Many marketing firms tell at least one employee they've got to go and do some social media outreach.
So the poor things find out this means approaching influential people to ask for favours to increase their boss's business, and dive head first into the deep end.
What nobody has told them is this is much more than contacting and asking for what you want. The process needs to be much more subtle, and takes much longer than anticipated.
Take a look at this infographic:
And here's some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.
Social media outreach – easy right?
First of all, we need to look at the unfortunate marketing assistant who has been lumbered with this task. They have been given the brief to do some social media outreach to, say, get more backlinks to the company website.
They may have been told one method is to obtain guest posts slots on certain influential blogs. These will include that all-important link which goes back to the website. The copywriting team will produce the posts, so all that is needed is to locate a load of people to see who is willing to accept them.
So off they wander to LinkedIn for a spot of research. Soon they have a list of likely looking people who have sufficiently good enough blogs to do the trick. Now all that is needed is to contact each one and ask for a guest post. Simple.
But they soon find out this is more difficult than first thought. Many turn them down. Even more don't even answer. The process becomes more demoralising as they carry on. So where have they gone wrong?
Is this really the right way?
I said before the process is subtle. It isn't "wham, bang, thank you Ma'am"; flinging some mud at the wall and hope it sticks. The main focus is to create a relationship with your targets, the people you would like to place a guest post with. And this isn't accomplished by going in with all guns blazing.
Cold calling very rarely works. I was approached by someone who represented a very influential person who asked me to attend a course they were putting on. The direct message (via LinkedIn) was totally out of the blue. I hadn't spoken to any of these people for over 10 years.
They assumed their influence was all that was needed to get me to sign up. But my reaction was "Who do they think they are?". No contact for at least a decade, and now they want me to hand over my cash to a hastily made sales page with very sketchy details of this so-called course.
And apparently my first refusal wasn't enough. After the third attempt to get me on board, I had to give them a piece of my mind. Why should I rekindle a totally freezing contact with a mere call to arms?
Social media outreach isn't a quick fix scenario
So many marketing departments, probably bullied by the sales team, desire their activities to produce instant results. After all, today's world works on things happening immediately in real time, so why shouldn't social media outreach?
It's because relationship building, which is what outreach really is, doesn't happen overnight. You wouldn't immediately ask a pretty girl you saw standing on the street corner to marry you in the next five minutes? I very much doubt you would get away without being slapped.
If you want to woo your influencers into helping you, you need to do this gradually. Just as with all networking, there is the know, like and trust element. Your influencers need to find out about you, just as much as you need to find out more about them.
This isn't a monologue from you, it needs to develop into a proper dialogue, a conversation between you and your target. Mutual respect, fuelled by admiration, recognition and understanding, should be allowed to blossom in its own time, and not be rushed.
Find out your purpose and targets
We have already established what the marketing assistant needs to do. Unfortunately they conflict with what social media outreach is. They have been commissioned to raise awareness of the company they work for through key influencers and other important people within their industry. But they have taken the spamming approach by bombarding them with cold messages out of the blue.
Social media outreach marketing is all about creating relationships over time. This is actually a tall order for the lowly marketing assistant, who may not have the right criteria, let alone experience, to do a reasonable job. How much do they know about the company? Are they aware of the aspirations and strategies set by the board? Also they may not have sufficient understanding and the connections within the networking world.
Which online channel is more suitable for their actions? Where are you most likely to find your chosen targets? Does the person doing this task have enough know-how or maturity to cope with relationship building on these platforms? Not every social networking site functions the same way.
The person who really should be doing this job is one who already has a reasonable amount of skill in talking and collaborating online. A young person has their own style in conversing with their friends. But this may not be suitable when dealing with an older business person, especially with vocabulary and turn of phrase.
How are you portrayed?
Once you begin your social media outreach campaign, you will be drawing attention to yourself. Even if you do the spamming method. People will want to find out more about this person who has contacted them.
Time to spruce up your profile. Make sure you have an up-to-date picture of yourself, and a worthy description of what you do. This should include mentioning you regularly network within outreach, which makes your profile more inviting as well as showing your true intentions.
Remember to include links to your recent activities, and reveal your personality within your interactions. This is the most difficult bit. Most corporates find it very difficult to let go, loosen their top button and relax enough to socially chat normally. Having been saturated with corporate speak, this switch does not come easy to them.
Believe it or not, using conversation is the key. Perhaps you could get a few tips from the young marketing assistant! They have the right attitude, but perhaps the wrong style of delivery. You need to develop a more suitable half-way-house approach.
No need to do everything at once
Each task needs to know the most effective way of doing it. Therefore it's a good idea to start small and do what I call 'lurking and learning' to get a better idea of what is out there.
Social media outreach works best with first doing some corporate listening. This entails reading, absorbing and understanding before reacting. So many people don't read things properly, skim through content to get the gist (mostly wrongly), and then blurt out all sorts of stuff which is invariably irrelevant.
Moving on from lurking, listening and focused reading is the 'silent' interaction. This comprises of liking, sharing and retweeting. Visibly showing your appreciation without saying anything. Take your time before doing it, as this is an activity which can be done quickly without thinking or proper understanding.
Only then will you venture forth into the world of commenting. This isn't a series of single words or one-liners. These have no use for anybody and are a waste of time. If you have bothered to read the post, content, article, update or whatever, you should now have sufficient information to write a decent comment.
It's about getting noticed
One aspect of using social media outreach is to do this regularly. Consistently 'showing up' means you become more than just another of those fans who plague your influential target from time to time.
And to stop being a 'nuisance', you need to provide value. Think carefully about what you can offer in your comments. These are not necessary a vehicle for showing appreciation, but an opportunity to enhance the post or update with something relevant and useful.
The idea is to become familiar to your influencer target so they recognise you whenever you contribute. This doesn't mean spamming them every day, relationship building takes time to perfect, and you need to tailor your interaction so they welcome whatever beneficial engagement you bring them.
The idea is to eventually create a rapport with your target. You become something more than a mere commenter. They look forward to your input, regularly reply, and eventually you end up having discussions with them. These could even be on subjects that have nothing to do with the original post or update.
Now the time is ripe!
This is what you have been waiting for. You've formed your relationship with your influential target and you have moved on from occasional commenting. You are now proper friends on social media rather than mere acquaintances.
This is when you broach the real reasons for your interaction. You ask for that guest post slot, the link in their posts, their help in your endeavours, of whatever your task is for. The process may have taken more time than sending out some spammy tweets, but the result is much more successful.
And of course there is the possibilities of repeat performances. You are not a faceless interloper who may have been successful in getting a guest post slot, you are now a liked and trusted contributor with value who is always welcome.
And remember, once you've achieved your objective, never let it die. Social media outreach is an ongoing affair. You will need to regularly follow up to keep the pot boiling, as it were, or you will end up like that chap from 10 years ago who I had totally forgotten about (see earlier in the post.)
What's your experiences of social media outreach?
Let me know in the comments below what you think of my methods of social media outreach. Have it got it right? Do you have better methods? Are there any tips you could share with us to make us better at forming business relationships online? We look forward to hearing from you.