Locating online influencers – part one: where to begin

How can an organization begin looking for influencers online?

Before you can dive in to an online influencer outreach program you obviously need to figure out who is influential and where they hang out online. Customers and potential customers read blogs and take part in discussions online every day, and online influencers are writing those blogs, and leading those conversations. If you can find out which blogs, and where these discussions are happening, you can begin to seek out, and build a list of online influencers.

For now, we will focus on finding potential online influencers and compiling a list.

Step 1 – identify keywords:
Since customers and potential customers will be actively seeking information, they will be searching for content based on keywords that are related to what they want to find. For example, your company produces and sells tablet computers – people who are interested in buying a tablet, or learning more about tablets will search the internet for more information. They will search for things such as “tablet computers 2011”, for example.

To determine which keywords related to your product type are the most commonly used, you can use a tool like the Google AdWords “Get keywords ideas” Tool. Once you’ve populated a list of popular search terms that are related, you can make a note of the most commonly used ones (between 5 and 7 should be plenty), which will come in handy in the following steps.


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Step 2 – locate bloggers:
Now that you have identified the keywords that your customers and potential customers are using to find their information, you can search for blogs that contain those keywords and begin building a list.

A handy, accurate tool for doing this is also a Google property (oh how I love Google), called Google Blog Search. It works much the same way as any other Google search, but focuses on blog results only. You can search for both blogs and blog posts, or just one or the other. The advanced search function allows you to really narrow things down, if a broad search is turning up too many results.

Technorati is also a great tool for finding blogs, so be sure to check there as well to make sure you don’t overlook any major players.

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Step 3 – find discussions already taking place
Forums are great for finding influencers as many of them will take part in online discussions as a means of driving traffic to their blog. Yet another Google tool (are you surprised?), you can use the same keywords identified in step 1 to search Google, then simply click on the “Discussions” tab on the left sidebar of the results screen.

Another place that hosts a ton of discussion that can in-turn lead you to influencers isTwitter. Try using Twitter Search with those same keywords to see if any discussion is taking place there. Though this will involve more digging than any of the other steps thus far, it can pay off large if you find one or two big influencers there.


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Building your potential influencer list
Throughout steps 2 and 3, you should be compiling a list. I use Excel for this, but any charting tool or contact database you are comfortable with will be just fine. One thing to note with regards to your list is which information you should capture. Below is a basic example of the type of info I usually capture in a potential influencer list:


Once you’ve pulled together a solid list of potential influencers you can begin to determine which will become a part of your outreach and rank them based on a number of variants. Next post will get further in to that, and teach you exactly just how to rank them and make educated decisions, maximizing efficiency.  Your final list will host even more detail on each of the influencers and their online spaces than what is shown in the chart above – stay tuned!

Some other resources for locating influencers online:

Blog search engines you can use to help identify your influencers:

Other places to look for influencers:

A few tools that can help locate and grade influencers, but as I’ve mentioned before, these should be used with caution:

Thank you for reading and be sure to add your thoughts on locating online influencers in the comments!