How to Get the Attention of the Top Online Influencers

How to Get an Influencer’s Attention

By Tamar Weinberg On March 24, 2010

Influence is everywhere, but it’s up to you to spot it. As information flow is infinite, many find that it is of utmost importance to capture the attention of the select few who serve as influencers — these are the people who can actually stop their followers in their tracks to help spread your message. Perhaps this might serve as the start of a real relationship. If nothing else, these influencers will help to share your story with their own audience.

I contacted a number of influencers to see what grabs their attention. I selected influencers in all different “walks of life” and areas of influence, from the blogosphere to the power users of Digg to founders of successful startups and authors of bestselling books. The question I asked, simply, was “how do you recommend people grab your attention?” The question was purposely left open-ended; I wasn’t necessarily seeking out attention in the form of a product pitch, despite the fact that many of those asked are prominent bloggers. As such, the responses are varied — just the way I wanted it. Here’s what they told me:

Craig Newmark

Craig Newmark is the San Francisco-based founder of the nearly 15-year-old extremely successful classifieds siteCraigslist. As of January 2010, Craigslist boasts close to 50 million unique visitors per month, according to Compete.

For me, it’s just asking, via email, Twitter, or Facebook.

Seth Godin

Seth Godin is the bestselling author of numerous books, including his latest, Linchpin. He also writes for the most popular marketing blog, is the founder of Squidoo, and is an extremely dynamic public speaker.

PR people shouldn’t try to get my attention.

Readers with something to say should email me.

Marketers should make great products that loyal readers or long-time friends or trusted colleagues choose to tell me about!

Pete Cashmore

Pete is the twenty-something founder and CEO of Mashable and is also a CNN columnist. Mashable currently boasts over 20 million pageviews per month.

I think keeping it short and to the point is most likely to get a response — having a clear message or request that gets the idea across in a couple sentences. Everybody is short on time these days, and the more succinctly you can express yourself, the better.

Mark Frauenfelder

Mark Frauenfelder is a co-editor of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE Magazine.

It’s simple: talk or write about things that interest me!

Nicholas Carlson

Nicholas Carlson is a Senior Editor at The Business Insider. Previously, Nich wrote for Valleywag and InternetNews.com.

People can get my attention by helping me. For example, I write a lot about AOL, and after the recent layoffs, I wrote how the entire mobile advertising team took a voluntary buyout and quit the company. Now, a couple weeks later, a PR rep came to me and said, hey a lot of those people are joining this one company (that I rep), would you like to learn more? Because I know that my readers care about that story, I jumped on it so now this PR rep is going to get her company coverage because she approached me in a way that will help me.

Jesus Diaz

Jesus is the Senior Contributing Editor of highly popular gadget blogGizmodo.

Read what I write about and imagine what can interest me. No amount of pitching will make me write something unless it excites my gonads.

Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan is a blogger and president of New Marketing Labs. He is also the author of Trust Agents and Social Media 101.

The way people get my attention is simple, and yet so few do it well. They start by telling me all about what they need from me. They start by telling me all about their wants, their angles, their client, etc. By contrast, the people who get my time, and who keep my time, actually have read my blog enough to know what I cover and what I don’t. (For instance, I rarely talk about software.) They know that I look for the “human business” angle for most of my stories. They know that I actually care about my community and that they’re not an audience. They understand brevity. And they understand that promoting others is every bit as important as promoting themselves.

Adam Pash

Adam Pash is the Editor-in-Chief of the highly popular blog,Lifehacker. He has also authored How to Do Everything With Your iPhone.

It’s about a lot of dos and don’ts for me.

  • Don’t send me what’s clearly a form note.
  • Do be direct.
  • Don’t try impress me with your funding or whatever industry related things you think you do really well. My eyes glaze over at the site of industry jargon.
  • Do make it easy for me to understand what your thing does, and what’s interesting or awesome about it (and do it as quickly as possible).
  • Don’t make me read a press release to figure out what’s special about whatever you’re trying to highlight.
  • …and so on.

Honestly, the best way to get my attention is to make something cool and show it to me. I love talking with developers about things they’re clearly and genuinely passionate about.

David Chen

David Chen is currently the Managing Editor of /Film and the host and producer of both /Filmcast and The Toblowsky Files.

Do your research and select your targets smartly. I’m a content/podcast producer, so I’ve spent literally hundreds of hours talking and writing about the types of movies (and other products) I love. You don’t need to listen or read all of my work to get a taste of my personality, but if you put in just  a little bit of effort, you can easily figure out what types of things I’m likely to enjoy and eager to promote. In other words, blast e-mails and form letters with no personalization will usually go ignored.

Robert Scoble

Robert Scoble is a prolific early adopter and blogger. He currently serves as the community guy at Building 43.

Do something interesting.

OK, that’s a lame answer.

But to get my attention you should look at what’s getting my engagement at http://twitter.com/scobleizer and the other places I write.

To tell the truth, this is difficult to say in an email. Why? Because, well, if you have something worth paying attention to you probably already have my attention.

Jason Calacanis

Jason Calacanis is the founder and CEO of Mahalo. He also co-founded Weblogs Inc. and the Silicon Alley Reporter. Jason is also the host ofThis Week in Startups.

Do something epic.

Matt Cutts

Matt Cutts is a blogger and Principal Engineer at Google, where he heads Google’s Webspam team.

I think it’s sometimes overused to call someone out by name; it can backfire. An introduction from a trusted contact can make a big difference. Getting to know the person first without asking for something (e.g. tweeting stuff back and forth without a specific “ask” in the beginning). I would say great research or a catchy piece of unexpected data that appeals to me. And of course a snail mail letter is likely to at least get opened.

Peter Rojas and Ryan Block

Peter Rojas and Ryan Block are the founders of gdgt. Both come from popular gadget blog Engadget, where Peter was founder and Ryan was former editor-in-chief. Peter is also the founder of Gizmodo, Joystiq, hackaday, and Engadget Mobile.

Peter: That’s easy: just do something interesting!
Ryan: …and keep doing it. I’d say being consistent and tireless amounts every bit as much as doing something interesting or worthwhile.

Danny Sullivan

Danny Sullivan is the Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Land. He also founded Search Engine Watch. Danny is currently Chief Content Officer of Third Door Media which operates the Sphinn social news site and organizes the popular Search Marketing Expo conference series.

I guess it depends on the attention they’re after. If they’re writing about something and trying to spread the word, I can be reached through email using a form on Search Engine Land, plus I do see tweets that are addressed to me. If it’s interesting, I love to spread the word. Point me at so-so, ho-hum content, and you’ve wasted a first impression. If they’re after coverage, email remains best. Be to the point, succinct, and that’s the best.

Anita Campbell

Anita Campbell is the Editor of Small Business Trends and an expert in everything small business.

Participate in my site’s community. Leave comments; tweet “with” me; share information that is valuable to readers (not self-promotional stuff, but something that gives freely of your expertise to others).

Also, while I appreciate requests to do guest posts, I strongly prefer those who have shown a propensity to contribute to the community on an ongoing basis. “Hit and run” guest posts are of little interest to us, for two reasons: (1) there’s a certain amount of work involved in getting someone set up as a new author and showing them the ropes; and (2) the community responds much much better to those they get to know and converse with regularly.

Louis Gray

Louis Gray is a prominent technology blogger and Managing Director of New Media at Paladin Advisors Group.

People can get my attention an a lot of different ways. The easiest way is interacting with me in my data flow. That means making comments on my blog posts, interacting with me on FriendFeed or Google Buzz, and sending me notices on Twitter. I will see all of those, every time. But I also have my e-mail addresses public and cell phone number on the Web site. People reaching out to me in those ways will also get me.

If the question is not just connection but actual attention, they need to find a way to be differentiated and interesting – helping to solve a known problem, or finding a new approach that has entertainment value. I am always interested in hearing about new approaches to solve today’s issues around information overload, content discovery or new ways to discover interesting people.

Brian Lam

Brian Lam is the Assistant Managing Director at Gawker Media and Editorial Director at Gizmodo.

Make noise, but backed up by fact!

Andrew Sorcini

Andrew Sorcini is also known as Mr. Baby Man and is Digg’s #1 User. Andy has submitted nearly 15,000 stories to Digg and over 4200 of his submissions have hit the front page of the impossible-to-game social news site.

First and foremost, show me something original.

Steve Gebhardt

Steve Gebhardt is the Content Editor of the COED Magazine, one of the fastest growing online publishers in the 18-24 year old market.

When it comes to work related instances the best way to get my attention is to be introduced formally by a close contact we have in common or email me at my “personal” work gmail account with a subject line that includes my name and something that I find interesting.

Steve Rubel

Steve Rubel is a prominent marketing blogger and SVP ofEdelman Digital. He also contributes to Forbes and AdAge.

Basically, it’s really easy – provide high value content that’s targeted to my interests and those of my internal Edelman and external audiences. They can use any channel they would like – email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (just not IM or the phone). I am very accessible.

This doesn’t necessarily mean pitch me, however. There are lots of people and companies that have secured my attention because they provide regular value. One example is Mint and the insights they offer via their blog. Another is Google, which is putting out gems on their Twitter feed – like thishttp://twitter.com/Googletech/status/10184907622

Kurt Kohlstedt

Kurt Kohlstedt is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Webist Publishing & Misnamed Media, which includes the famousWebUrbanist blog.

Offer me something of value to me – no, it does not have to be money, or free samples, or anything of that sort. This can be as simple as some sincere praise for a project I work on or a truly interesting tip on something I would really enjoy learning more about. The key here is: make it relevant and personal – let me know through your words that you have actually read about me or a publication of mine, and explain briefly (ideally with real examples) why you believe you have good reason to reach out and contact me.

Alternatively, if you would prefer negative attention and a quick trip to the email recycling bin, send me a link to something that you did that has no relevance to anything I do, ask for support with a clearly commercial venture in which I have no professional or personal interest, or my personal favorite: ask to swap links with one of my publications and offer a link from an obscure page of your e-commerce site in return. The last is most likely to get you a response, though not of the sort you want.

Dharmesh Shah

Dharmesh Shah is the founder and CTO of HubSpot, a software company that focuses on Internet Marketing. Dharmesh also blogs at OnStartups.com.

To get my attention you have to do one of two things: Create something that is so amazingly awesome that all who regard it are amazed with its brilliance. Or, another alternative is to connect to someone I know and trust and have them tell my this is so great.

Note: I rarely take direct messages from people I don’t know.

Owen Thomas

Owen Thomas is the online editorial director for NBC Bay Areaexecutive editor of VentureBeat and founder of Ditherati an on-off again site that has been around since 1997. He has previously written for Valleywag and brought it to its greatness.

You know, I think I’m going to refer back to Louis Rossetto’s original instructions to people who wanted to write for Wired:

http://valleywag.gawker.com/333152/the-ultimate-luxury-is-meaning-a...

“Amaze us.”

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is a former attorney turned blogger and author ofThe Happiness Project among other books.

People most get my attention, I have to admit, if they come to me through someone else I already know and trust.

Marshall Kirkpatrick

Marshall Kirkpatrick is the Vice President of Content Development at ReadWriteWeb and a technology consultant.

I recommend people do fantastic things, then reach out to me through whatever channel works best for them. Maybe more than once. I am generally looking for engineers more than marketers though, so if I don’t respond to you it might be that our definitions of fantastic are different.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk is the personality behind Wine Library TV, author ofCrush It!, and a dynamic speaker.

Tweet about the NY Jets :)

Also write an honest email … and the biggest mistake everyone makes is the ask or sell instead or greet or welcome in their 1st interaction.

Ben Huh

As CEO of Pet Holdings Inc., Ben Huh is the mastermind behind sites like I Can Has Cheezburger? and FAIL Blog

Speak your mind freely and clearly. Provide a perspective that isn’t usually offered. Then take other people’s opinions with a grain of salt and an open mind. And do it often.

Aaron Wall

Aaron Wall is a search engine optimization expert and is the founder of the very famous SEO Book ebook-turned-training program.

I think too many people are sales all the time. Everything is about them and how much they can sell and how great they are and so on. Lots of jerks want to put you on a sales call or try to hype their trash to you without giving you anything for your efforts. In their eyes you are simply a conduit for their misinformation and sales materials.

I typically tell those kinds of people that they can go to hell or that they can buy an advertisement or an hour of consulting. Since they are typically greedy one-sided pieces of trash they get nothing and they help me pigeonhole their product as something to never talk about (if it was worthy of discussion they wouldn’t need that sorta hard sell strategy). In essence they are doing anti-marketing for themselves by pissing off the people they want to connect with.

You know what is easy and works well? No hype. No sales pitch. None of that crap. Simply give a person a 3 or 4 sentence email explaining

  • what it is & does
  • why it was created
  • how it can benefit them

and then…if it is something where incremental access costs next to nothing (like a SAAS offering) then give them a free account to check it out. SEM Rush did that to us…and I have promoted them aggressively (even before they had an affiliate program) because their service was valuable and useful and original and they priced it reasonably while using soft sell marketing asking for me to check it out and setting up an account for me.

Even if an item costs $50 or $100, that is how much a crappy link costs…so the product give away strategy should apply to just about anything which retails under something like $500… because if you get exposure on one good site that makes it easier to get exposure on another good site, and the more expensive the item is the more likely people would be to appreciate that you gave it away and mention it.

Other ways to get attention are to buy ads in some well read spots, participate in the target market in a meaningful way for a while before you launch, and/or to develop an affiliate program. Some people also like to start out a non-commercial website and then later slowly transition into commerce. If you build a media channel of your own with readership and throw off attention + links, then that can lead to relationships which make it easier for you to promote something. This is one of the reasons group interviews and such are so popular…they allow you to select the people you hope to gain attention from WHILE giving those people a reason to want to talk about you. :)

Jeremy Schoemaker

Jeremy Schoemaker, aka Shoemoney, is a blogger and founder of Shoemoney Media. He is also the co-founder of AuctionAds.

The best way to get my attention is to get right to the point of the email. Don’t patronize me, don’t ask me to honor your embargo, don’t ask me if I would be interested in your product — just tell me what you want.

Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is founder of b5media and ProBlogger.net. He is also the co-author of ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six Figure Income and one of the cofounders of Third Tribe.

A few quick thoughts:

  • Be personal – impersonal ‘pitch’ emails are a turnoff.
  • Be useful – whether its being useful to my network/readers, business, me personally or just the world in general – I tend to pay attention to people who are solving problems and meeting needs.
  • Introduce yourself – I get a lot of emails and don’t always remember everyone I’ve talked to before – help me out a little :-) Being ‘polite’ goes a long way too.
  • Keep it brief – the longer the initial contact the less likely it is that I’ll get to the bottom of it – unless it’s VERY compelling
  • Let the Relationship Evolve – I’ve had quite a few people ‘pitch’ me on really big and complex stuff in a first email to me (including people wanting to go into business together). I tend to be pretty cautious with people I don’t know – I need time to warm up to bigger stuff!

I’m not as high maintenance as that sounds – but I’ve had ALOT of bad ‘pitches’ over the years :)

More on this type of topic – http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/10/30/how-to-pitch-to-blogg...

Jay White

Jay White is a blogger at Dumb Little Man, a successful productivity blog.

My attention span is short, like a dog. The best way to communicate with me is in short bursts of information. Your Value, Intent, and the Desired Result need to be conveyed for both of us: If you can summarize those in 2 sentences, odds are you will get a response from me. If you notice, things like name, credentials, work experience, where you’ve guest blogged, etc., are not on the list. You know why? Because it doesn’t matter. I know plenty of MBAs successful entrepreneurs, and downright blowhards and many of them aren’t bright so a paper trail of “I am great” doesn’t cut it with me.

To me, the value you bring to the conversation speaks for itself. You tell me how my audience gets smarter or lives a better life by knowing you, now you’ve got my attention.

Corvida Raven

Corvida Raven is the author of SheGeeks.net, and co-producer ofEverythingTwitter and TheSocialGeeks Podcast. Her passion for Technology and Social Media has made her one of the mostInfluential Women in Technology (FastCompany, 2009).

The easiest way to get my attention is to be excited about what you’re showing me. If you don’t care about it, no one will. So many people lack passion and enthusiasm for the things they do.

It leaves me wondering why I should be paying attention. Their presentation should say it all, otherwise we’re wasting time.

Mark O’Neill

Mark O’Neill is a freelance writer who serves as the managing and publishing editor of successful software blog MakeUseOf.

How would I recommend people get my attention? If you mean if they want to promote their product, I would immediately say “get to the point and keep it simple”. People spend so long waffling and rambling, and all I’m thinking is “when are they actually going to get to the point?”. They spend so long saying how great their product is but I still don’t know what the product actually is!! I’ve read so many bad email press releases.

Brian Solis

Brian Solis is a bloggerphotographer, and principal ofFutureWorks. He is also the author of a brand new book,Engage and co-author of Putting the Public Back in Public Relations.

Interesting phrasing of this question…I assume that by responding, I consider myself an “influencer.” It’s easier to say that, like anyone living and breathing new media these days, my attention span is testing its elasticity. Truthfully, it’s a difficult question to answer. Cleverness, wit, tenacity, and most importantly relevance are the ingredients for assembling a plan for attracting my attention. It’s important to connect with me where I’m actively engaging…when I’m present. Make it easy for me to digest, providing the value and the action up front…prompt me to respond or ask for more information…turn it into a dialogue.

Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt is an entrepreneur, speaker and author of The Whuffie Factor, among many other things.

How would people get my attention? I guess I’d say to build relationships far before you need to get anyone’s attention. Do good, positive things for the community. Help me out when I ask questions from time to time. Interact positively in lively discussions and debates. Then, when you need to get anyone’s attention, it doesn’t feel like an imposition or spammy. It just feels like you are calling in a favor from friends. :)

Vitaly Friedman

Vitaly Friedman is a web designer, author, and editor-in-chief of popular web design blog Smashing Magazine.

Be short, be precise and convince me. Instead of explaining features, tell me what makes you or your product different, what’s unique about it and what advantages it has.

My own advice

Do it more than once. I get a lot of messages directed at me. I am more inclined to notice people when they tweet at me again and again. (I respond to emails pretty quickly, so you don’t need to email me more than once. Of course, pitches that you send that are off-topic normally won’t get a response.)

Not too long ago, I asked my Twitter followers for a service provider. One person who caught my attention through repeated exposure stood up and offered herself. I was excited about meeting her and told her that I was giving her preference explicitly because she made the effort to catch my eye. She was the epitome of this example! (I was pretty bummed when she proved not to be reliable, but I did reach out to her first.)

Today, I look at a few things. I look at effort put forth in comments. I look at tweets. I look at engagement. I look at what looks like a solid personalized effort versus just a blast. Show me you’ve put the time into it and you’ll be acknowledged.

If you’ve elected to email me, make the email short and sweet. Brevity is all the rage these days simply because there is so much noise vying for my attention. Make your pitches succinct. I don’t care who you are or what brought you where you are today. I might be interested in your life history at a later date. For now, if you want me to know about your service or a cool startup, try to use the Twitter format: tell me in 140characters words or less.

Summary

It’s pretty obvious, then, that there are some underlying themes behind the responses I’ve received. If you’re reaching out, keep it short and sweet. Submit content that jives with the recipient. Get to know the influencer’s influencers. Be apurple cow. Immerse yourself visibly in the influencer’s community. Put effort into the outreach attempt and make it obvious that you are passionate about it.

Yes, this is a process, but hey, do you see all those influencers up there? You’ve gotten the secret sauce. It’s now up to you to heed to the advice given and make a real splash.

Disclosures and Credits: Affiliate links are added to all the book links, but I recommend them wholeheartedly. Photo credits: Jesus Diaz by Diana Levine, Brian Lam by Brian Solis and Wired, Pete Cashmore by Lisa Bettany, Brian Solis by Brian Solis, Anita Campbell from aUPS video, and others that have been so frequently distributed online that I do not know the source. Know the photographer or source? Let me know so I can update this section. :)(Note: Non-collage photos of Aaron Wall, Ben Huh, Gary Vaynerchuk, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Jeremy Schoemaker, Danny Sullivan, Robert Scoble, Nicholas Carlson, Chris Brogan, Matt Cutts, Louis Gray, Adam Pash, Owen Thomas, Darren Rowse, and Jason Calacanis were all taken by me.)



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