Reverse Engineer Sociology & Influencer Understanding for Outreach Success


Maximizing return on investment is the key to all marketing activity and in digital PR, or outreach, it is critical.

Reaching out to influencers is an incredibly time consuming task. Building relationships in an environment where most of those journalists and site owners you want to reach are spammed to death on a daily basis is hard work. Period.

To achieve success, therefore, you need to work smarter.

Like any relationship building exercise, and let’s not be under any preconceptions here as that is exactly what digital PR/outreach really is, success relies on your ability to find common ground.

It’s why you find such affinity with those people you share a regular game of poker with, or spend your Saturday mornings on the sidelines of a soccer field with as your children chase balls around. Shared passions are what unite us all.

Group Behavior

A key aspect of sociology is the understanding that human beings inherently want to belong to a group. We look for companionship and affiliation with a commonality of purpose.

If you can connect with an individual with a shared passion, belief, or understanding, then the relationship becomes more than simply transactional and as a result you are much more likely to achieve the outcome you’re looking for.

It makes sense then for you to look for ways to better connect with key influencers and find common grounds to improve “conversion” and to build a longer term mutually beneficial relationship when it comes to sharing and placing key content.

Tracking Influencers

We’re not going to beat around the bush here; to really get to know your influencer requires a level of stalking, but what is the best way of doing this?

The process starts with Google and discovering the user’s favorite social networks. From this you can very quickly get an understanding of their top-level passions and also, potentially, family structure and external influencing factors.

Below we run quickly through the key information you can glean from public profiles:

  • Linkedin: Work history, education, and professional content reading habits.
  • Twitter: Place of work, personal site/s, and other hobbies. Images and tweets also give you lots of detail about how they spend their time.
  • Facebook: Family and friends.
  • Instagram: Personal passions, key influencers, travel/holiday preferences, and key life moments.
  • Pinterest: Personal passions, key event planning, influencers.

There is a plethora of content being consumed and shared by that person and you can tap into this easily with a bit of forethought.

One of the best ways to do this is via an RSS aggregator such as Netvibes, which I use regularly to map a lot of disparate information about a particular brand or person together.


While the platform looks like another social analytics platform, it actually started life as an RSS dashboard and that functionality is still available.

Very quickly you can build a “Private Page” within which you can share in links to a person or brand’s Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, blog search, and scores of other feeds.

This gives you a fantastic overview of that individual’s online “movements” and, as a result, helps you paint a thorough picture of their likes, loves, and passions.

For those wishing to record this data separately it can be a good idea to create a simple crib sheet, as this will help you pick up the conversation via the all-important initial phone call. If you’re looking for one here’s a template. Click it to download your own copy.

Next Steps

With the bigger picture detail in place it is then a case of looking a little deeper for more insight. To do this I will utilize a small handful of other tools, many of which are listed below:

  • Topsy: A useful social analytics platform (recently acquired by Apple) can help you understand who your influencer is influenced by and what others are sharing about them. Again, this helps you find key content they have created, or may have shared.
  • Klout: It may be famed as a social influence measurement tool (and can be useful in the first stages when actually identifying influencers to track) but it can also help identify influencer’s influencers. To do that use the search bar and click on the “search for (keyword)” option highlighted below:

Klout Search for Content Marketing

You are then presented with a list of influencers and you can expand that list to see more on a subject or you can pinpoint individuals and see their influencers.

Klout See all influencers

  • Littlebird: Works very similarly to Klout but can provide more detail.
  • Fresh Web Explorer: Although less useful at times this new tool from Moz can allow you to see the most recent content published by your influencer, or about them.

Paid Tracking

You can also be really smart and begin getting in front of your target influencer before you even pick up the phone and start the conversation.

By far the best way to do that is to create some clever creative ad content, which can then be targeted specifically at that person via Facebook and with some smart retargeting. As you may already know it is possible to target individual users using simply their email address or Facebook ID (find it here) by using Power Editor and Custom Audiences.

It is then also possible to pin them down using Facebook’s Exchange and even the Google Display network to deliver awareness of the brand you want to promote or even the specific content you want to share with them. Often, if nothing else, it will have a subconscious effect on them as they will be aware they have seen it “somewhere before,” warming the conversation from the opening gambits.

There are even tools that can help you with that to a greater or lesser degree, such as, which can help you pair down your audience and advertise to them.

Influencer or Content First?

You should hopefully see then that it is relatively easy to build up a rich picture of the influencer or influencers you wish to target with your content but what many people miss here is at what stage this process should happen.

While it may make logical sense to find your influencers once you have you content in place if your goal is to achieve a specific “placement,” then I would argue the opposite is true.

This process should run immediately after the piece of work to identify the exact people you will need to build relationships with. If the objective is to get them to share/publish your content then reverse engineering precisely what they are sharing and into at that specific moment in time is the best way of “guaranteeing” that outcome.

By collating the information above it creates a base from which you can brainstorm specific ideas around to either extend a post they may have written or shared, or to move the debate on further. That content is most likely to resonate, as you know they have previously shown interest in it.

Design the content for the person, not the person for the content.

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