Digital Marketing Tips for Social Networking

By Ryan Deiss, Russ Henneberry

As a digital marketer, you’ve probably heard the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” which, of course, means that you have to engage in networking. Networking is all about the public relations side of your business.

In traditional public relations (PR) endeavors, you seek out third parties such as newspaper journalists who can amplify your marketing message. Social networking accomplishes this same goal by finding and associating with authoritative and influential individuals and brands on the social web.

Although social influencing is about distributing your own content such as blog posts, podcasts, and videos to establish authority, you can connect with others via social networking by sharing other people’s content with your audience.

You can use social networking to reach out to journalists, bloggers, and podcasters who hang out on social media channels. Brands that have authority in print publications or radio stations also fall into this category. Social networking is a high-impact activity that can move the needle for your business in leaps and bounds.

Tapping into niche media

Consider a startup software company with a great product and a desire to earn media mentions to grow awareness for the business. This company could target big players like the NBC network, with the potential to reach millions. Or it could target mid-sized blogs that specialize in startups like TechCrunch, an online publisher that primarily covers businesses ranging from startups to established firms.

The reach on TechCrunch is lower than that of NBC, but still significant. It would be wonderful to be featured in outlets that have enormous reach; however, as a general rule, the difficulty of earning a media mention on a platform increases as the amount of reach increases.

The good news is that thousands of niche media players are running blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and more. Although you sacrifice the amount of reach you can attain with any one niche media outlet, securing media mentions on these niche properties is much easier than on the large outlets. Enough niche media mentions can, in the aggregate, exceed the reach of even major networks like NBC, however.

Reaching niche media

Niche media companies are small- to medium-sized firms that also focus on and publish content on a specific topic. These small publishers may be creating great content but often aren’t well-known nationally or even within their field.

To reach niche media properties en masse, you have to understand what these properties want. That’s not difficult, though, because it’s the same thing that every media property needs: great content from reliable sources. A small, niche media player, however, doesn’t have access to teams of journalists and content creators working around the clock to produce new content. It’s constantly searching for more content to serve to its audience.

When you reach out to niche media properties, you have to speak their language and address their pain points. Let them know that you are a reliable, authoritative resource who can contribute great content to their audience — and all you need in return is a byline that links to your website or landing page. Remember that great content educates, inspires, or entertains an audience, and that is exactly what these niche media properties are searching for.

Networking by topic

As you work to earn media mentions and build partnerships through social networking, brainstorm satellite topics that relate to your company, and use those topics as a way to network with others. Chances are, you’ll determine plenty of topics from your brainstorming session that are outside your organization’s expertise.

You can take the opportunity to locate brands and individuals who are authorities in those topics and use social networking strategies to form connections and partnerships with those people. Share their content with your audience often, and tag authors or brands as you go. By doing so, you associate and potentially partner with these brands and individuals as part of the networking phase of your social media marketing mix.

Creating a social media “short list”

Creating a “short list” of this nature involves a specific process that uses Twitter to organize the people and brands you want to network with. If there is one thing that is more valuable to media properties than new content sources, it’s gaining more exposure to the content that they already have.

This means that sharing your influencers’ content with your audience on the social web is a surefire way to build goodwill and increase the likelihood that the influencer will notice you and return the favor in kind. However, the firehose of content on Twitter makes tracking down and organizing your influencers’ content challenging. You need a way to easily identify and share their content. That’s where short lists come into play.

Several tools are available to help you identify the key players in your industry, niche, and other topics relevant to your audience. Paid tools like GroupHigh and Inkybee allow you to track down influential bloggers, organized by topic. Free resources like Klout or Kred are social scoring platforms that score social media users based on how influential they are around particular topics.

More likely than not, however, you already have an idea of the people and brands who can move the needle for your business! Find their Twitter profiles and create a Twitter list with their handles. Next, set up a stream for your new short list using Hootsuite. You can then sort out the people and brands to network with from the general noise of Twitter.

You can easily reference the content they are sharing, join the conversation, and create some goodwill by sharing their content with your audience. Start with 10 to 20 influencers and then keep an eye on who they are networking with so that you can grow and curate your list. Keep your list up to date.

Flipping the script on media outreach

The web holds such an abundance of information that a phenomenon in digital public relations has been developing: reverse media outreach. Not only are you working to reach out to long-tail media but the media, in general, are also using the Internet to find reliable sources for their content.

Media properties use search engines like Google to find experts they can interview, quote, and otherwise use to create content for their media properties. To take advantage of this phenomenon, you need to position yourself as an expert and make yourself available to these media players.

To attract the media to your business, create authoritative, relevant content on a regular schedule and distribute it on your social channels. By becoming a content creator yourself, you increase the likelihood of contact by both traditional and niche publishers to get information for the content they produce for their audience. Second, accept interviews. If you show a little inclination to provide blurbs for blogs or appear as a guest on a podcast, you won’t be asked to do so very often. Allow media to contact you.

Third, learn the basics of SEO for the content you create. Media are using search engines like Google to locate their sources, so you need to understand how a search engine finds you, your information, and your products or services.

Staying compliant with the law

The Federal Trade Commission regulates how businesses use earned or paid media mentions for promotion. If you give any sort of incentive or reward to a media property in exchange for a mention — be it a blog, video, podcast, or other type of media — make sure to disclose that information in the content. Incentives can include money, free samples, or anything else you’ve given in exchange for the mention.