Social media outreach is one of the best ways to form new relationships, increase engagement and get more eyes on your content. Executing a successful outreach campaign can be difficult, tedious and even frustrating sometimes. But the results you can get from it make your efforts more than worth it.

What is Social Media Outreach?

Social media outreach is the process of using social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to raise awareness for your brand, content, or to build new relationships.

Unfortunately some marketers use social media outreach as an opportunity to spam influencers. Instead of trying to build genuine, mutually beneficial relationships, they make it transactional. Sending dozens or hundreds of direct messages to people you’ve never interacted with and asking them to share your blog post isn’t outreach. It’s spam.

We’re going to show you how to do social media outreach without spamming or annoying your audience.

Should You Use a Business or Personal Account?

Is it ok to reach out to people from your brand’s social media accounts, or should you have someone from your marketing team handle social media outreach?

A lot of brands put social media outreach in the hands of their social media or community manager. The advantage of this approach is it makes your campaigns feel more personal. Instead of being contacted by Widgets Inc., prospects are approached by Jim, who works for Widgets Inc.

An advantage of using your brand profiles for social media outreach is it seems more official, particularly if your company is well known. You might be quicker to respond to the official Nike Twitter account than someone claiming to work for Nike.

If someone from your team is doing the outreach, make sure it’s someone that’s clearly associated with your company. A good example of this is our community outreach manager Sarah Nagel. Her Twitter handle includes Sprout, she hosts our Twitter chats and appears on our blog. If someone receives a Tweet from her about working with Sprout, they won’t have to question whether or not it’s legit.

1. What’s Your Objective?

Are you launching a campaign to promote a blog post? Are you trying to get more followers?

Decide what you want to accomplish with social media outreach first. Your goals will determine who you contact, how you build your prospect list and how you reach out to people. Try to avoid setting your objectives too high for your first outreach campaign.

Asking someone to share your post is a good start. You could even use social media outreach to secure guest blogging spots, but it may take a little longer. If you’re asking for something too big your first go-around and get denied, it’s harder to go back to the same person and ask for something else.

Once you’ve decided why you want to do outreach, you can move on to putting together a list of people to contact.

2. Make a Prospecting List

Randomly going through Twitter and reaching out to everyone you’re following is ineffective and makes it hard to track your campaigns. You need to be more strategic. Find people that are likely to be interested in your brand and industry, ideally influencers with their own following. The easiest way to do this is with a tool like Buzzsumo.

Finding Prospects

To get started, open the Influencer tab in Buzzsumo. You can search for influencers by topic or keyword. In the example below, we searched by keyword.

Choose keywords related to your industry. If you’re using social media outreach to promote a specific piece of content, you could search for the topic of your content.

Finding Influencers Buzzsumo

You’ll also have some options on the left-hand menu. This allows you to filter your results by the type of users you want to reach out to. If you were looking for people to review your product, it would make sense to check the boxes for bloggers and influencers. But if you’re trying to distribute a press release or company news, you’d probably want to check the journalists box.

Buzzsumo will give you a list of people matching your criteria.

Buzzsumo Search Results

If you click the box next to any of the influencers, a menu will appear at the bottom of your screen that allows you select all the users and save them to a list. You may get a few irrelevant results so make sure you go through the list carefully.

You have the ability to Tweet the people in your list, follow them or even see what links they’ve shared recently.

View Influencer Shared Links

When you’re sorting through the list of influencers, look beyond follower count. Look at their average retweet count and go through their account to see how much engagement they’re receiving.

We’re almost ready to start reaching out to the list. But first, make sure your social media profile is set up for success.

3. Make Your Social Media Profiles Outreach-Ready

When you’re engaging with people on social media, they’re going to check out your profile. If you want to be taken serious, your profiles need to be presentable. We’ve written a couple posts about how to setup professional Twitter bios and Instagram bios. Read through those guides to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

Some important things to keep in mind are:

  • Use a professional profile photo: You don’t necessarily have to go out and pay hundreds of dollars for professional head shots. But your photo shouldn’t look like it was taken with an old school flip phone or be a blurry, pixelated logo.
  • Explain who you are and what you do: If you’re a marketing specialist for an accounting firm, your bio should state that. This way when the people you’re reaching out to visit your profile, they have some context of who you are. If you’re reaching out from your brand’s profile, your bio should describe what your company does.
    Constant Contact Twitter Bio
  • Invite people to contact you: You could even go the extra mile and mention in your profile that you’re interested in networking with other people. This works great particularly if you’re doing outreach on LinkedIn. It’ll make people feel more comfortable about reaching out to you. The more inviting your profile looks, the better.
  • Link to your site: It should go without saying, but you should have a link to your website so people can learn more about you.
  • Add your personality: When your profile seems interesting and exciting, people are more inclined to follow you and engage. On the flip side, if your profile is dry and dull, it’s easy to be overlooked. Adding a splash of personality in your social media profiles can help you stand out.
    Zendesk Twitter Profile

4. Engage Your List

This is where most marketers go wrong. Once they have their list put together they immediately start sending Tweets and DMs asking for things. The first time you contact someone shouldn’t be to ask for something. It’s just like meeting someone in real life.

You’d feel odd asking someone you’ve never met before to do you a favor, right? It’s just as weird when you do it online.

Your First Interaction

Make your first interaction with people on your outreach list some type of engagement. That could mean Retweeting them, sharing one of their blog posts or leaving a comment on their site. This will put you on their radar without being spammy.

It’s an excellent way to make your presence known without being overly-aggressive.

Another great way to engage before starting your outreach is Twitter Chats. Twitter Chats give you the opportunity to interact with several influencers at once, and find new prospects you may not have been aware of before.

Check out our Twitter Chats guide for tips on how to use them effectively. The easiest way to start is to find chats in your industry and become a regular participant. Being active will allow you to stand out and make more contacts. Eventually you can start hosting your own Twitter Chat like we do with our weekly #SproutChat.

LinkedIn Groups are another way to engage before doing outreach. Find groups your prospects are active in and start replying to their posts and making posts of your own. Over time you’ll build familiarity.

Think Long-Term

Don’t make engagement a one-time thing. Consistently interact with your prospect list before ever asking for anything. Think of it like building equity. The more you put into the relationship, the more equity you’ll build. Once it’s time to cash-out (asking for a favor) they’ll be more willing to help you because you’ve built a connection.

A good way to make sure you’re engaging with the people on your prospect list on a regular basis is to add them all to a Twitter List.

Twitter Lists

Go through the list throughout the day and Retweet, Like and reply to as many Tweets as you can. For the people on your list with blogs, occasionally leave a comment on their latest posts. The more often your prospects see you, the more familiar they’ll become with you. Once it’s time to ask them for something, they won’t feel like they’re being approached by a stranger.

5. Ask

Since you’ve spent time building relationships and providing value to your prospect list, the actual outreach should be much smoother than if you were going in cold.

The way you ask and what you ask for are both very important. You don’t want to come off as desperate. And even though there’s some level of familiarity at this point, you also don’t want to seem spammy by sending a generic pitch.

Keep it Private

When you’re doing social media outreach don’t do it publicly. Sending someone a Tweet asking to guest post on their site or share your content isn’t the best social media etiquette. Reach out through a direct message instead. That way the conversation stays private and you don’t clog up your timeline with outreach pitches. Plus you save yourself the embarrassment of being rejected in public.

In 2015 Twitter released an update that allows you to DM anyone, even if they aren’t following you. Keep in mind the account you’re trying to DM has to have this feature enabled, otherwise you won’t be able to send the message unless they follow you. It’s a good idea to have this option enabled on your account so people can contact you too. You can do this in your settings under security and privacy.

Receive DMs from Anyone

Get to the Point

Your pitch should be direct, specific and brief. Make it clear what you want and make it easy for the other person to follow up. For instance, if you’re trying to setup a co-marketing opportunity, let them know you’re interested in partnering up and send a couple of your ideas. Your initial outreach is only to gauge their interest, so there’s no need to go into detail.

If they seem interested and want to move forward, you can start getting into specifics. The key is to make it more of a collaborative effort instead of just you asking for a favor.

What’s in It for Them?

Also make sure you’re conveying the value they’ll get out of the deal. If you’re pitching a guest post, let them know you’ll promote it to your thousands of followers. If you’re trying to get them to share one of your articles, tell them why your content is better than everything else out there.

social media outreach example

The more they feel they’re getting out of working with you, the more likely they’ll be to accept.

What if They Say No?

Every pitch won’t be a home run. Be prepared to get rejected occasionally. Even after engaging, sharing their content and building a relationship, sometimes you’ll still be declined. Don’t take it personal. Keep nurturing the relationship and in the future an opportunity may come up.

A common mistake marketers make with social media outreach is turning it into a checklist. Once they’ve been rejected by one person they completely forget about them and move on to the next. Like we mentioned earlier, one of the goals of social media outreach is to make new connections and relationships. Don’t cut down your contact list every time someone declines your pitch.

Using Social Media Ads

An interesting twist to social media outreach some businesses overlook is using paid ads. Facebook and Twitter have fairly in-depth targeting options that will allow you to get your account in front of  your ideal prospects.

When running ads to support your social media outreach, your goal will be different than what you may be used to. You’re not necessarily trying to generate new leads or build your follower count. You’re trying to build awareness.

Twitter is a great platform for this because you can build an audience of people who are interested in another account. So if you want to do an outreach campaign to connect with people that are fans of a competitor, you could enter their Twitter Handle.

Twitter Ads Audience

Running ads isn’t a necessity, but it can help speed up the process for a relatively low cost.

Tools to Help With Outreach

As you can see, social media outreach can be fairly time consuming. Luckily there are plenty of tools to help make the process simpler. We’ve already mentioned Buzzsumo, but here are some other tools you should consider:

1. Buzzstream

Buzzstream is an outreach tool that allows you to find and manage contacts. You can also collect more insight into each person on your list and send emails from Buzztream’s dashboard.

2. Alltop

Alltop is a huge repository of content from around the web for almost any topic you can think of. Browsing the categories related to your industry is an easy way to find influencers to reach out to.

3. Sprout Social

Sprout has some great features to help your social media outreach. One of the most helpful will be the contact view. This shows you information about your social media contacts such as their name, phone number, other social profiles and more.

Sprout Social profile contact view

You can also see your conversation history and add in notes to give you more context on your relationship.

4. Google Alerts or Mention

Instead of searching for people who you think would be interested in connecting with you, why not look for people who are already talking about your brand? You can setup Google Alerts for mentions of your company name and receive a notification when Google finds mentions matching your search.

Google Alerts

Mention is similar, but also has some additional features that make it easier to run campaigns.

What Now?

After a prospect agrees to publish your guest post, share your article or complete the agreed-upon goal, the process isn’t over. You want to nurture each relationship you’ve made by continuing to engage with them and stay in touch.

Your outreach list will become a great resource whenever you have something special to promote. You won’t have to start the entire process from scratch each time. You can just go through your list of people that you’ve worked with before.

Don’t go overboard. If you publish a new article five days a week don’t ask people to share each one. Only use your outreach list for special occasions, or they’ll become annoyed. Also, don’t forget to ask if there’s anything you can do for them. For instance, if they let you guest post on their site, you can return the favor by asking if they’re interested in writing something for your site.

Start Your Outreach Campaign

Social media outreach is powerful when done properly. It’s not about spamming as many people as possible. It’s about making genuine connections and building long term relationships that are mutually beneficial. Use the strategies above to build your next social media outreach campaign.