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How to Identify an Influencer

Nate Birt

published on April 22, 2015 in Content Marketing

An old adage holds, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Half of that claim is actually true.

In a noisy digital world, the difference between creating content that is instantly beloved by legions or tossed on a heap of great-but-forgotten ideas often depends on those who share it. If content resonates with a few key people, it can spread like wildfire.

The question is, how do you get content into the hands of people who are influential enough to sell it to the masses? In this post, we’ll explore some tips, tricks and resources for identifying people with whom engagement is critical to take your content distribution strategy to the next level. We’ll also explore why it’s essential to identify and become a pro at “what you know” in order to make content resonate once it leaves an influencer’s circle of sharing.

Create insanely shareable content

Contrary to the popular adage, then, both the “who” and “what” of content sharing are paramount. Brands whose messages are carried willingly by influencers understand the art and science of both factors in achieving a successful campaign.

Let’s start with the content itself, drawing on some great tips shared by Constant Contact. Whether you specialize in baking awesome delicacies or manufacturing metal pylons, your brand’s mission can be made exciting, engaging and shareable for company blogs, email newsletters and social media. Constant Contact suggests drawing out compelling quotes from reports or news stories, asking questions to solicit audience feedback and tagging related brands and audience members.

Remember: Most of your content is being shared by real people with minds attuned to the nature of cyberspace. Make it engaging and it’s more likely to be passed along by someone who knows people you’d like to reach.

Invite the big dogs to work with you

Next, remember the power of networks. In his new book “Do Over,” author Jon Acuff notes professionals can find amazing career opportunities by staying in touch with people they’ve met only a handful of times — sometimes only in a virtual setting — in addition to building rich relationships over a period of years.

Herein lies the beauty of the web: Relationships that begin as casual can create serious business and opportunity down the road. That’s why brands must spend time seeking out influential personalities in their space and strike up a relationship, argues Susan Gunelius at

“If you get on their radar as an authoritative, interesting source of useful information,” she notes, “they might share your content with their own followers, which could put you and your business in front of a huge new audience.”

Don’t be ashamed to ask employees, friends and family to share content, adds You can also provide discounts for products or services for those who share actively or provide free samples to influential bloggers and other online personalities. A thoughtful gift of this kind with few strings attached might sound like a waste of time (or like a trap for inaccurate, negative reviews if you’re the fearful type). Yet consider the alternative: It might result in impressive goodwill if fans enjoy what you’re doing and choose to post about it to their own circle of influence.

Even though some argue convincingly that email is headed the way of the dinosaurs, for now it’s an excellent tool for adding a personal touch when soliciting influencers’ support. Over at Search Engine Journal, writer Joseph Cruz notes that those who do their homework to identify industry influencers and reach out with a personal email pointing them to an interesting post or video you’ve created.

“Never ask for a link,” Cruz advises. “Just be happy with what they are willing to do!”

Other strategies to forge similar relationships include collecting influencers’ tips and linking back to their respective social channels, hosting guest blog posts and more, notes.

Schedule your plan of attack

In order to find great influencers, you must set aside time to build your brand. So whether you spend a few minutes each day interacting with others on Instagram per this Business 2 Community post or creating a cross-platform editorial calendar as this post suggests, be intentional in courting influencers.

As blogger Beth Kanter notes at, you can also reciprocate by offering up your brand’s own expertise in guest posts published elsewhere on the web. Keep the give and take alive and you’ll be surprised at the good things that come your way. Take time to guest post on popular blogs.

Sleuth for influencers with an arsenal of tools

Instead of scouring the web for hours on end in search of that one influencer to rule them all, try some of the many tools available online. Many are paid, and a few are free, including:

Artfully decide which aspects of your strategy need that human touch, and use technology such as these to automate and expedite influence-building.

Keep fine-tuning your strategy

As with everything in content marketing, the target is always moving. That’s why you should continue to grow your network of influencers online and in person. Curata points to the importance of making new connections at conferences and other events.

Hone your definition of influencer as you learn more about your audience and your brand’s own mission. Hootsuite shares the three key elements necessary for someone to be an influencer, including the degree to which his or her content is relevant to your business.

Above all, have fun meeting new people and making unexpected connections as your brand grows. You never know when it might open up new business opportunities.