Google is so 2012: Using Social Media to Find Outreach Prospects

Today’s guest post comes from one of our favorite customers, Adria Saracino. Adria is the head of outreach at Distilled, a digital marketing firm with offices in London, Seattle, and NYC. When not consulting on outreach or content strategies, you can find her managing a team of outreach warriors or writing about style on her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.

If your outreach strategy still relies solely on a Google search, it’s time to catch up with the times and start leveraging today’s social media landscape.

From Facebook to Pinterest and everything in between, social media has become by far the best way to build relationships and community while also establishing authenticity and expertise. But while there’s a lot out there about how businesses should leverage social media for their overall business functions, there’s less so about how individual employees can use social media to be more efficient specifically at outreach.

The following five tips seek to remedy that. Here are a few creative ways to build relationships with site owners in unexpected places.

1. Monitor Influencer Conversations on Twitter

twitter bird

As a place where authentic conversations flow naturally and oversharing is the norm, Twitter is a great place for finding not just customers but site owners, too. Why? Because site owners and contributors are just as hyped about social media as you are, and tend to tweet frequently as a means of driving traffic.

That makes for juicier data to sort through using tools like TweetDeck, HootSuite, and SproutSocial, all of which will monitor the site for keywords relevant to what you’re looking to outreach. Pro tip: in order to filter relevant prospect, pair these tools with something like FollowerWonk, which targets followers based on the information they’ve provided in their profiles (and if they own or contribute to a site, that’s likely to be included).

Once identified, make sure your own profile highlights your area of expertise (which should be relevant to what you are outreaching, cough qualifying yourself cough) before reaching out to site owners directly, retweeting their tweets, posting their content with an @mention, and just generally getting on their radar. And of course, as your contacts grow larger, keep them sorted in Twitter lists so they’ll always be within easy reach.

2. Source Search on Pinterest

pinterest source search

Pinterest is all about DIY projects, and DIY is inherently grassroots and community driven. But that doesn’t mean that every single user is a lone funky craft maker pinning away after hours. In fact, many of the most creative projects are posted by professional designers and a wide range of site owners. Even better: site owners come from across the lifestyle landscape – from the kitchen to the sewing room to the pumpkin patch – so that, no matter what business you’re marketing for, there’s likely a site owner that’s relevant to you.

Make the most of Pinterest by using its search function and hunting down the original sources for the photos you find most relevant or compelling using a reverse image search in Google. Once identified, follow and re-pin the site owners’ pin boards to build that relationship, and reach out to them directly to suggest a joint project or event.

Pro tip: do a Pinterest source search for your competitors to see who is pinning their content using this function.

3. Find a Community on LinkedIn

With powerful search options and a networking mentality built into its founding philosophy, LinkedIn has always been a force for relationship building, particularly for B2B businesses. One highly effective way to make the most of those search options in outreach efforts is to make a social media gridfor your search efforts, where potential contacts can be ranked based on the detailed titles and job descriptions they’ve provided in their profiles.

LinkedIn is also great for identifying experts who are looking to network by joining specific industry groups. Scouring these groups for authorities, reaching out to them directly, and providing your own expert feedback within discussion boards is a great way to establish your or your company’s own expertise, so that site owners either reach out to you on their own accord or so that you have credibility when it’s time to draft that outreach email.

And of course, LinkedIn can be effective for finding in-person networking opportunities (old school outreach) like conferences and events.

Pro tip: Once you get a name of someone to contact, pop their info into LinkedIn before reaching out. Chances are you are connected to them and can use that as an introduction in your email.

4. Hunt for Like-Minded People on Facebook

Unfortunately, Facebook is the most difficult to prospect on, as it lacks the same organization and tools as a site like LinkedIn. This is somewhat by design, as Facebook users flinch at any hint of marketing (even though this of course happens constantly throughout a user’s time on the site, just beneath their radar). Plus, Facebook is very consumer focused, meaning you might find it difficult to find site owners and editors on this social platform.

To really do outreach right on Facebook, you’ll have to do some classic stalking…ermh…manual research. Use keywords to search for relevant business/blog pages and groups. You can sometimes find gems within these communities.

Be careful when searching for industry experts to connect with. Take note of their personal profiles – do their pages seem private? If so, they probably don’t want you invading their personal space.  

As on LinkedIn, monitor discussion boards of respected sites or even competitors to find interesting site owners commenting, and then reach out to them directly, follow their own pages, and re-post their content.

5. Follow Creative Types on YouTube

YouTube is bursting with creative talent. Search the site with keywords relevant to your industry or to your current campaign to find the highest ranked videos. Then simply look for the website info in the description, do a search for that owner, and contact the owner directly. Pro tip: do a backlink analysis of other websites referencing this video and reach out to them to introduce them to your similar content.

If you have the time, the patience and the budget, you may even want to make your own response video to snag the owner’s attention. Note: Here’s one place where comments are generally a waste of time, as trolls far outnumber anyone with a useful thought.

Social media isn’t just for goofing off, nor is it solely for the sales pipeline. When it comes to outreach, there are few tools quite as accessible or as powerful – and it’s all right there, waiting for you to take advantage of it. Just as long as you know where to go and what to look for, prospecting on social media should be a fun and creative challenge. Happy hunting!

 (All images used via Creative Commons license via rasamalai (YouTube & Pinterest), Coletivo Mambembe (Facebook), TheSeafarer (LinkedIn), and eldh (Twitter).) 


  • Love this article.

    The key thought that I keep coming back to with using social media for prospecting is that it’s like that tricky precursor stage of dating – you have to get to know someone before you flat out ask them out. (Okay, okay – you can ask someone out you’ve just met, but generally things go a lot smoother in the long-term if you actually *know* something about them first besides the fact that you think they’re cute).

    In my experience, most of social media is like you described Facebook – people don’t go there to be advertised to. They go there to be social, and to relate to people (even if it’s around a business topic). By interacting with them, you can foster that relationship, and more importantly, learn *context* – so that when you reach out to them directly, you have a foundation to work with.

  • Hi Kipp,
    Great comment – thanks for stopping by.

    I think you’re right – social media is a great way to connect, but it can be more like a party than a place to pitch your stuff. But I’ve also made some great industry connections talking about personal stuff – mainly old school rap and scotch – with industry peers.

    I also think there’s a very different context of sales prospecting versus marketing/evangelism prospecting – where in the former you’re trying to get an order, in the latter, often you just want someone who already writes about industry matter to mention you, and I find social media is a fine place to build these relationships.