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Think of social media influencers as your customers

With every passing year, the topic of “social media influencers” gains momentum. Back in the day – as in back before the phrase “social media” even existed – reaching out and subsequently building a network of relationships with key influencers like bloggers, fan site owners, and forum administrators was almost exclusively the domain of niche players. Few enterprise brands devoted time to this highly manual and definitively non-broadcast marketing avenue, and the few enterprise marketers that recognized its value simply didn’t have the budget allocation or internal resources necessary to make any serious inroads.

Fast forward to 2012 and it’s hard to go a single day without seeing at least one article from a mainstream digital marketing publication extolling influencer outreach and engagement. Moreover, it seems like every agency is rolling out a link building and/or social media engagement service of one sort or another.

I field calls and emails from literally dozens of these outfits but legitimately converse only a small subset and only feel comfortable vouching for a very select few.

And the reason that I’m so selective is because I know from my own direct experience on the agency side that very few shops are willing to take social influencer engagement seriously enough to consider those influencers customers. And what do I mean by that exactly?

In a nutshell, I mean that most providers won’t take the steps necessary to build out a robust database of the influencers they reach out to so that they can build upon those initial outreach attempts and build truly profound and long-lasting relationships.

Mind you, a lot of providers out there think they have this covered with Excel spreadsheets that chronicles outreach targets. That might work for smaller brands but it just won’t cut it for enterprising marketers. What’s needed is a searchable, flexible, interactive, and preferably cloud-based technology platform that makes it easy to update key pieces of information like the name, contact info, social profiles, and contact history. Think along the lines of a CRM platform like Saleforce.com, but exclusively for managing social and SEO-related outreach contacts as opposed to traditional customers.

This is an important distinction in my opinion, and one that separates the truly enterprise-caliber agencies from the pretenders. So if you’re a digital marketer looking to truly scale your social media and SEO outreach and engagement efforts make sure that you make outreach management technology investment a prerequisite. Leveraging data in this manner will ultimately make a significant impact on the long-term marketing equity you derive from this facet of your digital marketing plan.

 

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  • http://twitter.com/content_muse Anthony Pensabene

    Hey Hugo,

    I have concerns re: the communion of large-scaled efforts with an outsourced social provider (unless adopting a strict, consultation nature). Primarily, due to vast inefficiency, as you recognize.

    ‘Outreach’ itself doesn’t sit well with me. (Just theoretical thoughts of mine to follow) I think ‘outreach’ spawned from yes, the progressive popularity of ‘social’ platforms (though we could argue ‘blogging’ was always that), but moreover because of Penguin.

    ‘Outreach’ (imo) is PR ‘born again.’ Link builders have recently shifted focus. A lot of them are not trained or comfortable doing PR. But are doing it.

    Sean Revell did a good write up earlier in the week on this:

    http://01100111011001010110010101101011.co.uk/2012/08/couldnt-think-of-a-decent-title/

    I agree with the sentiment of embracing ‘influencers,’ but I can’t picture a well-engineered, large-scaled process for it (coming from a third party especially).

    I guess the notion of ‘scale,’ especially regarding relations, is something I have trouble practically accepting.

    If I was leveraging a third-party social provider, a major concern of mine would be not enjoying the immediate fruits of the mutual acquaintance (link, guest post), but, in forming a real relation with sources in my vertical.. the strong, ongoing relation is the ‘real’ value. If it is contingent on the third party and my immediate and distant relations with them, I would not feel comfortable with my decision.

    Thanks for getting me thinking, Hugo

    • hugoguzman

      Thanks for chiming in, Anthony! In a nutshell a) it is the equivalent of PR but a bit more nuanced b) very few shops are good at it (hell, few even try to do it right) and c) it is possible to manage and scale what I’ve described in this article without the need for a third party.

      In fact, in some sense it’s even more effective from a long-term ROI perspective to build the database and the outreach/relationship-building skills in-house as opposed to handing it over to a third party, but that as they say, is a story for another day and another blog post ; )

  • hugoguzman

    Thanks for chiming in, Matt! I think that both are feasible but the second one is more likely. I also think that some shops can and are layering content strategy that coincides with target selection and/or outreach. In fact, I personally know of at least one that uses the influencers that they already have relationships with in order to essentially “poll” them and figure out what kinds of content they would be willing to mention and share (e.g. link to) taking a lot of the guess work out of content ideation.