This is the fifth installment of the Content Partner Strategy series, where we look at the rapidly changing landscape of branded content partnerships. Today, we share methods to help you find potential matches.
I’m constantly looking for content partners, and in one way it always keeps me engaged and surprised. But the down side is, my search never ends. I’m forever joining new Facebook groups, scrolling people on Instagram, running searches on LinkedIn when it’s 10 p.m. and a TV show plays in the background.
Is it really necessary? I think so, because I have a proactive and synergistic approach to finding partners. Other people operate on a first-come first-serve basis. Others send mass emails. And we’ve all run into HR directors whose approach is to write up job posts, slap them onto the corporate Jobs site and LinkedIn, and then…. let a computer program screen out 90% of the people and never respond to 99%. Hence the career-ghosting backlash widely bemoaned in the recent news. I think the takeaway from all that is, an automated “touch-free” approach to finding creative partners is probably never going to work.
I’m very hands-on, but at the same time, I can’t search Google for needles in a haystack. Instead, I usually conduct searches about five different ways when I’m looking for great candidates. Here are a few of my favorites.
More proactive ways to fill your pool of potential content partners
Career-centered Facebook Groups – smaller is better
While Facebook is certainly not a comfortable landscape for most businesses or personal interactions lately, its Groups feature offers the feeling of a small closed room away from the main platform. While the sidebar ads and Facebook Watch popups remind us that Zuck is always running this show, Groups still feel like a private conversation.
Call it the modern-day equivalent of the water cooler or the online replacement for the networking event. But because they stay live for days, weeks or years, Groups have an even better capacity to foster virtual introductions, group ideation and business referrals. There are groups numbering in the tens of thousands for blogger networking, and the 25,000-member PR Czars group is a case study in carefully moderated niche networking at a large scale. However, for specialized needs, it’s worth seeking out niche groups in the 500-5,000 member range. Though those groups might be less active, it ideally begins to feel like “everyone here knows everyone else.” I have found under-the-radar talent to cast, talented content producers to hire, and several of my best clients on Facebook groups.
Instagram — follow the tags
My love-hate relationship with the Instagram algorithm probably leans more toward the love side of the scale than most people’s. When searching for people in a specific career circle or niche group, the algo is incredibly helpful in its ability to identify a specific type and serve them up neatly and efficiently on the Explore page.
That being said, when it’s time to do competitive analysis or strategic partner research, the tags are the way into this crowded, colorful platform. If you want to tap into a tight-knit community of like-minded people, niche hashtags will guide you. And for competitive or strategic research, there’s a very easy trick: Find a person who’s tagging your brand — or whom you’d like to be tagging your brand. Go to her page and see which other brands are being tagged. You can easily build a list of competitors in the space this way.
I also have built target lists of publications, blogs or talent to target by simply following one very popular profile and then clicking through the suggestions of similar profiles to follow. It’s so easy, it almost feels like you cheated. But nope, it’s just the algo being helpful once again.
Especially in the technology and tech-ancillary realms, Slack wins high praise for its culture of “information inclusion.” Originally created as a workplace tool, it has grown into a social networking platform. It’s considered to be more contained and less hostile than Twitter, and more interactive than LinkedIn.
Its company channels support remote collaboration, brainstorming and conversation threads that formerly took place via group email. The larger communities, and some workspaces moderated by career-building companies, serve many purposes, from information-sharing to news dissemination to recruiting. Closed niche Slack groups support a type of closed networking where, as one regular user put it, any recruiter who dared to enter a conversation would be thrown out of the group.
Start here and here to find Slack groups that may be of interest to you.
Once upon a time, I was a person who had multiple events on my calendar every evening and bonus on weekends. Although only a small percentage would run their RSVP list through EventBrite, I still was familiar with it. Lately I’ve become less of a social butterfly, but I’m still always interested in sneaking a peek at the attendee list. This has in fact led to a new research practice that you might call creeper-ish (it’s fine, no offense taken); but I find it quite efficient when trying to tap into a niche group of talent. I run searches for niche events posted on EventBrite (for example, keywords “Miami style blog”), and then I go through upcoming and past event invites and research the organizers, panelists and other VIPs listed on the event promo page. I don’t get information on the entire attendee list this way, but I don’t actually need it. If you’re pulling together a talent list, you usually want the best-known names in a social or professional circle.
Pro tip: If an interesting-sounding event has already happened, you can still pull up the page on EventBrite search and get back several suggestions of similar events — this is sometimes even more helpful than a keyword search.
An example of how this worked well for a client recently: An intern at one of my CPG clients was trying to get the company owner to sponsor a blogger brunch for the purpose of meeting local influencers. I pulled up the previous brunch’s digital flyer, which led me to a web page on the event series and most recent past event. I looked up each of the panelists, discovered that we were already working with one, and then reviewed the others’ social media channels to find two more I liked as potential partners. One of them had done a recent collaboration with a blogging friend who wasn’t on the panel (but probably was an attendee). I ended up emailing both girls and hiring them, without needing to spend my client’s budget sponsoring a “how to make money in blogging” brunch.
Talent platforms — for discovery and management
Many companies are looking for a low-touch or “magic bullet” solution to partnerships and content creation. I, like many industry veterans, do not think that there’s any reliable way to automate your creative output. The smart thing is to use a platform for discovery and campaign management, but work hands-on to build the content briefs, communicate with the talent, assign projects, review/approve the work in progress, and finally publish it.
For visual content/influencer campaigns, I’ve been testing out Klear on the larger/more expensive end. (The platform currently requires a $12,000 annual membership upfront in order to gain access to its deeper insights and to work with 100-200 talent per year. There’s a $6,000 annual membership, but it doesn’t offer access to the True Reach metric that is basically the only useful unique feature Klear has.) Klear gets its influencer data by scraping the platforms, and as a result has hundreds of millions of profiles, most of whom are not influencers at all. However, it does have 700,000 verified power-users and potential influencers registered on the platform. On the smaller end, Popular Pays offers app-based end-to-end management of customized influencer campaigns, mainly for brands hoping to test out the power of Instagram influencers.
For core content, long-form articles, B2B marketing content and any topic where writers will need expertise in complex or technical topics, my recommendation is obviously ClearVoice. Not only has the product team outdone itself with the latest version of CV Portfolios, but when you’re looking for an enterprise solution for smart B2B content, it makes sense to work with a content delivery platform that evolved from managing other services — and that has grown a stable of talented freelancers.