By Joe Pulizzi published February 16, 2011

10 Steps to Finding the Influencers in Your Market

Why is an influencer strategy so important?

1. It can help drive your social media execution.
2. It can be a core part of your search engine optimization strategy.
3. Ultimately, if done correctly, it will drive sales and position your organization as one of the leading experts in the field.

There is no right way to developing and cultivating relationships with the influencers in your industry, but here are 10 steps to get you started in the right direction.

Step 1: Create your buyer persona

Have a clear understanding of who you are trying to attract to your website and what you ultimately want them to do. Here are some key articles on helping you with your buyer persona.

Step 2: Keyword Hit List

Identify your hit list of two-to-four word keyword phrases. These are phrases that your buyer searches for to solve their pain points.

Tools that will help:

Big Tip:

  1. Keep the top 20 keyword searches per persona with your product marketing people at all time.  Have them print it out and put it into their cubicle/work space. Understanding how your personas search is a great first step to understanding your buyer personas.
  2. Talk to salespeople to confirm the list.
  3. Talk to customers to get a feel for whether your list is correct.
  4. Feel free to use a simple survey tool like Zoomerang or Survey Monkey to assess what your customers say.

Step 3: Listening Posts

Set up your listening posts around those keywords. Listening posts have been used for years by publishers and journalists to identify the needs and challenges in a market.  We need listening posts now more than ever.

Tools that will help:

Big Tip:

Give someone in your organization the responsibility to own the listening process (i.e., Kodak has hired a Chief Listening Officer).

Step 4: Who’s Covering the Market?

By listening to those keywords, identify those people that consistently “cover” your market through posting blog content, news content, article content or tweets/facebook posts.

Tools that will help:

  • iGoogle – Keep an RSS feed of influencers.
  • Hootsuite – Social Media distribution and organization tool
  • – ditto.
  • Klout – identifies influencers across a number of topics.

Step 5: Rank your list of influencers

Find a manageable number for your chief listening officer to handle.  This could be 10, 20 or even fifty.  Our number is 42.

Tools that will help:

  1. Klout – rank your influencer list.
  2. Twitalyzer – find out who influencers really are and where they live.
  3. Flowtown – find detailed information about your influencers, including their social media identities, emails and more. Also a great tool for mining customer data.

Step 6: Begin to interact with your influencers

  1. Follow influencers on Twitter and like them on Facebook. Connect with them on LinkedIn.
  2. Retweet their posts on Twitter and share their content on Facebook and LinkedIn.
  3. Read their posts and begin to comment with helpful information (not sales) after you understand their perspective.

Step 7: Be an influencer helper

Help your influencers with content/guest blogging. It’s important that this happens AFTER they know who you are.

Influencers are always looking for help with their content, but you have to prove your worth first. Best practice is to wait about three months after you get onto the scene. This is much harder if you don’t have a blog (they will check you out first).

Step 8: Develop a community project

Here are some samples where we have involved our influencers into our content…ultimately giving them promotion (they like this) and strengthening your relationships with them.

  • Content Marketing Playbook – we integrated over 50 case studies into this playbook, many coming from influencers and customers (and we gave them a link and credit).
  • Junta42 Top Content Marketing Blogs – maybe our biggest hit. We created a ranking system for identifying influencers through this blog list.  You can do this for your industry. We update this list every quarter.
  • Annual Content Marketing Predictions – we produce a blog and an ebook that highlights our influencers and positions them as thought leaders.
  • Content Marketing Institute – CMI was started as an group influencer blog.  What can you create?

Step 9: Give influencers the tools to share your project

Once you put all this work into creating these valuable influencer projects, make sure to get the most out of it.

  • Create badges like we do for our Top Blogs so influencers can promote their association with you and their status (you also get a link back).
  • Develop templated press releases for influencers to use and share.
  • Update your influencers with relevant emails on a regular basis so they know the “inside dirt”.

Step 10: Create the Influencer Dashboard

Counting helps justify the impact of the program. You need to measure.  Here are some key benchmarks so you can see progress.

Big Tip:

No need to get complicated. These can be easily tracked in an excel spreadsheet if you don’t have a fancy dashboard. Keep the list updated monthly if possible to keep your team (and your influencer strategy) motivated.

Good Luck!

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

Other posts by Joe Pulizzi

Join Over 200,000 of your Peers!

Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive e-book Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples FREE!

  • Doug Kessler – B2B Marketing

    Nice one.
    I use Netvibes for a quick and easy dashboard for following influencers.

    I definitely agree that it pays to start giving back and helping these important people before you ask for anything in return.

    Our own experiences have told us that we were under-valuing this. It’s essential.

  • Mark Burhop

    Great post… for the late starters 🙂

    I’ve got a good feel for the “influencers” in my domain and I bet you do as well for your own network. And I bet you got this by just listening and participating.

    So, while some of these ideas are very useful, simply allocating the time to be involved can take you a very long way.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Amen Mark! Amen.

  • TrafficColeman

    Finding those keywords is a must because without good keywords..then your audience will never find you..just that simple..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Matt

    Great list; thanks for the advice.

    The keyword hit list is huge, especially for larger organizations. With so many people creating content and engaging with customers/clients online, those are easy to lose sight of.

  • Cindy King

    Great article Joe!

    And some good comments here.

    It took me about 2 months to come up with the list of keywords I liked (relevant and short enough for me to sustain over the long haul) And I’m glad I was able to take the time to do this. When talking to others I often realize they don’t take the time to find their best keywords and they end up wasting time and not getting their best results.

    Now, the one area where I need to spend some time today is to review my listening posts. Habits have changed and there are new people around since I last looked.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Cindy…you are right that listening posts are one of the hardest areas…because habits continually change.

  • David Doherty


    As always great content and roadmap to build key influencers around our media properties.


  • Rick Liebling

    Really, really good post Joe. So often clients ask for us to create an “influencer network” but have no idea what goes into creating one. As you demonstrate here, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Thanks.

  • Courtney

    Great tips, Joe. Just want to mention that if you have the budget for it, there are some great tools taking care of half these steps for you – all you have to worry about is the engagement pieces. I’ll admit I’m biased, but my company, Traackr ( does a great job of this. The main point is to try to streamline as much of your work as possible. The Internet is a huge place and trying to find people in such a big black hole can take up a lot of time – especially when you try to manually find them, rank them, listen to them, and then engage with them. Everyone can use a little help now and then!

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts!

  • Jessica Funcannon

    Hi Joe – I was really impressed with this, thank you for sharing! I’m hitting print as we speak to keep a copy on my desk for a reminder! 🙂

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Jessica…really appreciate the note. Print away!