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Earned-media micro-influencer marketing master class

influencer marketing

Shashi Bellamkonda and Chris Abraham at Georgetown University School of Continuing StudiesLast Friday I mounted my ’95 K1100LT touring scooter and buzzed from the intense super-highways of Northern Virginia, into our Nation’s Capital, and then through the labyrinthine streets of Washington, DC.

My goal? To guest lecture at Professor Shashi Bellamkonda‘s Social, Mobile and Search Marketing class at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies, XCPD-732.

Shashi’s class is as amazing and as popular as he is.  Here’s the deck I delivered to the class, for your edification and general edutainment:

Chris Abraham doing Chris Abraham

The class was delightful because not only did I deliver the presentation but Shashi kept me there for the entire class so that we could do some practical work as well.

One of the students had written a children’s book, and the entire class broke into six teams in order to brainstorm influencer ideas.

So, by the time the class was done, our children’s author had around 60 online influencers that she could reach out to the very next week.

Micro-Influencer Marketing is 1% Inspiration, 99% Perspiration

My Personal Digital PR Philosophy

  • Find people where they live (and meet them there even if it’s a forum or message board)
  • Explore the long tail (there are millions of people blogging, sharing, and posting online – and PR tends to pile on the same 100 “influentials.”) “We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal” (#83 of the 95 theses from The Cluetrain Manifesto)
  • Spoil everyone (like you would Guy Kawasaki)
  • Be grateful (nobody is required to help you)

Why You Should Reach Past the A-List

  • Blogger outreach tends to focus on only identifying and engaging top-25 influential bloggers
  • Out of those 25, maybe three will cover your story over the course of a campaign
  • We collect every blogger who has ever had a thematic interest in our customers
  • We collect all of them into a “universe” – a list
  • We reach out to each and every one of them – no fewer than 2,000 but often 5,000 – via email
  • But then that’s where the work starts

Why You Should Reach Past the A-List

  • The initial blast is akin to speed-dating
  • Most good pitches don’t require a personal relationship

Success Depends on Five Things:

  • Freshness and quality of the list collected
  • Generosity of the “gift” being offered in the pitch
  • The ability of the email to reach the inbox
  • The charm and responsiveness of the responders
  • Following up twice after the initial email outreach

On the Internet, Nobody Knows Youre a Dog

Campaign Questions:

  • Goal: what is it you need to do?
  • Monitor: what are you looking to find?
  • Discover: where are people talking?
  • Learn: who are these talking people?
  • Collect: what groups do you need?
  • Engage: how best to connect?
  • Outreach: how best to pitch?
  • Analyze: how did you do?

Goals:  What Do You Want to Accomplish?

  • Build brand awareness?
  • Increase community engagement?
  • Prospect new brand ambassadors?
  • Drive sales, traffic, membership?
  • Drive conversation volume?
  • Improve organic search?
  • Get a feel for your neighborhood?
  • Launch a new product, service, investment?

Monitor:  Listen/Look Before You Leap

Google Search is the best tool to get a feel

  • When it comes down to it, Google does an amazing job of giving you a 30,000-foot view of the blogosphere

Spend Some Time Understanding the Space

  • It’s not always obvious how people engage with you, your brand, your space, or your industry.
  • Allow your community to lead your exploration; do not be willful:  people don’t always use your language
  • Include message boards, forums, etc., in your recon

Try out all the tools: it’s a buyer’s market

Discover:  Finding People Where They Live

Social media is much bigger than Facebook

  • There are a multitude of social networks, self-run message boards, threads deep in reddit, and ad-hoc discussions everywhere online (, etc.)

If it exists, there is a blog about it (Rule 34 variant–if it exists, there is porn of it!)

  • There are more than a billion active blogs worldwide

Always Start with Google

Influencer Discovery

Discover:  Finding People Where They Live

Learn:  Do They Want to Be Engaged? How?

Blogs (including online journalists, curators, aggregators, group blogs, and bloggers)

  • Can you find their names and email addresses?
  • If contacting them is hard, maybe they don’t want to be
  • Look for a “how to engage/pitch” message
  • Follow their directions to a T (or don’t engage them at all)

Forums (including bookmark and link aggregators)

  • Engage forum owners directly, don’t jump in there!

Social Networks (including FB, Twitter, etc.)

  • Engage before befriending before pitching

Collect:  Demo-, Geo-, Psycho-Graphic Lists

The A-list (the crème de la crème of influence)

  • Generally professional bloggers and journalists, including the blogs and profiles of mainstream media platforms, celebrities, people with high Klout scores, high-traffic blogs, authors, actors, scientists, pundits, newsmakers, and people with mad followers
  • Will blog for free, but only if they’re compelled to (exclusive content, big news, financial releases, new investment, etc.)
  • Never, ever, include A-list bloggers in a bulk email pitch – hand-written only
    Prepare your kid-gloves and your checkbook – find ways to woo them personally (over lavish meals, inviting them to HQ, or meeting them down at one of the many conferences they attend)
  • Become a persistent “bestie” – either as someone who is a communicator pitching them good, consistent, and valuable content or, even better, a personal friend who doesn’t just collect them as a method of access or a sign of prestige

B-D-List (the mid-section of the long tail often asks for money)

  • While not all B-D-list online influencers lead with an advertising rate sheet, many do
  • Most PR campaigns aren’t budgeted for advertising spend, so I don’t pay for posts
  • Ideally, earned-media is the goal of PR campaigns, so it’s up to you
  • Many of the B-D-list online influencers can get you what you need for less than a strong ad buy
  • While disclosures are essential everywhere, they’re doubly so for “advertorial” content
  • I tend to put any online influencers who asks for money into a DNC (do not contact) list
  • Mid-range online influencers are easier to access, harder to garner earned media mentions from, but a worthy investment of time and attention toward a long-term relationship
  • People help out their friends, so becoming close may curry favor for earned-media pitches
  • I generally include B-D-list bloggers in general long-tail bulk email outreach

E-Z-List (the long-tail of the blogosphere, including ~1 Billion bloggers)

While a billion active blogs are well out-of-scope, please remember:

  • No matter how obscure your product or service, there’s probably a blog about it
  • The original Rule #34 is: If it exists, there is porn of it; same for the blogosphere
  • Collect email addresses, blog name, and maybe location only for E-Z-list
  • While I might be willing to chase down the contact info of A-D-list bloggers via forms or hunting them down via LinkedIn or Facebook Messenger, Dailymile mail, or Twitter DMs, I only engage long-tail bloggers if they share their email address gladly
  • If bloggers don’t make it easy to contact them, they may not want to be contacted; and, if you contact someone who doesn’t want to be, there will be serious blowback
  • Send everyone in your list a bulk email pitch but be ready to engage in person
  • Don’t worry, most people aren’t fanboys – a cold-pitch is fine if your “gift” is generous

Engage: Pitch It Slow and Right Over the Plate

Tell, dont sell

  • Lead with the news, not the used car

Pitching is speed dating

  • You don’t need to overwrite
  • Allow people to be intrigued

Less is more

  • Attention span is limited
  • Pre-masticate message into easy-to-understand pablum
  • Don’t include attachments or inline content

Dont BS, brown nose, lie, or flatter

  • “Please dont say you read and love my blog, then pitch me on something that I never cover here” — Mack Collier

Outreach: The Catch Is the More Important Part

The informational microsite

  • Internally, I call it an SMNR (Social Media News Release)

The kitchen sink theory

  • Don’t limit the SMNR to just the pitch
  • Bloggers are libertarian contrarians
  • Give a lot to look through – give them options

Steal me, steal me!

  • Optimize content to be copied-and-pasted
  • Give them embed codes
  • Pre-link and optimize for SEO, etc.

Outreach: The Magic Happens in the Inbox

Outreach: Yet Another Mail Merge

Analyze: It All Comes Down to the Bottom Line

Track using site analytics tools

  • Google Analytics tracking code in the SMNR
  • Server-side analytics tools: AWstats, Webalizer
  • Track both SMNR & target site

Track using media mention tools

  • I presently use SDL SM2 (Alterian SM2)
  • Primary, secondary, tertiary, etc., mentions
  • Lots of free and fee-based tools
  • Google Analytics is becoming more SM-savvy
Shashi Bellamkonda and Chris Abraham at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies
Shashi Bellamkonda and Chris Abraham at Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies


Chris Abraham doing Chris Abraham
Chris Abraham doing Chris Abraham

Chris Abraham

Chris Abraham, digital strategist and technologist, is a leading expert in digital: search engine optimization (SEO), online relationship management (ORM), Internet privacy, Wikipedia curationsocial media strategy, and online public relations with a focus on blogger outreachinfluencer engagement, and Internet crisis response, with the digital PR and social media marketing agency Gerris digital. [Feel free to self-schedule a 15-minute call, a 30-minute call, or a 60-minute call with me] A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and adviser to the industries' leading firms. Chris Abraham specializes in web technologies, including content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.  Chris Abraham was named a Top 50 Social Media Power Influencer by Forbes, #1 PR2.0 Influencer by Traackr, and top-10 social media influencers by Marketwire; and, for what it’s worth, Chris has a Klout of 79 the last time he looked. Chris Abraham started doing web development back in 1994, SEO in 1998, blogging in 1999, influencer engagement in 2003, social media strategy in 2005, blogger outreach in 2006, and Wikipedia curation in 2007. Feel free to self-schedule a 15-minute call, a 30-minute call, or a 60-minute call. If you want to know the services that Chris offers check out Services If you want to work with Chris use the Contact Form You're welcome to follow me via Social Media You can learn more about Chris over in About Chris writes a lot so check out the Blog Chris offers webinars so check Events

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