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Melt Digital
August 25, 2016

How to build an outreach contact list: tips and tools

It may not be glamorous, but identifying, storing and managing contacts is a crucial component of outreach. Here’s how to do it right.

So you’ve reached the point of your content marketing campaign when you need to start reaching out to influencers, pitching your project and getting them involved.

Depending on the type of collaboration you’re looking to secure, outreach might precede content creation (e.g. commissioning influencers to create content as part of the campaign) or succeed it (e.g. commissioning influencers for a short piece around content you’ve already published).

In both cases you first need to have a strong contact list in place, with influencers who have a relatively high possibility of showing an interest in your project. Once that list is populated with the first 25-30 influencers, you can start sending off your well-crafted emails.

But how do you go about building your outreach contact list in the first place?

Let’s have a look at some tips and tools to help you make the whole process more efficient, while making sure you end up with a strong list of potential partners for your content campaign.

5 questions you need to ask

To begin with, you need to define the type of influencers who would be a good match for your content.

Once you’ve answered the following questions, it will be easier to start looking for them:

  1. Which interest categories and sub-categories does my content fall under?

For example, is it about health and wellness? Or is it more about lifestyle? And if it’s the latter, is it relevant to a big spender or a more budget-conscious person?

  1. Which other topics are of interest to the target audience?

For instance, people that read about lifestyle tend to be interested in travel as well as fashion and shopping. People that read about healthy foods often look for articles around fitness too.

  1. What are the demographics of my target audience?

If you’re aiming to reach students in their late teens and people in their early twenties that have just started their careers, it probably doesn’t make much sense to reach out to influencers that are 35+, married with kids.

  1. Is the content relevant to specific locations only?

Let’s say you’re doing a piece on the top vegan restaurants in London. This will probably not be of interest to a Paris blogger, unless they have a ‘travel’ section on their blog.

  1. Are there any specifics to keep in mind to fine-tune your list?

Let’s take the example above. If your content is vegan-focused, adding all foodies to     your list is not going to work. You need to connect with influencers that believe in veganism: these are the people that will find your content valuable and helpful for their audience.

Tools to make your life easier

There are a number of online tools that can help you identify the right people to reach out to. Here are some of the ones we use at Melt:

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If you don’t have a paid subscription, you’ll only be able to see a sample of influencers and won’t have access to certain filters (e.g. you can’t look on Instagram too or select more than one skill). However, it’s still a good place to start and you can follow up by looking at other blogs these people are linking to or sharing content from.

Buzzsumo’s ‘Influencers’ or ‘Content Research’ tools are both useful for finding relevant bloggers and publications.

The former will give you a list of relevant influencers, while the second will give you a list of top performing content pieces around that keyword/topic. Then it’s a case of checking out where that content was published and who the author is.

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Again, if you don’t have a paid subscription you will only have access to a limited number of results, but they can still make a good starting point for your outreach process.

Followerwonk allows you to search Twitter users by keyword and topic. Even if you only have the free version, it will still return a long list of users worth looking into. You can refine your search in a number of ways, including location and minimum or maximum followers.

When searching, make sure you select ‘search Twitter bios only’. That will ensure your keyword or topic features in the user’s personal description, and hasn’t just been used in an isolated tweet.

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  • Good old Google Search (+MozBar)

It’s easy to find curated lists of the best bloggers and influencers on a given topic. Some of these will be subjective, but they can still make a good starting point for manual research. To make sure you land on fresh results, go to ‘search tools’ and filter your results by country and time (past year):

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The grey strip under each result is the MozBar, an essential extension for Chrome and Firefox. It helps you understand which websites and articles are more likely to be dependable, displaying Page Authority score (PA) and Domain Authority score (DA) under each result. As a rule of thumb, avoid trusting results that score lower than 30.

Building your outreach spreadsheet

Trust me: you’ll be glad you built your spreadsheet properly from the beginning. If you don’t, it will quickly get messy and you won’t be able to track progress easily.

You first need to define the different types of information you want to be able to access. Those become the columns of your spreadsheet.

Personally, I normally use the following columns:

  • Influencer name
  • Influencer twitter handle
  • Website/blog name
  • Website/blog Domain Authority (DA)
  • Website/blog topics and themes
  • Twitter followers
  • Facebook fans
  • Pinterest followers
  • Instagram followers
  • YouTube subscribers
  • Contact email
  • Recent post relevant to the project (tip: refer to that in your pitch email)
  • Our relationship
  • Current status/next steps

The above can be tweaked according to your project. You might only want to work with vloggers that have a large following on YouTube, in which case the other social platforms might be less relevant. Bear in mind, though, that influencers tend to share their content on all of their social profiles, so it can be useful to know what their overall reach is.

The next step

When your outreach contact list is in place, you’re ready to start sending out emails.

Having an email template in place will definitely save you time, but there’s no avoiding a bit of graft here. Each email needs to be personalised and should include details that are specific to the recipient and likely to grab their attention. You might want to mention a recent post they did that is relevant to your content campaign, or something you noticed on their social profiles which made you think they would be the right person to connect with.

Crafting the right email is an art in itself, and we’ll be following up with a dedicated post on that, so stay tuned. In the meantime, get to work on that outreach list!

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