I am sure there are times when Spiderman wishes he could fly. Superheros all have different powers and circumstances determine who is best able to help you. It is the same with influencers.
What makes an influencer a good content amplifier? We take a look at the charcteristics of your perfect superhero influencer and at how you can find them. Larry Kim calls them the unicorns, they are the outliers, the passionate one or two per cent that have hundreds of times more impact than the other 98%.
And if you find them, then what? Influencers, like the best superheros, use their powers responsibly. They want to know you, to trust you and be sure you aren’t evil before they deploy their powers.
In this post we look at:
- How influencers amplify content and why
- The influencers to look for and the ones for avoid
- How to find your perfect superheros: the unicorns that will amplify your content
- Using their powers for good: building relationships and reciprocity, not seeking the share
What Makes An Influencer A Content Amplifier?
First, let’s address the elephant in the room. He’s usually wearing an invisibility cloak.
An influencer who amplifies content is NOT someone with lots of followers
If you are just looking for people with lots of followers you can do that very quickly and easily – but they are not the necessarily the right people to amplify your content. Size of audience matters less than you might think.
You want influencers:
- that respect your work and your content
- have a passion about the areas that you are focused on
- have an audience that is interested in the content you are writing about
- have an engaged audience, which means a high level of replies and retweets or active blog following
One of the most important aspects in my view is the domain authority of the sites where an influencer has content published. Let’s say that very clearly:
An Influencer’s Domain Authority Matters More Than Followers
The second elephant we need to deal with is the relative importance of domain authority.
The number of shares a post receives depends more on the domain it is published on than influencer sharing.
I can see this with my own posts as an example. I have published 108 posts this year across many different sites which have averaged 155 shares. However, my posts on Social Media Today have averaged over 500 shares. See two examples below from the BuzzSumo blog and Social Media Today and look at the varying share counts.
Social Media Today
I don’t believe this is because the content is significantly better but because Social Media Today simply has a larger engaged audience. In the last year there were 4156 articles published on SMT and they averaged 440 shares.
Domains have a bigger impact on sharing than authors
Ok, I am not a big name author, so maybe it’s just me. Maybe with better known authors the domain impact on sharing is less marked. But the evidence shows this is not the case. For example I looked at the content of Rand Fishkin who has 250,000 followers on Twitter. Rand authored 123 articles last year across a range of sites. Rand’s articles received a mean average of 1639. However, Rand’s 71 articles published on the Moz blog received an average of 2688 shares, a thousand more. The domain effectively amplified the content more than the author.
The same is true of my unicorn hunting friend Larry Kim. His average shares per post on Inc.com are significantly higher than his posts on Wordstream.
Domains are the real bosses in this game of content superheroes.
You want influencers with a strong blog or domain distribution
For the reasons set out above it’s clear that influencers with a strong blog or strong domain distribution behind them, such as a journalist, are particularly powerful when it comes to amplification. A reference and link from their site can drive significant traffic, it is far more powerful than if they simply share your content socially. So make sure you’re checking out Domain and blog authority and not just getting wowed by follower count.
You Need Influencers with Engagement Not Followers
Mark Walker, Head of Content Marketing at Eventbrite emphasises the importace of engagement. “Don’t just look at reach – consider engagement as even more important. Someone with a really engaged following of 1000 will do more to amplify your content than someone with 10000 social connections they don’t engage with.”
Let us address another elephant. It’s a crowded room….
There is no relationship between the number of followers a person has and the number of retweets they get
Unicorns have a High Retweet Rate
I took the Twitter profiles of 10,000 people and looked at the relationship between the number of followers and average retweets. Surprisingly there is no strong correlation between the two. There are people with millions of followers that get an average of less than 1 retweet per post. Equally there are others with less than 10,000 followers that get 20 plus retweets per post. These are people with a very engaged audience who can move their followers to regularly share content. These are the unicorns in my view, they are not easy to find as they have modest follower numbers or smaller blogs.
These people, or unicorns, with higher retweet rates have a real impact on amplification. In our study of 100m posts we analyzed the impact of shares by influencers based on their retweet averages. Specifically, we looked at the impact of shares by influencers that had a retweet average of more than two. Thus on average for every tweet they posted they received two retweets.
Our baseline was posts that received no retweets from anyone who had a retweet rate of 2 or above. On average these posts received 706 shares.
- Posts that were shared by one person with a retweet rate of more than 2 received 30% more shares.
- Posts that were shared by three people with a retweet rate of more than 2 received over 100% more shares.
- Posts that were shared by five people with a retweet rate of more than 2 received nearly 300% more shares.
Average Shares Per Post By Number of People Sharing With a Retweet Average Above 2
The data demonstrates very clearly that influencers with a high retweet rate can dramatically amplify content. So find the influencers with high retweet ratios. They will have a bigger impact than those with more followers but a less engaged audience.
Finding Influencers – 4 steps to take
So now you know what you’re looking for in an influencer, you need tools that will help you find them.
You can use various tools to help you. Kristi Hines, a freelance writer, recommends ContentMarketer.io which has been developed by Sujan Patel and which is being launched this week. I have been playing with this tool recently and recommend you try it out. Sujan says “focus on building a relationship. No mater what you are promoting its not as important as a long term relationship with an influencer. Trust me. I’ve been on both sides and learned the hard way from 10k outreach emails/tweets.”
Whatever tools you use you need to find your unicorns, the people that are passionate about your area of interest. Sujan Patel puts it well when he says “no one cares about you..I’m sorry but that’s the truth. People do though care about themselves or a cause or are passionate about a particular topic.”
Here are four ways of finding people who are passionate about a topic and who can also amplify content.
1. Find the amplifiers of content that is heavily shared
Lee Odden of Top Rank Marketing highlights the importance of identifying the individuals already sharing content on topics relevant to your project. “Correlate those findings with other sources and you can identify some excellent influencer candidates to work with.”
You can do this by using BuzzSumo’s top content search and then view the people who are sharing it on Twitter. Simply click ‘view sharers’.
Once you have your list then filter by average retweets to find the content amplifiers as shown on the right below.
Finally, click ‘view links shared’ to see if the person reguarly shares content on your specific topic. If they are passionate about the topic you can expect to see a lot of sharing around the topic.
2. Find authors of content that is heavily shared
If an influencer is really passionate about a topic they will research and author content about it. I tend to start again with a BuzzSumo top content search but this time I focus on the authors of well shared content and view what they are writing about. To see the most shared content of any author simply click on the author’s name.
Another variation of this approach is to run a top authors report for a specific topic or domain. This will produce a list of the most shared authors, how many articles they have written and average shares.
3. Search for influencers in a topic area but focus on domain authority, distribution and retweet rates
Our BuzzSumo tool, like many other tools, finds you the most relevant influencers for any topic. You simply enter a topic and the tool will produce a list based on what the influencer writes about, the lists they are on, their bio, what they share, the people they interact with and other factors.
The tool sorts influencers by relevance by default but, as we outlined above, it is important to look for those influencers with a high domain authority and high average retweets. Thus you should refilter by these factors in the hunt for your unicorns or perfect superheros.
4. Check who currently amplifies your content and your competitor’s content
Finally, you can use the tools above to see who amplifies both your own content and your competitors content.
What now? Who You Gonna Call?
Ok, so now you have researched, filtered and created a list of influencers that has the potential to amplify your content. What next?
I could write a book on the next stage but here I have just outlined some key points including some important Do’s and Don’ts and include some tips from influencers themselves.
Building Relationships: How to Win Friends and Influencers
My friend Emeric Ernoult hits the nail on the head when he says that after finding the influencers that can amplify your content “the only way to make sure they’ll be willing to help you is to have a pre-existing relationship.”
Emeric says “Don’t even ask for help before you’ve made the effort to build that relationship. Engage with them on Twitter, share their own content, even better, connect with them in real life as much as you can.”
As on so many things Emeric is right: If you don’t have a relationship don’t approach an influencer. I speak from experience, sometimes I have been too keen to get views from an influencer and have mailed them too hastily. Matthew Barby emphasises the importance of being helpful, of trying to help influencers to achieve their objectives. This can include following them, sharing their content, helping them, and getting to meet them. Only after many months of building your relationship should you approach them to help you. The key is to be as helpful as you can.
Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy at NewsCred, also reinforces the point about being helpful: “When working with influencers, once you find out who is influential in your space, make sure you invest in helping them before you make any kind of request in having them amplify your content.”
Michael also makes a valuable point about the type of influencers to reach out to. He says “I like to hit the 2nd tier of influencers first. They need your help more and can really benefit from you giving their personal brands a boost.” I think is a great point. I also get a real sense that many of the big influencers with large follower numbers are fatigued by people approaching them. This is another potential reason for finding niche influencers with authoritative domains and smaller but engaged audiences. Martin Shervington, who could not be more generous with his time and in supporting his community, echoed these sentiments in his frustration about people using influencers to create list posts such as ’10 experts on topic X’.
“The tricks people are using to drag people into crowdsourcing content, and then assume they will share it is getting tiring, old. Crowdsource yes, but create content that deserves to be shared far and wide – not lists for the sake of getting it shared.”
Influencers, like superheros, do not like to feel their powers are being abused. Michael Stricker of SEMrush summed it up for me when he talked about the 6 rules of reciprocity. These start with being generous and giving in your relationship. In short be helpful to people, give, don’t ask. Despite the need for speed you might feel in building an audience and engaging with influencers, you need to go slow and not freak people out. Good relationship advice at any time.
The conclusion from my small sampling of influencers is very clear and very strong: be helpful and build relationships. I would personally consider avoiding influencers with very large follower numbers as they are likely to be approached very frequently. I would focus on finding the niche influencers that are passionate about your topic. The unicorns that may not have tens of thousands of followers but that have an engaged community, a high retweet average and authoritative distribution. In all cases take the advice of Barry Feldman:
Influencers in your market aren’t on standby waiting to hear from you and help your cause. You have to go out and build relationships with them. Buy their books. Go hear them speak. Then introduce yourself to them with a conversion about what they wrote and said and ask how you might help them and get involved with what they’re doing. When the time comes for them to reciprocate, they very likely will.
Once you have established a trusted relationship Lee odden says “the best way to inspire influencers to share your content is to involve them in its creation. Few things motivate amplification more than being part of something special that reflects positively on the the brand and the influencer that is sharing it.” However, even in these circumstances Lee recommends you focus first on how the co-creation project can create value for the influencer first and foremost.
The Real Superpower: Create Content Worth Sharing
The key to ensuring content is shared is no secret – it’s just hard work: create good, original content that is worthy of sharing.
This means focusing on particular areas and becoming an expert and an authority in that space. Do no write another list post that we have all seen a thousand times. My advice is to conduct original research and write longer form content.
However, good content will not simply be found as there is simply too much content out there. It does need a solid promotion strategy and in my view influencers do play an importat role but you have to be careful. If you have built relationships with niche influencers listen again to the wise words of Emeric and “only ask influencers to amplify your very best content. Make sure what you ask them to share is something you would be sharing yourself if you were aked to!” In essence use your relationships sparingly.
The last words on this post go to Martin Shervington, who’s old school in the best possible way about building relationships.
Instead of ‘seeking the share’, let’s return back to belonging to people’s communities, supporting them, engaging with them, and then when the time is right they will take your call.