How to find, connect, and foster relationships with the people who will spread your content.
So far this book has been theoretical. I delve deeper into both psychology and behavioral economics in the later chapters but it’s time to start giving you some actionable strategies for success.
I want to help you and your business become known. To do so you must become the expert. Experts need an audience; they need a backbone. The following section will teach you how to find your audience. I preface this section with a warning:
These systems are what I have used to build up influence. They have worked for my clients and me in a variety of industries. They will work for you as well. I challenge you to look deeper. The systems work for a reason.
There are three types of people who will read this section:
- The Uninitiated Thinkers will blindly follow the systems I lay out in the coming chapters. They will skim this book and pluck from it one or two pieces of actionable advice. For the next while they will implement the systems exactly how I laid out. It might work for a time but they won’t be able to adapt and therefore will lose effectiveness. Frustrated, they buy another book and continue the endless cycle.
- The “Been There, Done That” Thinkers will use the systems I lay out to justify what they already do. This can be a good thing if their systems are working. I hope my book acts as justification and motivation for them to keep pushing forward in the face of adversity. If you are spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere please don’t find a way to justify your methods with mine. Look into the differences and think critically as to how to adopt them to best serve your purpose.
- The Evolved Thinkers understand that the systems I lay out are just that, systems. While the specifics may or may not still work when you read this, the concept behind them will always hold true. Proprietary software will change and you have no control over it. Be an evolved thinker and understand the theories behind the systems that I lay out. Learn to apply the theory in different ways. Be creative.
The following are systems I have designed to leverage Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Blogs to find your brand ambassadors. Some of these people are what you would consider to be influential and others you would never have thought to look for. They are the backbones to Viralnomics.
Using Twitter Listing Services
Twitter is an awesome tool but not when it’s used in the conventional sense. Unless you’re already an authority your Twitter account won’t result in much traffic to your website. Tweeting about your own stuff is fine and every little bit helps but I suggest using Twitter to find and build relationships.
Listing sites like Listorious provide lists of Twitter accounts with common interests. It’s a great place to start. Go there and search a bunch of keywords related to your niche or industry. Follow everybody that appears (you will unfollow most of them later) and start watching what kind of stuff they tweet about.
What you will find is that most of them try to pump out their own info without any real rhyme or reason. A select few will interact. They are the ones sending out @ mentions and sharing a variety of other peoples materials in addition to their own. The accounts that seem to foster interaction are the ones you should be paying attention to.
Twice a day spend 10 minutes on Twitter. I recommend focusing on the morning and night according to the eastern time zone as that’s what 48% of Twitter users go by.*2*2 When one of your selected “target” accounts tweets out a link or update, respond intelligently. Don’t ask for anything in return — just respond. Do this a couple of times.
What will happen after a short period of time following this strategy is 1 of 3 things:
- Nothing. Sucks. Move on to another target. Either you picked wrong or the person has their select group of people they interact with and are shut off to anything else. Those that aren’t willing to branch out to new networks will be left behind. You don’t want them anyway.
- You will notice that one day they follow you back. Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working.
- They start to send you @ mentions or respond to some of the information you are sending out. This is ideal.
After you have sent 2-4 @ mentions or messages back and forth on Twitter you can now bring the relationship to a new level. At this point you should know about the person and their business. Make the subject of the email “From @YOURNAME on Twitter” and send them a tweet telling them you sent an email.
In the email keep it short. Start by thanking them for something specific they did that helped you. If you have something you think that you can offer them say so. If not just leave it as a nice heartfelt thank you. This is relationship building. Don’t ask for anything.
If you’re looking for something to offer to these people consider that every human being wants 3 things:
- Money / career success
- Sex / Health
Nobody has all 3. If you’re contacting somebody important they have probably achieved in the “money / career success” category. In my experience powerful people were often lacking in the “sex / health”. Being a personal trainer in my previous life I was in perfect position to help them.
In order to find out what these people were struggling with I would do my research and try to learn as much about my target as possible. I would look for opportunities where it looked like they were struggling in any of the above 3 categories and formulate a plan to help them. Sometimes it was a referral to a contact of mine who was an expert in whatever they needed help with, other times it was health and fitness advice, and sometimes it was a book recommendation.
Few have everything they want. If you can figure out what somebody needs help with and provide them a solution you become a part of their inner circle.
As you’re creating a relationship with the influencer you found on Listorious use the list they have already developed as your research. If they are following less than 400 people and have over 1,000 followers it means they are selective. The people they are following are likely influential and might be some of the key figures behind the scenes. I call these the diamonds in the rough.
The Diamond in the Rough System
[Note: I've made this system a download. There's instructions how to get it after you read through the text]
Twitter is great for finding the diamonds in the rough. I’m surprised at how few people use it for this purpose.
There are a number of influential people in every industry:
- The influencers are the ones in control of the big brands. They may or may not be smarter than you but they have hustled to get to where they are and built an empire and great network around themselves.
- The large magazines are usually faceless organizations with multiple walls and levels of bureaucracy getting in the way making it difficult to get in touch with anyone.
- The bloggers are gaining more steam in some industries. In the tech industries, for example, it could be argued they control the information whereas in plumbing they are relatively non-existent.
- The senior editors are the top-level editors at magazines and industry publications. These people are over-worked and usually under paid /under appreciated.
- The beat reporters and supporting editors are easy to access and have a lot of influence as to what goes into major publications. They are the diamonds in the rough.
Right about now you’re thinking I’m crazy. Because, if you’re like most people attempting to gain influence, you have tried to follow the conventional path and emailed various editors desperately trying to get his or her attention – and never gotten a response.
Beat reporters and supporting editors don’t respond to your messages because they don’t know you and they are busy. Twitter is a way to build a relationship with them and create a friendship. Most of these reporters have modest, if any, followings on Twitter. So while they get 100+ emails a day, they might only get 2 @ mentions on Twitter. Which do you think they would be more prone to respond to?
Here are my action steps to finding the beat reporters and supporting editors:
- Follow the head editors and scan the list of the people they follow. Look for accounts that say something like, “NY Times editor focusing on social media and marketing”. Follow everybody that seems to cover your niche.
- Identify the top bloggers in your niche and follow the same steps are above.
- Identify the top influencers in your niche and follow the same steps as above.
- Search newspapers websites and find the editors that cover the subjects your niche pertains to. A Google search is usually all you need to find their Twitter account if they have one.
- Every magazine lists the various editors and writers on the first couple pages. Identify the top magazines in your niche and write down the names of everybody on this page that fits your specifications. Do a Google search and try to find their Twitter account and follow them.
- Pay attention to networks of influence. It’s not uncommon for a number of influencers to tweet back and forth with the same person that you have never heard of. That person is likely an important member behind the scenes.
Now that you found these people respond intelligently to their tweets. If they promote a blog post or article with a link take the time to read the entire article and respond back with a piece of feedback or a question. If they say something about their personal life or hobby send back a joke or tidbit of information.
As an aside I’ll add that you should not respond to every tweet. This comes off as needy. Respond only if you have something intelligent to say and not more than once or twice every couple of days. Relationships take time to build. It could take months. Don’t rush it.
Don’t ask for anything in return. They will check you out and go to your website and read your material. They might start following you after some interaction or even send you an email asking if you would be interested in providing content for their magazine.
It’s better to make an influencer want to go out of their way to approach you instead of begging them to pay attention to your work. Building relationships and showing them your value without asking for anything shifts the sphere or power. It also allows you to focus on doing the best work you can do as opposed to sending endless emails that don’t garner any response.
Before I developed this system I followed somebody named Adam Bornstein (@bornfitness). I did this because I was genuinely interested in what he had to say. Adam is a major center of information in the fitness world. For a month or two we had some brief interactions on Twitter. I asked him a question here and there and he would sometimes respond.
One day out of the blue he sent me a private message. It said, “Wondering if you would want to write for Livestrong. Email me.”
I had no idea Adam had been reading my material but apparently he had been on my site(s) a number of times and had been impressed. Since then Adam has:
- Helped me get published on Livestrong multiple times.
- Helped me get named as one of the “20 Smartest Fitness Professionals You Might Not Know”.
- Helped my book, Ignite the Fire, become named one of the “21 Top Health, Fitness, and Nutrition” books.
- Mentored me through a number of writing and publishing challenges and provided a forum for some of my crazier idea. (Of which there have been quite a few, sorry Adam.)
All of this happened because I followed him on Twitter one day and didn’t ask for anything. I simply wanted to add to the conversation.
To download the Diamond in the Rough system in a word document so you can make notes and keep it as a reference put your email in the box below. I’ll send it straight to your inbox.
Finding People Talking About your Subject on Twitter
Another benefit of Twitter is that it’s easy to find people speaking about the same thing as you. A hashtag (#) signifies a subject. When somebody tweets #TOPIC it becomes a live link. When you click on it everybody else’s tweet that also mentions that same hashtag will appear.
Free programs like Hootsuite allow you to track specific hashtags in separate feed. This way you can follow anybody in the world tweeting about the subject you’re interested in. You can then respond to their tweet and connect.
Don’t copy and paste the same message to every person who tweets about a subject. It’s a good way to get blocked and your account deleted by Twitter. If you find somebody who seems to be interested in what you’re interested in, follow them, and start to build a relationship.
The Sea Lion System
Years back I was on a cruise to Alaska with my family. We arrived at a small city known for whale watching and wanted to participate. It was the perfect season and we were told the whales were out in full force that day.
Instead of taking the cruise ships expensive tour my sister, brother, and I walked in town and spoke to some locals. Within 25 minutes we were on a private boat for our tour.
The captain of the boat had a sonar device that he placed on the bottom of the boat. He then told us that the whales were bubble feeding that day. We could tell where they would appear by watching the birds circling above. Just before the whales started a feeding frenzy they would make whale calls, which were picked up by the sonar device.
All of a sudden a high-pitched groan was heard from the speaker. We looked 30 meters away at the birds and saw one of the most magnificent displays of carnivorous activity I’ve ever seen. 10-15 massive whales shot out of the water at once and fish were flying everywhere. Then, after 5 minutes, it was over. The ocean had once again become calm as if nothing had happened.
We came to see the whales but I noticed something different.
On the outside of the bubble feed there was a group of sea lions, floating… waiting for their moment. When the whales shot out they scattered fish which were caught by the sea lions. They did none of the work and benefited just as much as the whales.
Sea Lions are opportunistic.
Influencers on Facebook are the whales and you are the sea lion. When an influencer posts a status update a flurry of interaction happens. This is where your fish come out. These fish are the people who build the roads to connect your industry.
Facebook feeds are over-represented by a small percentage of people. In every industry there are fanatics. They “like”, “comment”, and “share” material. After watching a couple status updates from an influencer you will notice a lot of the same names popping up commenting and sharing.
Add these people to Facebook as friends and start building a relationship with them. Support their blog and comment on their posts. They are the ones who will share your material, not the influencer.
In order to become influential you need to accumulate those that are willing to share your material. Building relationships with those who are willing to build the roads to connect you to others who have similar interests is the first major action step in Viralnomics.
Hang on the outside and wait for the inevitable flurry of activity. When it happens take the path of least resistance to get the job done. Be a Sea Lion.
Allow me to preface this by saying that I’ve found Linkedin to be full of spam and not much else. I developed my profile and joined a number of industry groups and spent countless hours adding value and participating. In return I received (and still receive) an onslaught of emails from spam marketers using push techniques throwing their products at me as much as they can.
Fitness is an industry largely run by the young. The main networking sources therefore are Facebook and Twitter.
For professionals and those of an older demographic Linkedin can be a great tool if used properly. To investigate this I ventured back on for both real estate and restaurant clients.
I had pretty good results, positive enough to report on them and lay out some strategies for success here. So go ahead and set up a Linkedin account and fill in your information.
Next do a search for all of the major keywords that pertain to your niche. Add the groups that appear. I found that many of the groups are inactive but found some that appeared to have good forum activity.
My suggestion is not to spend more than 15 minutes a day. Log in, access the groups that seem to have good interaction. Write a response to whatever they are talking about and log out. Don’t spend any more time than that.
The only reason that I endorse Linkedin for this type of activity in some industries is that I found some influential people hang out in these groups. Keeping up with the threads allows you to stay at the top of their minds. Using this I was able to get some of my clients featured in local newspapers and magazines as “experts” when a member of the forum reached out and needed a quote for an article.
Finding the bloggers
Starting thePTDC involved a lot of screw-ups. One of the best things I did do was identify who the best up and coming fitness bloggers were and developed relationships with them before they were well known.
At the gym I worked at we had a receptionist who wasn’t given enough to do. She sat bored at the front desk much of the day so I gave her a job. I gave her access to my Google account and asked her to search for every single fitness blog she could find and enter it into my reader.
(For those who don’t know Google reader is a service that allows you to put blogs feeds into your account. When the blog publishes a new article it is bolded in your list. Instead of having to check on each site whether they update you can scan the list on your account, see the title of the article, and only click on it if it interests you. At the time I was keeping up with 300+ blogs. This was the best way to do it. If you have a Google account you have Google reader for free.)
I had her do both conventional and Google blog searches for any fitness keyword I could think of including but not limited to: personal trainer, fat loss, workout, exercise, six pack, training, personal training, push up, and deadlift. She was happy for the extra work and I was ecstatic to pay her $100 to save me hours of research.
For two months I spent 3+hrs a day sifting through blogs whittling down my list of who I considered to be the best bloggers. My criteria were:
- A post at least every two weeks (there were a couple exceptions but consistency is important in blogging).
- The ability to tell a story.
- Decent writing skill. (These were people that lift stuff up and put it back down for a living. I wasn’t looking for Dickens.)
- Giving proper attribution to others and supporting others work with live links.
- An understanding that the blog medium is different from writing literature. I looked for short / punchy paragraphs, emotional / personal writing, and a sense of humor.
- Response time to emails less than 2 days. (I made this a requirement after coming to the realization that the best and smartest are not always the most recognized. When I boiled it down a major difference was that the people who were well known and respected were those that responded to emails quickly.)
- Never speaking negatively about anybody else. I can’t stand when people bad-mouth others. There’s no place for it and somebody that does this is not anybody I wanted to be associated with.
- People who I got a good feeling towards. Intuition has always guided me. The one time I didn’t follow my intuition it came back to haunt me. If something doesn’t seem quite right it probably isn’t.
Once I found the people that fit my guidelines I went out to support and befriend them. Each week I published a “top personal trainer blog posts of the week” on thePTDC and featured a consortium of their articles. I kept the list small (a mistake many make with these lists is to make them too large) and sent a personal email, tweet, or Facebook message to everybody I mentioned.
The messages said something to the effect of, “I loved your article and wanted to feature it on thePTDC list this week. Thanks for the great work. Hope you’re doing well.”
I didn’t ask them to share it and I didn’t ask them to message me back. Instead I recognized their great work. The responses I got back varied from nothing, to “thanks”, to “that’s great, how are things?” Sometimes the blogger shared the post with their network and sometimes they didn’t.
Even if you don’t want to make a list of the best tips of the week I suggest sending an email to the blogger telling them you enjoyed their article and thanking them for the information. Developing bloggers who don’t yet have big followings don’t get much email. They appreciate the message and will not only respond but remember who you are. Believe me, I’ve been there.
Over time I was able to develop friendships with most of the bloggers on my list. All of them are supporters of thePTDC and many have written guest posts. These people’s can now be seen in a lot of the major fitness magazines around the world. I was able to build relationships with them while they were gaining influence and help support them.
What I did takes time but bloggers wield a lot of power. They have very dedicated followings who will do what they say. If they support you then you will see a flood of high quality visitors to your site who are already interested in your product or service.
These bloggers and their audiences also comprise a combination of the mavens and road builders. Get them on your side and your message will spread. That and your network in a couple years will be all of the top writers and influencers in your industry.
*2*3 Rosenberg, S. (2009). Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters. New York : Crown.