Last week, a member of a private Facebook group comprised of social media professionals asked if anyone could supply a list of influential event marketers. So far, only two names have been suggested. Yet in the past 90 seconds, I identified 297. Or, more accurately, Little Bird, a newly launched start-up founded by former ReadWriteWeb editor Marshall Kirkpatrick, did.
Little Bird is essentially a search engine for influencers, but unlike services such as Klout that assign a “reputation score” to people, Kirkpatrick’s tool starts with a topic and, based on Byzantine connections throughout the social graph surrounding the issue, works backward to the “insiders” who are most influential about that particular subject.
Take “content marketing,” for example. Little Bird tells me Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi tops the list of influencers, followed by Michael Brenner, Lee Odden, C.C. Chapman and myself. Of course, naming the “known” people is the easy part. After all, Pulizzi runs this blog, Brenner and I were up for content marketer of the year, and Odden and Chapman have both written books on the subject. But Little Bird’s algorithm does more than surface the obvious. For example, it tells me that since making a move to OpenView Labs, Kevin Cain has begun making a name for himself in content marketing; that Deana Goldasich and Robert Rose have risen to prominence by listening to the right voices; and that nearly everything Cheryl Burgess tweets gets shared broadly.
In other words, Little Bird might just become a content marketer’s most powerful weapon, because it addresses the practitioner’s three most pressing needs: more content, better content, and wider distribution.
There is only so much you can write about your product or to your ideal customer persona before you begin repeating yourself. At some point, effective content marketers need to publish about topics adjacent to their product and buyer. They need to cast a wider net, so to speak. This is where Little Bird comes in.
Let’s say your company retrofits big offices with cables and locks to prevent laptops from being stolen. While most of your content will address the needs of IT and security personnel, you may also wish to capture the attention of facilities leaders and interior designers. You may even want office furniture manufacturers to consider integrating your attachment system into the industrial designs for future desks.
Chances are, you don’t know who these people are, what blogs they read, or what they care about. Little Bird can tell you not only who these insiders are, but also what topics they are talking about and what articles they are sharing. Imagine all of the real-time content ideas this information could inspire.
Boxing great Muhammad Ali is credited with authoring the shortest poem in history. When he recited, “Me, we” in a Harvard University commencement address, the boxing great confessed that as strong as he may be, the collective is stronger.
Content creation is no different. Often the best assets are the by-product of collaboration between internal and external contributors. The hard part, of course, is identifying the “thought leaders” with whom to co-create. By surfacing the names of influential figures in even niche topics, like “event marketing,” Little Bird gives content marketers — especially those partial to content curation — a major advantage over their time-strapped competition.
Similarly, for companies that employ a corporate reporter, Little Bird could be an invaluable research tool for identifying sources for articles and blog posts.
When I ran content marketing at a major marketing technology company, I joked that I was both the publisher and paperboy — that is, I was responsible for not only producing the news, but also for hustling its distribution.
By supplying subscribers with extensive lists of the people that hold the most sway with industry insiders, Little Bird provides content marketers — and their counterparts in PR — with a cheat sheet on which Twitter users, bloggers, and even companies (yes companies are influencers, too) they should be targeting to promote their content.
PTC’s Alan Belniak and author Paul Gillin created a popular presentation on how to identify and cozy up to the “new influencer” — deeply trusted, hyper-connected individuals that tend to function “outside the grasp” of traditional public relations campaigns. Little Bird lists are the building blocks for any influencer relations program in that they identify the voices that ring loudest on any given topic. And as any veteran content marketer knows, without a little push from these folks, even the best content can stumble out of the gate.
Little Bird is still in (semi) private beta. Kirkpatrick tells me he’s letting in up to 100 new users a day. If you are a content marketer who is looking to spark new ideas while broadening your reach, do yourself a favor and sign up. And if you pitch me on a content marketing topic, say that a Little Bird told you to. I’ll listen.
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