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Posts Tagged "appinions"

Identifying the Right (True) Influencers of Your Audience

In his article Social Influence and the Marketer’s Dilemma, Danny Brown identifies what he calls the four As of marketing success: audience, acceptance, application, and amplification. He asserts that these four tenets are the keys marketers have to address to experience success. However, he makes another very important point, which is that marketers have to identify a brand’s true influencers in order to use these four tenets to meet their goals. Without the right influencers, the marketing success cycle is broken.

Celebrities vs. Influencers
Today’s consumer is far less influenced by TV commercials and radio spots than consumers were in the past. Sure, such advertisements, when executed well, still draw attention, build awareness, and drive sales, but today’s consumers stop to consider peer-to-peer feedback and recommendations before they buy. This means consumers are less likely to take an interest in what brands have to offer simply because of a glitzy ad or even an earnest appeal from a brand. Instead, they seek knowledge from those they trust–those with influence over them–to decide where to focus their attention and how to spend their money.

In days gone by, there was much more interest in using celebrity endorsements to influence consumers. However, this approach can often backfire, especially when a celebrity’s reputation takes a hit because of some sort of scandal (think Lance Armstrong). And in addition to that, Brown points out, consumers are much more likely to question whether a celebrity actually uses the product or service for which he’s become an advocate. This is not to say that celebrity endorsements are a thing of the past. They’re still going strong. Instead, the simple truth is consumers are putting more stock in the recommendations of their peers and influencers they trust, and brands are taking notice.

The Right Influencers for Your Brand
As with anything, it’s not just choosing another approach that makes the most difference. It’s choosing the right approach, or in this case, the right influencers. Haphazard selection leads to wasted effort, time, and money and nothing to show for it except hard lessons learned. So how can you choose the right influencers?

Here are critical steps to take in identifying the influencers who are right for spreading your brand’s message:

  • Identify topics you can use to engage your audience
  • Monitor conversations about the topics you’ve identified, your industry, and your brand–and who is doing most of the talking
  • Take note of influencers who are positive about your topics
  • Note any influencers with whom you’ve already engaged or with whom you or your team members have developed a relationship (even an early relationship); make a note of influencers you’re following as well

Once you’ve made an initial list of influencers, your job is far from over. At this point, you still have a good deal of analysis to complete. You’ll have to consider how well engaged each influencer is with an audience that is part of your market, how active he or she is in the social media realm, what level of credibility he or she enjoys, and which social media tools/platforms he or she uses to reach out to the individuals you seek influence over. You’ll also need to be sure that the influencer you’re considering isn’t already advocating for one of your competitors, and therefore, unlikely to have an interest in working with your brand.

These are just some of the factors to consider when you’re searching for the right influencers for your marketing plans. And as Danny says, this is where the work is only just starting – but the work of creating an influence marketing program will be vastly easier if you begin with the right influencers.

Image credit: Koshyk

Top Influence Marketing News: Do You Wanna Buy a Watch?

If you’ve ever been in a conversation about digital marketing with anyone, it’s nearly a sure bet that the subject of “ROI” has come up.  Why?  Because, as marketers, the end goal is nearly always sales.  The traditional path-to-purchase has been awareness, consideration, purchase.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  As we explain in our newest eBook, the purchasing process is no longer linear; instead, it has shifted to a circular path, with multiple touch points prior to purchase.  It’s time to understand where these touch points are and realize that it’s not about the “hard sell” anymore.

With that, we’ve been viewing recent news in influence marketing through a sales prism.  Here’s what we’ve been reading lately.

It’s the Decision Shapers
Anyone that’s spent time in sales has tried to pitch to the “decision maker,” without much success.    Buying decisions, particularly in B2B, now largely depend on a consensus between stakeholders.  To reach these stakeholders, you need to build a coalition of the willing.  Bob Apollo of Inflexion Point, tells us that it’s not about the decision makers, but about the decision shapers.

Read the full article on Inflexion Point: Why Your Sales People Need to Focus on the Decision Shapers

Influence Marketing vs. Sales Strategy
Like social media and traditional media, influence marketing is not a strategy.  It’s one tactic you should be incorporating to execute your strategy.  Sam Fiorella states at Huffington Post, “To be effective, marketers — or their selected consumer representatives — must exert influence over the decision-making process.”

Read the full article at Huffington Post: Influence Marketing vs. Sales Strategy

Ever Heard of Influencer Selling?
If you met someone with a wide network of friends at a local meet up and you knew that many people trusted his or her opinion, what would you do?  Would you pull out your catalogue of watches and try to make a sale on the spot?  Not likely.  Instead, you would try to connect, woo and build a relationship with this person.  Tech Market Europe talks about how influencer marketing applies in the B2B tech industry too.

Read the full article at Tech Market Europe: Ever Heard of “Influencer Selling?”

Does It Work?
We’ve laid out the path of influence marketing enlightenment for you, but you’re probably asking, “Does it really work?”  Have you heard of Popchips?  (You know, that little snack company with $93.7 million in revenue in 2012.) They incorporated influencer marketing into their strategy from day one.

Read the full article at Forbes:
Influencer Marketing: How Your Business Can Benefit from Popchip’s Secret Recipe

Did we miss your favorite influencer marketing article in our roundup?  Drop us a link in the comments section below. 

Connect with Influencers on the Other Social Networks

Any discussion of connecting with online influencers is sure to mention Facebook and Twitter prominently. You might also hear talk of Google+. But what about the many other social media networks? They provide important connection and relationship-building opportunities as well. Here are some ideas for connecting with influencers on some of the lesser-known or less-used, but still important, networks.

LinkedIn
You can find, connect with, and develop mutually beneficial relationships with influencers on LinkedIn. However, as with other social media networks, there’s a right way to approach this:

  •  Start by creating a complete, compelling profile. Your LinkedIn profile should effectively communicate your personal brand and provide points that encourage others to take an interest in you. Double-check it to make sure it is free of grammar and spelling errors.
  • With your solid profile to hand, dive in and demonstrate just how interesting/helpful you are; show why you will make a valuable connection. Some ways to do this include joining and actively participating in groups, reaching out to members with whom you genuinely have things in common, asking and answering questions, writing recommendations for others, and even helping others connect. In all of these things, remember to act as a real person rather than opting for canned introductions and responses.
  • Ask a member with whom you already have a connection and a good rapport to introduce you to the influencer with whom he or she is connected.

Slideshare.net
Slideshare is a wonderful tool for telling your brand’s story, showing off your expertise, sharing information, and getting more exposure. However, you can also use it to start conversations and get involved in current conversations with influencers. Slideshare has a handy selection of social tools that make doing so easy, and you can also take advantage of the site’s community section to reach out.

You can do the following via Slideshare.net:

  • Locate interesting content relevant to your brand and goals
  • Reach out to the people who created that content
  • Build your professional network
  • Share on other networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
  • Create and upload presentations that help influencers understand your brand
  • Invite viewers to comment and share your comments as well.

Quora
Though Quora is a lesser-known social media website, it is building a following that includes thought leaders, journalists, bloggers, content creators, and marketers. This is another good avenue for reaching out to online influencers, and it has the advantage of being less noisy than some of the larger, better-known networks. This means you may make more headway with a smaller splash.

You can use Quora to connect with online influencers by:

  • Following online influencers in a manner similar to following on Twitter, learning which questions they are following, and answering their questions
  • Providing meaty answers to the questions influencers ask; they may like your answers, comment on your answers, follow you, and open the doors for making a direct connection
  • Commenting on online influencers’ answers; as always, keep your comments relevant and focus on imparting valuable information
  • Building a network on Quora and sharing your content (by creating a board or linking to your content in the answers you provide)
  • Creating a complete and compelling profile; use it to demonstrate your expertise and define your niche
  • Following industry-related boards and getting involved in industry conversations

Have you used any of these networks to reach out to influencers? Please share your tips and experiences in the comments!

Image credit: Slideshare.net

Content Marketing – The New Buzzword

Content marketing: it’s the hot buzzword – and the hot marketing topic – for 2013, as evidenced by dozens of 2013 predictions posts and tons of startups trying to get in on the game.

There are going to be lots of businesses jumping on the content bandwagon this year, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not still a smart strategy. And for businesses looking to enhance their influence marketing efforts, if they have a content marketing plan in place, the two could work quite nicely together.

Essentially, content marketing is created from owned media: the blog, whitepapers, eBooks, videos and other content that a company creates. Content marketing is bringing that owned media together in a cohesive plan, which targets a specific audience to encourage a specific action (or actions).

Assuming your company is creating useful and compelling content, let’s discuss how you can use that content to enhance and grow your influence marketing efforts simultaneously. After all – who doesn’t love to see their marketing materials have multiple uses?

Content on the Influencer Continuum

Developing a successful content marketing strategy means creating fresh, relevant content for your company’s customers and fans. And it just so happens that content is really helpful in working with influencers throughout our Influencer Continuum™, which is our methodology for turning influencers into Super Advocates™.

The Influencer Continuum™: From Influencer to Super Advocate™ from Appinions

Building Influencer Awareness

In the Awareness building phase of influence marketing, content assets play a big role. In this phase, you’re educating topical influencers about your brand, product or issue, and great content can be key in the education process.
We recommend using white papers, press releases, videos and webinars to help engage with influencers in this phase. Connect to influencers via Twitter or email (be sure to introduce yourself in an respectful way!), pass along relevant content they can easily consume, and engage to gauge their interest. Follow up with additional content or resources if they seem receptive, or move them on to the next phase of the Continuum.

Building Brand Credibility

The second phase in the Influencer Continuum™, Build Credibility, revolves around your brand building trust with influencers. Content can again play an important role here; in this phase you can share slightly more advanced content and really establish your expertise in your space.

Once you’ve gotten an influencer’s attention (in the Awareness phase), it’s now time to share deeper research, and to use thought leadership-focused content, such as blog posts, white papers and information from expert events.

Creating an Emotional Connection with Influencers

In the third Continuum phase, you’re forging a strong bond with influencers, and content takes a slightly different twist. In this phase you can now ask influencers to contribute to your content marketing strategy, which will deepen your relationship with them and enlist them more strongly in your efforts.

Some common content-related tactics in this phase include asking influencers to contribute to your blog, or asking for their input on other content including white papers, webinars or video. Don’t forget that bloggers in certain categories often look for compensation for content-creating activities, though this is not the case with all bloggers.

Creating Influencer Loyalty

In the final phase of the Influencer Continuum™, content will help you to encourage deep brand loyalty. This is an extremely high-touch phase, and the place where you’ll truly bring influencers “into the fold” as part of your marketing team and brand experience.

This is often the place where brand ambassador programs are created with your most trusted and loyal influencers, and brand ambassadors often are charged with content creation on behalf of the brand. You can also ask influencers in this phase to speak at your events, and host or attend regular events on behalf of the brand (with content output from those events, of course).

Ongoing Synergies Between Content and Influence Marketing

Overall, there are strong synergies between content marketing and influence marketing, and a crack marketing team will be able to work seamlessly across the two efforts to enhance both simultaneously. The two strategies really play well with each other!

How are you combining content marketing with your influence strategy? We’d love to hear in the comments.

Marketing Through Trust: Leveraging Influence in the Buyer’s Purchase Journey {eBook}

When it comes to making purchasing decisions, who do you trust? What sources do you consult to help you make an educated and informed decision? Research on consumer behavior shows that the influential touchpoints for consumers that guide them through the purchasing process are shifting from company-driven marketing to consumer-driven marketing. People trust people more than they trust brands and this circle of people that consumers trust is expanding with social media. Companies can take advantage of the explosion of word-of-mouth marketing by influencing the touchpoints (reviews, forums, search results, conversations with friends) consumers seek when making purchasing decisions.

This eBook details:

  • The current landscape of customer decision making
  • How to use influence marketing to increase customers touchpoints
  • Where search and influence marketing intersect to influence purchasing decisions
  • Ways to leverage influence to gain customer trust

 

 

Can Influence Predict Box Office Success? {infographic}

It’s awards season and we’re definitely not immune to the entertainment fever that’s sweeping over the nation as the movie industry prepares for the crème de la crème of awards shows – The Academy Awards. Given the buzz from tinsel town during this time of year, we decided to evaluate two of the most nominated films to see which movie was more influential leading up to launch and to see if in fact this pre-launch influence correlated with box office success. The movies we examined were Les Misérables and Django Unchained from December 19 to January 12. Please see the graphic and our findings below.

You Can’t Always Trust the Hype
We started by looking at Google search volume which can be an indicator of the effectiveness of pre-launch marketing efforts. It’s natural that as more people hear about a new launch through press or movie trailers and the hype builds, they would Google the movie to learn more. We found that the early indicator in search results revealed a false positive – meaning that while Les Misérables had the most searches before launch, this initial lead in buzz did not correlate to higher cumulative box office revenue over time. In addition while the search volume leader fluctuated with Django Unchained edging out Les Mis a few weeks after launch, Django had the highest net influence score before, during and after launch, with significant increases in influence over time. More on this below.

The Relationship between Influence and Success
As mentioned, despite the success Les Misérables over Django Unchained during the first weekend of release, the movie was unable to sustain its lead over time. Looking at the data, we expected to see a more family-oriented movie like Les Mis succeed over the holiday period while families were together and heading to the movies in droves. What we found interesting is the comparison of Django’s net influence score with that of Les Mis and how they relate to box office success over time. It got us questioning a few things: 1) Is there a correlation between influence and success, especially as it relates to long-tail sales, and 2) What are the marketing strategy implications of the relationship?

The Relationship between Influence and Diversity of Influencers
It’s interesting to see the different types of influencers who are driving conversation around both movies. Les Misérables, which has a lower net influence score, has associated talent (actors, director) with lower average influence scores than the talent behind Django Unchained. In addition, Django had a diverse set of influencers to drive conversation both positively and negatively. Spike Lee was a prominent voice of critique of the language used in Django and its portrayal of slavery. His remarks received a lot of attention. However it’s the cachet of the influencers, regardless of sentiment around the movie that helped boost Django’s net influence score.

We realize that Les Misérables and Django Unchained are two very different movies, attracting different demographics, but the findings raise interesting points about the impact of influence on long-term box office success. Reaching the right influencers does amplify the reach and buzz of an upcoming release. As seen here, these influencers can be employees (movie talent) or influencers in related industries with platforms that reach a designated target demographic. Irrespective of the type of product launch, influence marketing provides a way to raise awareness early which can more effectively set a product up for long-term success.

Image Credit: Daniel Borman

Connecting with Influencers Online

Making your way onto online influencer radars and developing lasting relationships with them are important goals. Their interest in and efforts for your brand can go a long way toward building awareness of your brand, enhancing your reputation, and helping you sell your products and services. However, the clout these influencers have built up means they are in high demand, and you’ll need an effective strategy for capturing their interest and making connections that develop into beneficial relationships. Here are some effective tips for sparking and developing connections:

Twitter First
Facebook typically gets top billing when it comes to overall popularity, but Twitter gets high marks when it comes to finding influencers. Since you’re hoping to connect with bloggers and other individuals who create content relevant to your audience, you’ll want to use Twitter, as it enjoys high popularity with this set. Besides this, it’s generally easy to reach out to influencers on Twitter, even if they have a good deal of popularity and significantly large audiences. When tweets are flying a mile a minute, however, you may need to exercise some patience with getting noticed.

Branch Out
Twitter is a great platform for making an initial connection and generating some interest, but there comes a time when you need more…room…in which to intersect and connect. After getting a conversation started on Twitter, stoke the connection fires by continuing it on another social media platform that allows for lengthier sharing. For many, this might be Facebook, but this can vary based on the influencer with whom you are trying to develop a relationship. Sometimes Google+ will prove a better venue, but other sites, such as Tumblr, Pinterest, or LinkedIn, or even old-fashioned email, might prove better options. The important thing is not to follow everyone on every platform, but instead, to reach out on the right platform for each individual influencer.

Network in the Real World
Network offline too. While social media platforms are effective for making and grooming connections, far too many people forget that face-to-face connections are important too and can help deepen a connection far faster than simple online communication. You can connect in person by attending the conferences, seminars, and networking events your influencers attend and taking advantage of meet and greets, dinners, coffee breaks, and session downtimes to connect, talk and relationship build. And, of course, you can also build connections in reverse – meeting influencers in person, establishing a rapport, and then following up online.

Get Local
If you connect with influencers who are local, you may also invite them to relevant events you host or plan to attend. You might invite them to meet for coffee or drinks as well. While one-on-one meeting invites might have to wait until you’re well on your engagement path, they can really help solidify the relationship.

General Tips
No matter how you choose to reach out to online influencers, there are some important rules to follow:

● Be selective. Don’t bother seeking a connection with every online influencer. Instead, focus on building relationships with the right influencers.
● Be interesting. Online influencers won’t take an interest simply because you decide to reach out. Show that you have something of value to offer and work to capture their attention.
● Be nice, decent, and fair. No matter how relevant your business or content, influencers won’t want to touch you with a 10-foot pole if you exhibit jerk-like characteristics. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything others say or do. It just means to balance your controversial opinions with positive comments and avoid picking fights just for the sake of doing so. Additionally, let others have their own opinions, and avoid the I-am-always-right stance.
● Avoid behaviors that might make you seem a little creepy instead of like someone with whom to connect. This means avoid hero-worshipping the influencer and stalking him or her. Avoid gossiping and save the whining for your friends and family – offline or on personal accounts kept completely separate from your business.

What are your tips for connecting with influencers? What smart moves or surprising mistakes have you made?

 

Use Pinterest to Build Influencer Relationships

Pinterest is no social media afterthought. Instead, it’s a rapidly growing social media site that holds great promise for brands. Sure, it doesn’t yet have the same pull as the giants called Facebook or Twitter, but there’s no denying that it’s up and coming. As BusinessGrow.com reports, using stats from The Social Habit, Pinterest has nearly the same usage as LinkedIn, despite the fact that LinkedIn has been around for longer; there’s only about a 5 percent difference. And over 50 percent of Pinterest users access the site on a daily basis. What’s more, Pinterest is third in line of the networks most widely used by women aged 18 to 44, and nearly 30 percent of users have decided to purchase a product after viewing it on another user’s pinboard.

Stats like these make it obvious that Pinterest is an attractive site for businesses but not just for the reasons you may imagine. Though it does provide a way to reach out to consumers, it can also prove particularly helpful for reaching out to influencers.

Ways to Use Pinterest to Build Influencer Relationships

● Repin and Comment: So you’re putting effort into locating your target audience and engaging on Pinterest? You’re definitely on the right track. However, you’re doing your business a disservice if you just stop there. You can also use the site to locate online influencers who already have the attention of your target audience and engage with them. Start by following them and repinning the content you like. Go ahead and like their pins and make thoughtful comments. This can be a good first step in relationship building. Basically, you’re making your way onto their radars.
● Use Your Boards: As you may know, a board is a collection of pins. You can use your boards as part of your campaign to build influencer relationships. Pin the high-quality content of the online influencers with whom you want to connect and engage. Be sure to choose high-quality pins that have generated a good level of activity, including repinning, liking, and commenting.
● Group Boards: Group boards allow you to use Pinterest as a collaborative tool. Invite online influencers to contribute to the group board you create. (Here are some instructions for creating your own group board). This is a great way to engage online influencers AND create high-quality content that draws more attention for your brand. You’ll want to choose a theme of interest to your target audience and invite the influencer to work with you to curate around the theme. Remember to include keywords, content relevant for your audience, unique content, and stunning visuals.
● Promotions and Contests: Create a promotion or contest that appeals to your audience and the online influencer’s readership. But don’t go through the whole process of creating the promotion before getting the online influencer involved. Instead, invite the influencer to get involved from the beginning, helping with not only the creation of the contest but also the promotion of it. You might even get some serious traction by making the contest exclusively available to the influencer’s readers.

Contest Ideas for Your Pinterest Influencers

● Each contestant creates a pinboard related to your business or topic. You and the influencer choose the best pinboard, and its creator wins the contest.
● You and the online influencer create a Pinterest sweepstakes and provide images for contestants to repin. You and the influencer choose a random winner.
● You and the influencer provide images the contestants can repin. You choose the winner based on the highest number of likes and repins.

Of course, be sure that any contest or sweepstakes you create has sufficient rules and legalese behind it. Beyond that, have fun and get creative!

Do you have other ideas for engaging influencers via Pinterest? Share with us!

Through an Influencer Lens: Six Insights from CES

While we didn’t physically make the trip to the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show, we were on the front lines of the discussions, listening to influencers’ conversations to get the inside scoop on brands and products. In addition to our CES SuperSessions influencer study, we worked with Forbes to produce pre- and post-CES analysis detailing the ‘winners’ of CES based on insights garnered from the influencers on topics related to the show. Using Appinions, we analyzed influencer data to determine the most influential brands leading up to CES as well as those that came out on top at the show’s end.

Here are 6 things we learned from influencers during CES and the corresponding infographics illustrating data before and after CES.

1. Get to the influencers early.

When it came to pre-seeding the brand’s message with influencers before CES, Sony was a clear winner. They unexpectedly led in influence on mobile (ahead of iPhone, Samsung, and Nokia) leading up to the show and were also able to gain influence during CES. LG and Intel also gained significant buzz leading up to CES in video & display and computers, respectively.

2. Mobile is king…still.

After evaluating the 9 largest CES categories, mobile and computer hardware overwhelmingly had the highest influence scores before and after CES, meaning these topics are driving the most conversation amongst influencers. Mobility was the most buzzed about topic by CES influencers. Google (Android) dominated influencer conversations about CES before and during the show.  Both Android and iPhone were in the top 5 keywords associated with influencers’ opinions about computers, audio, connected home, content delivery and digital health. The prevalence of the discussion on mobility in non-mobile markets like healthcare indicates that mobility is truly becoming pervasive across all sectors.

3. B2B battled consumer electronics for influence.

Most surprising was the fact that this traditional consumer-facing product show had influencer conversations swirling around B2B companies. Overwhelmingly the brands that gained the most influence during CES were B2B companies. Intel, Qualcomm and Broadcom leveraged CES the most to boost their influence in the categories of computers, mobile, and video & display, respectively. In addition, the most influential brands on the topic of CES (the majority of which are B2B companies) were all influential across several categories. Of the many companies that exhibited at CES, there were only 10-15 that dominated influencer-led conversations.

4. Software and components trump hardware manufacturers.

In the mobile category, the buzz was around platforms and components rather than phone manufacturers. The discussion around computers was as much about the components as it was about the hardware manufacturers. Samsung and Nvidia gained the attention of influencers on the topic of computers during CES. The top influencers going into CES (Microsoft, Android, and Intel) maintained influence throughout the show.

5. A disappearing act can do some good.

A brand can actually win at CES without spending a dime at the show. Apple, Microsoft and Nokia had high influence scores leading up to CES despite their absence. In the case of Nokia, their absence fueled the conversations about the brand in the context of CES before the show. Microsoft and Apple (iPhone) remained in conversations about CES, mobile and computers during the show as well.

6. CES is still relevant.

There was a lot of talk about the waning cachet of CES going into this year’s show. We found that CES is still a great platform to launch products, though the landscape is changing. Companies like Broadcom were not initially in the top five companies that influencers were talking about on the topic of video & display; however they gained significant influence during CES – enough to put them on the map amongst the ranks of Samsung, LG, Toshiba, and Sony.

We’ll have more insights for big industry shows throughout the year. Please be sure to check back with us to get interesting data on the verticals that are most appealing to you.

Image credit: AndersLjungberg

Focused Topics Help Create an Effective Influence Marketing Strategy

As regular blog readers likely know by now, Appinions advocates for contextual influence marketing – that is, assessing influence within a topic or industry category, vs. measuring influence solely based on a singular personal influence score.  Our platform was created from the ground up to best achieve this objective. But how do you determine the topics or categories that make the most sense for your company or brand?

This post will dive into best practices for building the right foundation for influence marketing: beginning with a relevant list of topics to help you segment your influencer list and develop effective influence marketing programs.

Creating Your Topic List

There will be some variations in how you approach topic creation depending on the scope of your outreach strategy, your industry and other factors.

The following methods are applicable to any business, regardless of size or vertical, and are effective methods for tackling the brainstorming process.

Business Segmentation

Unlike market segmentation – which is primarily an external process focused on the consumer – this exercise is internally focused on your business. Here, you’re segmenting products and solutions into separate categories and subcategories based on simple commonalities, not sales priorities.

This exercise will help you establish a framework for your topic list, ensuring that the topics you create are derived directly from the core of your business.

To get started, open a new spreadsheet and create columns for your overarching product or service “families.” Each will serve as top-level categories for the specific products and services that your brand offers.

For example, an online coffee retailer might organize products into these families: coffees, coffee machines, coffee accessories, etc.

Using this spreadsheet and your category columns:

  1. Organize your products and solutions in rows under the appropriate product family. These are your initial “product categories” that you will use as a guide for creating specific topics. Using the example above, these could be coffee types (blends, decaf), coffee brands, coffee makers vs. french press, etc.
  2. Under each product category above, create additional subcategories to complete the segmentation. Specificity is crucial for this process to work, so avoid broad-based “filters” that are commonly used in e-commerce (most popular, best sellers, etc.).
  3. Highlight categories that are highest priority according to sales and marketing objectives.

Using Search to Build a Topic “Seed List”

Using keyword research, you can expand the categories you created during the segmentation exercise into an initial “seed list,” which you can continue to refine and/or expand as your influencer outreach strategy scales.

For the purpose of this exercise, I’m focusing on two free tools for generating quick search results that you can easily mine for topic ideas.

Free Adwords Keyword Tool
The purpose of using Google’s free keyword tool is not to focus on search volume or other metrics used to research for SEO, so for now ignore those columns in the returned results.

Start by entering one of your product categories and a few of its relevant subcategories you created above into the tool. For now, leave the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” box unchecked. If you’re finding a higher volume of unrelated terms popping up, go ahead and re-run the search with this option checked.

This will generate keyword ideas that are related to your terms. You can also try experimenting with broad and specific search terms to vary your results, as well as entering your Website URL to have Google’s system scan pages and return keywords based on your site content.

Note – Be sure to export your results into a text or Excel friendly format and save for later. You’ll want to have this handy to organize and compile your results as you go. Don’t worry about refining this data just yet; you’ll want all of it for subsequent research.

Advanced Twitter Search
With well over a half billion users powering one of the fastest growing search engines on the planet, Twitter search is a great resource for researching topic ideas that are relevant and specific to your market.

Using some of the identified topics from the segmentation exercise, you can use Twitter’s advanced search operators to look for variations of the keywords you gathered earlier and a few tips to help you use advanced twitter search effectively:

  1. Use ? after query to search for questions – e.g. “best men’s designer shoes ?”
  2. Try different variations of hashtags to see which nets more relevant results. Certain popular hashtags have multiple variations (e.g. #ff, #FF and #FollowFriday)
  3. Use -term to remove or filter out irrelevant terms. This can be useful for filtering our retweets from your search results – e.g. “best men’s designer shoes” -rt

The idea here is not to search for who’s saying what. It’s to gain insights into potential topic variations that could help you expand or refine your topic list.

A few additional resources on using Twitter search for business insights:

Using Twitter Search for Business - Chris Brogan

HOW TO: Use Twitter’s Advanced Search Features – Mashable

Conduct a Competitive Audit to Add Depth to Your List

By this point in the process, your topic list should be relatively dense. Competitive research will help you analyze gaps and opportunities in your competitors’ Web and social content, both of which will give you insight into additional topics that can help you add depth to your list.

For this process, audit at least two primary competitors, focusing on the following:

  1. Website content
  2. Social media
  3. Dynamic content (blogs, white papers and articles, press releases, etc.)

Record your observations in a document or spreadsheet so that you can review and analyze after the audit is complete. You should be looking at an overall qualitative analysis of what content your competitors are producing, distribution channels, voice and tone, etc.

Refining Your List

This research should yield a broad range of topic identifiers, descriptions and keywords which will assist you in developing your influencer list. Now prioritize your topics according to your influence marketing program goals.  Appropriately prioritizing these topics matters, and not just because of relevance and the ability to personalize your outreach, but because it will help you extend your marketing budget and increase ROI by being more targeted in your approach.

Topic development should be an ongoing, agile step in your outreach strategy. How you refine your topics is dependent on the objectives of your outreach strategy. How often you review and refine your topics should be defined by the results of your outreach efforts.

Do you have any other best practices and tips for creating topics? Please share in the comments below!

 

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