The most important aspect of outreach is not sending the messages themselves. It's about finding the right people to contact.
It's the so called link prospecting process that makes or breaks the webmaster and blogger outreach.
Luckily there are techniques and tools now that not only simplify the process but also streamline it to make it effective faster.
Of course not all outreach is blogger outreach and not all outreach is done for the purpose of getting links. You may do influencer outreach in general attempting to get publicity on social media or with journalists. No matter the means, the ultimate goal is the same – to get the public to view your message, buy your product or service or support your cause.
The main problem with outreach is that you usually reach out to strangers. People who don't know and trust you are far less likely to help you than those who already know and value you. You have two options to overcome this obstacle. You either build relationships with bloggers first or you find the perfect matches from the start, bloggers who
- share the same values
- cover the same topics
- are brand evangelists.
In a recent blogger outreach campaign for example I contacted existing bloggers who praised the virtues of blogging in articles like "why blog" or reasons to blog" and asked to also spread the word about my client – a site explaining how to start a blog called startbloggingonline.com – my point was that telling people they should blog for a variety of reasons does not suffice, you also have to tell them how they can accomplish that task.
In order to spread the word I did two things:
- I contacted enthusiastic bloggers I didn't know yet from my social media participation
- and also bloggers I already knew online.
Yes, there are a few bloggers I know personally because I have met them in real life but that group is tiny as I don't travel to conferences a lot.
Thus at the end of the day I needed to reach them by mail or social networking sites. I mostly used mail and Twitter. In some cases, honoring the tools of choice of the bloggers I wanted to contact also via Facebook and Google+
I didn't use sites like Instragram or Pinterest that are popular for sharing images etc. but not apt to connect with people out of the blue. Usually I limit the use of fancy third party tools to those that have been running for years successfully. I don't buy each of the "101 must have tools every marketer needs to use".
Yet here, due to the ongoing effort of keeping and updating contact data and project management tasks I finally tried Buzzstream, a tool specialized in outreach. Indeed a recent article by prolific blogger and my longtime social media connection Kristi Hines has convinced me to finally try the tool and potentially invest some money into a monthly subscription.
Prior to this I have used both simple contact management tools like the ones from Thunderbird or more recently Zoho Contacts. Over the years I also more or less successfully tested Nimble, a so called social CRM tool allowing you to manage contacts and interactions beyond only customers who use mail.
That's in essence what Buzzstream does as well. No matter what you call it, the purpose is almost the same. Keeping track of contacts and staying connected to people who are helpful. Here is how you add websites manually to BuzzStream; this way it's a bit tedious. You are strongly advised to do it by importing a CSV list. I mainly show it for visualization purposes.
Thanks to Buzzstream by Paul May and his team I could save contacts of some of my longtime online friends while memorizing the fact that they were helpful when approached to spread the word about a particular project. With some people you chat and small talk like forever on the Web and never come down to the nitty gritty of actual cooperation. In other cases you simply forget that someone has helped you years ago. Heck I even tend to forget who is the owner of a particular website or blog.
I was familiar with Rishi Lakhani for example who has run a personal blog I'be been reading for years, the now defunct explicitly.me but I wasn't even aware that Refugegeeks is his own site. I assumed that he was just a contributor among others. Thus actual outreach efforts led to the realization that my familiarity with him and his projects needed an update.
Also in the case of my long time Google+ buddy Jon Dunn who runs Sitegains, an ecommerce strategy site I wasn't able to make the connection instantly. I remembered both of them – Jon Dunn and Sitegains – but somehow didn't memorize the connection. In case you think it's just me, you're wrong.
Many people who follow me for years still don't know that I have a blog myself for example over at seo2.us, others still share blog posts from sites because I have written for them years ago. They remember the sites because of me but don't realize that I have long ceased to contribute there.
Nimble allows you to plug in into Twitter (along with Facebook, Google+, Gmail etc.) and to view your most current contacts/interactions right away without importing anything or typing manually. Apparently in my case Nimble could only use my Twitter contacts. Here they are based on the most recent engagement:
The partial screenshot only shows the most recent five but the list goes on forever, including all the 925 accounts I follow and that follow me. I follow 1012 accounts currently but of course not all Twitter users I decide to follow do follow me back.
Some of them simply don't because they are software powerhouses not real people. I often follow the accounts of tools I use like Firefox, WordPress or Zoho. Now that I mention Zoho again. I indeed still also use Zoho Mail and Contacts for doing outreach.
Zoho is probably not everybody's favorite tool for outreach, some might prefer Gmail here because of the third party tools specifically geared towards outreach use cases.
Yet Zoho Mail has been one of my favorite tools for the last decade. I have been using their mail since 2007 and increasingly moved my other accounts there. For some clients I have used branded mail accounts like firstname.lastname@example.org I could easily add to my Zoho interface and integrate into my usual workflow:
Here's how a hand-made profile of one of my most active social media allies – Ed Leake of Midas Media – looks like, see below. I have blackened the mail address as I wasn't sure he wants to see it published.
Take also note that I have saved the profile in this way manually. Zoho Contacts automatically saves all contacts I have written to but I have to add a profile picture, social media and website addresses or tags myself. This could of course be improved in future or by third party tools. The sky is the limit.
In any case I guess I don't have to explain to you why telling Google via Gmail where you build links may be not a good idea. Sure, most people still don't care and trust Google. They sold illegal drugs worth half a billion and even stole my Adsense money so I can't.
I still use Gmail for testing and for SPAM filtering but not for serious business.
When reaching out to existing connections or trying to build relationships with new people I use Twitter, Tweetdeck and Twitter lists a lot. For example I've set up a Twitter list for those bloggers who encouraged others to blog by writing posts like "why blog" or "reasons to blog". I called the list "why blog" of course.
It's public, you can look it up. There I followed the accounts and quickly found out which of them are really on Twitter, who automates mostly and floods Twitter with self-promotion. Of course the more self-promotional someone is the less likely that person is to promote you.
Of course I also simply search on Google and Topsy (Apple's social search engine) to find out who tells people why they should blog:
Both search engines allows you to search for recent entries. Sadly most of the "why blog" crowd is not really keen on telling people how to blog though. This was a surprise. The other part are people who promote webhosting (mostly Bluehost) affiliate links in their "why blog" posts and thus don't want to link to third party sites. In the future I will probably look for different kinds of articles.
* (CC BY 2.0) Creative Commons image by John Lloyd