you’re trying to build a relationship with, you’ve likely read or listened to a lot of their content. One of the things I was able to do in the comment that I wrote was actually refer to a couple of different things that Pat talks about in his content, and basically, weave that into my comment.
If he or any of the fans of his audience read this comment, they’re going to know that, yeah, I’m a reader. I’m not just looking at this article, trying to pull out a snippet that I can make a pithy comment on, and then moving on to the next thing. By putting together a couple of different thoughts in there and tying together some things he’s written about in the past, it shows that I’m a fan of his content, I’ve read a lot of things, and it really is a legitimate attempt to add some value to as audience.
Basically, I took about five minutes, read the articles, and wrote a decent comment on both of those articles. At that point, I thought, “Okay, yeah. This is great. Mission accomplished. I got my automated message.” I did wind up being the first commenter on both of those posts, so that was another win there for the desired result. At that point, yeah, I was done for the day and, often, I said, “Okay, great. I locked out in terms of a new blog post, or two of them actually, from the first influencer on my list that came out soon after writing my post.” What I did basically was I went into Pat’s blog. I took screenshots, show him that I was the first on each of those, updated my post, and then called it a day.
Interestingly enough, in the next day, I’m sitting there and checking out my email and I get two notices from Disqus, which is what Pat uses for his commenting system, that said that Pat replied to two of my comments. I was like, “Awesome.” I went in. Yeah, they are quick one-liners, but it shows that he read my comment. On one of them, I think he even said, “Love it. Thanks for commenting,” and something like that.
Within 24 hours of doing this automation, not only did I get the alerts, not only did I stick to my system and be one of the first to comment on there, I also got replies from the influencer on both of those comments. That was really one of the keys there, which is really interesting to me is that in that burst, Pat saw my name twice, replied to it, as well as everybody else on his blog is seeing that as well.
The payoff here is going to be once I do this, again, consistently for four or five or six months, that’s probably going to be one, two, or three dozen comments on this influencer’s material. Again, if you stick to the system and have these be insightful and adding value to them and into their audience, that’s going to start adding up. That’s going to be some goodwill that you’re building up with that influencer.
Again, down the line, I’m probably going to have some things that I’m going to try and ask Pat to collaborate on. Maybe, I’ll ask him to be a speaker at an online summit that I’m doing. Maybe, I’ll write an article that’s complimentary to some content that he publishes and ask for a link or something like that. Maybe, I’ll just ask him for an introduction to somebody else in the industry that he’s got a good relationship with.
At that time, if I’m just emailing cold, and he’s never head my name or your name or anybody else’s, it’s going to be very low odds that he’s going to have the time to do anything with that. If that email comes through and he says, “Oh, this is Dave. He comments on all my stuff. He is a student or he’s really adding a lot of value to my audience,” then he might take an extra minute there, open that up, and take a listen to the ask that you’re making. Again, it’s all about building that relationship, providing mutual value, and so forth.
Again, lucky that things worked out in this particular case for a successful outcome and round trip through this process real quick. As I mentioned, my next steps is on to be setting up this exact same automation for the top 20 or 30 influencers in the niches that I’m focusing on there to try and build up those relationships.
On your case, if this strategy makes sense for you, once you’re comfortable with the process and once you set up this automation, it works as expected, then obviously, you can repeat this for each of the blogs or feeds that you want to monitor into your space.
Beyond this, I’ll be setting up similar automations for the podcast feeds. Podcasts have an RSS feed as well, so you can set up this exact same time of alerting to be notified if the influencer publishes a new podcast. Also, you can use social media monitoring tools, Hootsuite and others, to basically set up targeted feeds that are going to show you any of the social media posts and things like that that those influencers are doing as well.
My goal here is for these set of people that I’m focused on, I want to basically be aware of all sources of content that they put out, get those notifications, so that I can go interact with them and follow the system that we’ve talked about in this episode.
That brings us to the conclusion of this episode on the influencer outreach and some of the automation to support the workflow that we talked about. I want to thank you for joining me today. If you’ve been enjoying the content here on StrongStart.fm, it would greatly help me out if you could give us a quick positive review over on iTunes.
As you know, my goal is to help as many people as possible reach their goals, so I need to spread the word about our content in this podcast. If you want the step-by-step instructions for setting up this automation for your own influencers and niche topics, head on over to the show notes at strongstart.fm/014.
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Thanks and we’ll see you again on the next episode of Strongstart.fm.