By Devesh Khanal published January 26, 2015

How to Use Seed Content to Build Relationships with Influencers

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How do I get influencers to share my content? Content marketers are forever seeking an answer to this question.

You know that successfully partnering with influencers in your field could turn your great content into viral content. But too many of us never connect with influencers because we’re stuck on this nagging question: “How will I ever get this famous/busy person to give me the time of day?”

The answer, of course, is: Add value. But we’ve heard that answer too many times. The real question is how do you add value?

Sending generic emails to busy people asking them to share your content will likely go ignored. So what do most people do? They leave their content promotion to a few tweets and positive thinking.

There is a better solution. Get the attention of and build relationships with influencers by creating content that is valuable to them and then sharing it with them in a direct, personalized way. We call this ultra-useful, relationship-building content “seed” content.

Seed content plants your relationship

I’m going to show you exactly how we amassed over 6 million impressions and 23,000 engagements (“likes,” shares, clicks, tweets, etc.) for Eyefi, a technology company in the photography space, simply by sharing seed content with a handful of influencers.

Let’s get started.

Step 1: Find the influencers

Engaging seed content needs to be specific to your exact target group of influencers. So, it’s essential that you know exactly who you’re trying to reach before you create content.

Here’s how to do it.

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Use the umbrella method

More often than not, if you just look for people in your niche, you’ll be limited. In our case, Eyefi is a company that sells photo-storage products: wifi SD cards, cloud storage, etc.

If we stayed in that exact niche, we would target influential electronics and gadget critics. But that list is extremely limited. (Try naming more than three off the top of your head.) They also aren’t people who will easily share content because their entire job is to review products, so everybody asks them to share content about products all the time.

Enter the umbrella method: Don’t just look at your exact niche, reach out to influencers covered by the umbrella of a related niche.

In Eyefi’s case, a great adjacent field was photography. Famous photographers were a great influencer category to target. We knew that photography and photographers in general produce highly sharable content through visual social networks like Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest.

Pick influencers by engagement, not followers

Once you find your influencer category, you then have to find the influencers. It’s tempting to make a list of influencers with the largest following, but remember that you don’t want followers, you want engagement. Influencers with high follower numbers do not always equate to high-engagement levels.

If you’re going to toil over creating content, it’s important that people see it. In the case of Eyefi, we used a mix of proprietary methods and various online tools to identify engaged influencers, but you don’t have to get that fancy. You can use several super-fast tools to figure out if people’s followers are real, and who has the most engagement and relevancy in a particular topic.

One easy tool for this is Twtrland. You can search for a subject such as photography and filter results based on influencer characteristics.

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Once you have a manageable list of possible influencers, take a closer look at each one and figure out how engaged the followers are. For example, here are stats for the well-known photographer Chase Jarvis:

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Clearly, he’s in the top echelon in popularity, and he engages with his followers often (communicative). He is an influencer with whom Eyefi would want to engage.

Using tools like this and even your own manual efforts of looking at possible influencers’ social media accounts, you can quickly make a list of 10 to 50 influencers who fall under your umbrella.

Step 2: Make seed content they want to share

Next, it’s time to make your seed content.

In our case, we made an infographic of the 30 most socially influential photographers for Eyefi’s content marketing team to use as its seed content. This little infographic generated over 6 million impressions and 23,000 engagements.

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How did we create such an effective piece of content?

First, let’s note what we did not do: Send a generic promo piece on Eyefi or a discount code with which influencers could spam their audiences. Why? Influencers are inundated with those requests.

We didn’t have an already existing relationship with these most influential photographers, so the first piece of content had to stand out from the pack. We did this by:

  • Designing shareable content that directly benefited the influencers. Photographers want publicity because it helps them get more business. Our Top 30 list shone a light on their services and skills.
  • Making the request easy. We did not ask them to review a product or endorse our brand. We simply gave them a free publicity tool.

Good seed content possesses those two defining characteristics – benefit (something the influencer wants) and ease (something that doesn’t take a lot of the influencer’s time).

Note: The lesson isn’t to create an infographic similar to the one we made. Your seed content could be an eBook or a blog post with a ton of content that still adds value to influencers.

For example, if your product is sales software, you can create seed content with influential entrepreneurs by:

  • Writing a roundup post quoting their favorite sales strategies for small businesses
  • Creating an in-depth article on a sales technique touted by one or a few of the influencers you’re targeting.

There are a ton of possibilities, but an easy way to make sure the content is something an influencer wants to share is to mention the influencer in your content. It’s an easy formula for getting influencers to share content because everybody loves promoting themselves (benefit), and it takes hardly any time to do so (ease).

Step 3: Share your seed content without being annoying

Now you have your seed content and a list of influencers, it’s time for the most nerve-wracking step: Getting your content in front of them.

We didn’t tweet or share on Instagram with these photographers. We emailed them. Email is useful because it has high engagement. In contrast, social media is an ongoing stream of content that makes it easy for your message to get missed.

Warning: Don’t just send 50 influencers the same generic email. Your response rate will be low and your seed content wasted.

Follow three rules for your email:

  1. Don’t ask for anything. The last thing you want to say is, “Can you share this on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest?” It’s annoying and you’ll likely get a “no” or no response at all. As Ramit Sethi says, “Don’t make a busy person do work.”
  2. Don’t ramble – keep it short.
  3. Make it obviously personal. Don’t mass email. Research each influencer and include a personal sentence at the beginning to show your email is not spam.

In the case of Eyefi, we emailed the 30 photographers identified on the infographic, and some of them shared it. For example, check out this Facebook post from Jasmine Star:

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Think about how useful the content is to draw the influencer’s audience to you. Star’s fans obviously include a lot of photographers and aspiring photographers (Eyefi’s target audience), and from this one post they are exposed to Eyefi in a non-intrustive, non-pushy way.

The results: We introduced millions to the Eyefi brand – all because we followed the three steps for seed content.

Here’s the bottom line

We could have just emailed photographers and asked them to partner on an eBook, but with no credibility or prior relationship, the response rate would have been low.

Instead, we invested some time and effort into engineering a piece of seed content that laid the foundation of a mutually beneficial relationship with several top photographers. The influential photographers gained publicity, and the opportunity to share top-notch, relevant content with their followers. We introduced over 6 million people to the Eyefi brand. In the world of content marketing you reap what you sow, so start out with a good seed.

Want to learn from the content marketing influencers themselves? Check out the 2014 CMW sessions that are available through our Video on Demand portal and make plans today to attend 2015 CMW.

Cover image via pixabay.com

Author: Devesh Khanal

Devesh Khanal writes on behalf of Raynforest, an influencer marketing marketplace for brands to connect with like-minded influencers in the sports, health, and wellness. It shares guides on influencer, social media, and sports marketing on its blog and offers a checklist and templates on seed content. The Eyefi influencer marketing campaign was performed by Raynforest’s sister company Evolve, Inc.

Other posts by Devesh Khanal

  • Mia Sherwood Landau

    Sharing our content has to be smooth and effortless, not awkward and manipulative. How we mean it when we share and how it comes across to others at the same time is not always the same. That’s been my experience anyway.

  • Cathy Mayhue

    This is very innovative approach, also the most logical one because you have put at the heart of it, soul of the most effective content marketing, a great and shareable content, some thing which always works. After all influencers are flesh & blood people like us, who get as excited by an interesting content as we do and they also get lured and compelled to share some great writing.

    Cathy Mayhue | Ozmentmedia.com

    • http://deveshdesign.com DeveshKhanal

      Indeed, this is true…if you make it on to a “top photographers” list, it’s hard not to get excited and share it with your fans.

  • Ian Y&S

    Really great article. The tricky bit is identifying the influencers – it’s really manually intensive to go through all those accounts and get a sense of their actual influence. We have built a tool that solves that problem. It’s called Nudge and is being used by brands such as Mondelez, Samsung and Asahi. Alongside giving you a comprehensive view of how well your content performs, it allows you to build your own influencer database. Check it out here… http://www.giveitanudge.com

  • http://www.imaginepub.com/our-thinking Alex Braun

    This is a great reminder that social strategy is both about knowing who your influencers are AND what motivates them. I think the second part is what really what sets apart great social strategists, because it requires a lot more effort and intelligence.

    • http://deveshdesign.com DeveshKhanal

      Alex, I agree. If you can figure out what motivates whoever (influencer, customer), then you are set…they will often coming knock on your door, which is great.

  • http://www.doz.com/ John DOZ

    Great article, Devesh!

    • http://deveshdesign.com DeveshKhanal

      Thanks John!

  • Amanda Gallucci

    Great advice about making seed content! Can you talk a little bit about how you got the infographic in the Huffington Post? Was this a PR effort or was it picked up naturally? Are the high number of impressions on the Huffington Post article or directly on the Eyefi site?

    • Lisa Lee

      I can’t be certain but HuffPo is always in need of content. it’s not hard to get stuff published there

    • http://deveshdesign.com DeveshKhanal

      Amanda, the infographic was placed in the HP by our contacts and standard PR process (it wasn’t picked up naturally). In terms of impressions – that was spread throughout HP, Eyefie, a Forbes article and anywhere else it appeared. The infographic was shared and re-shared a bunch of times, and those links went to a variety of places. As is usually the case with infographics we make it embeddable so people can share them on their own site.

  • Vaidhegi Patel

    Yes,
    you are absolutely right why a busy person should give time to content unless
    it is worth it. Nowadays each person is busy in making money and no one likes
    to waste their time for generic content.
    So quality and Value of content you share is important. Thanks for
    sharing valuable information.

  • girish_16

    lol.. guys come and connect with me ! Authentic Engaged Human Social Media Seed Influencer.. ! Check my klout scores 😛 CEO @CEOMAGAZINE endorsed my digital and social skills…This world is gonna change soon !