Posted on January 9, 2013 by appinions

Focused Topics Help Create an Effective Influence Marketing Strategy

As regular blog readers likely know by now, Appinions advocates for contextual influence marketing – that is, assessing influence within a topic or industry category, vs. measuring influence solely based on a singular personal influence score.  Our platform was created from the ground up to best achieve this objective. But how do you determine the topics or categories that make the most sense for your company or brand?

This post will dive into best practices for building the right foundation for influence marketing: beginning with a relevant list of topics to help you segment your influencer list and develop effective influence marketing programs.

Creating Your Topic List

There will be some variations in how you approach topic creation depending on the scope of your outreach strategy, your industry and other factors.

The following methods are applicable to any business, regardless of size or vertical, and are effective methods for tackling the brainstorming process.

Business Segmentation

Unlike market segmentation – which is primarily an external process focused on the consumer – this exercise is internally focused on your business. Here, you’re segmenting products and solutions into separate categories and subcategories based on simple commonalities, not sales priorities.

This exercise will help you establish a framework for your topic list, ensuring that the topics you create are derived directly from the core of your business.

To get started, open a new spreadsheet and create columns for your overarching product or service “families.” Each will serve as top-level categories for the specific products and services that your brand offers.

For example, an online coffee retailer might organize products into these families: coffees, coffee machines, coffee accessories, etc.

Using this spreadsheet and your category columns:

  1. Organize your products and solutions in rows under the appropriate product family. These are your initial “product categories” that you will use as a guide for creating specific topics. Using the example above, these could be coffee types (blends, decaf), coffee brands, coffee makers vs. french press, etc.
  2. Under each product category above, create additional subcategories to complete the segmentation. Specificity is crucial for this process to work, so avoid broad-based “filters” that are commonly used in e-commerce (most popular, best sellers, etc.).
  3. Highlight categories that are highest priority according to sales and marketing objectives.

Using Search to Build a Topic “Seed List”

Using keyword research, you can expand the categories you created during the segmentation exercise into an initial “seed list,” which you can continue to refine and/or expand as your influencer outreach strategy scales.

For the purpose of this exercise, I’m focusing on two free tools for generating quick search results that you can easily mine for topic ideas.

Free Adwords Keyword Tool
The purpose of using Google’s free keyword tool is not to focus on search volume or other metrics used to research for SEO, so for now ignore those columns in the returned results.

Start by entering one of your product categories and a few of its relevant subcategories you created above into the tool. For now, leave the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” box unchecked. If you’re finding a higher volume of unrelated terms popping up, go ahead and re-run the search with this option checked.

This will generate keyword ideas that are related to your terms. You can also try experimenting with broad and specific search terms to vary your results, as well as entering your Website URL to have Google’s system scan pages and return keywords based on your site content.

Note – Be sure to export your results into a text or Excel friendly format and save for later. You’ll want to have this handy to organize and compile your results as you go. Don’t worry about refining this data just yet; you’ll want all of it for subsequent research.

Advanced Twitter Search
With well over a half billion users powering one of the fastest growing search engines on the planet, Twitter search is a great resource for researching topic ideas that are relevant and specific to your market.

Using some of the identified topics from the segmentation exercise, you can use Twitter’s advanced search operators to look for variations of the keywords you gathered earlier and a few tips to help you use advanced twitter search effectively:

  1. Use ? after query to search for questions – e.g. “best men’s designer shoes ?”
  2. Try different variations of hashtags to see which nets more relevant results. Certain popular hashtags have multiple variations (e.g. #ff, #FF and #FollowFriday)
  3. Use -term to remove or filter out irrelevant terms. This can be useful for filtering our retweets from your search results – e.g. “best men’s designer shoes” -rt

The idea here is not to search for who’s saying what. It’s to gain insights into potential topic variations that could help you expand or refine your topic list.

A few additional resources on using Twitter search for business insights:

Using Twitter Search for Business - Chris Brogan

HOW TO: Use Twitter’s Advanced Search Features – Mashable

Conduct a Competitive Audit to Add Depth to Your List

By this point in the process, your topic list should be relatively dense. Competitive research will help you analyze gaps and opportunities in your competitors’ Web and social content, both of which will give you insight into additional topics that can help you add depth to your list.

For this process, audit at least two primary competitors, focusing on the following:

  1. Website content
  2. Social media
  3. Dynamic content (blogs, white papers and articles, press releases, etc.)

Record your observations in a document or spreadsheet so that you can review and analyze after the audit is complete. You should be looking at an overall qualitative analysis of what content your competitors are producing, distribution channels, voice and tone, etc.

Refining Your List

This research should yield a broad range of topic identifiers, descriptions and keywords which will assist you in developing your influencer list. Now prioritize your topics according to your influence marketing program goals.  Appropriately prioritizing these topics matters, and not just because of relevance and the ability to personalize your outreach, but because it will help you extend your marketing budget and increase ROI by being more targeted in your approach.

Topic development should be an ongoing, agile step in your outreach strategy. How you refine your topics is dependent on the objectives of your outreach strategy. How often you review and refine your topics should be defined by the results of your outreach efforts.

Do you have any other best practices and tips for creating topics? Please share in the comments below!


Image credit: Sunshinecity