Over the last few years I have had to pitch to blogs for different clients or had to research blogs in order for their internal marketing team to pitch. Each client was in a different industry, which required me to immerse myself into subjects I typically didn’t follow. Because of all the research I had to do I feel like I have developed some sort of methodology.
Personally I don’t like to buy established lists or rely solely on a monitoring service. While these options might make for a good jumping off point I feel that a lot of lists that I have seen used by companies were outdated or they didn’t take factors that I consider valuable into account. (Like large social networking, Twitter, or YouTube friends/followers.)
To me the most important piece of research a person can do while constructing a list is to understand the niche that they are pitching to. Here are some things that I look for when learning about a niche.
1) Find the cliques
When putting together a list I feel like I am a detective. It is kind of a fun little game I play when doing the research. Each link on a blogroll or in a post seems like a clue. Knowing who associates with who and what circles people run in is important because you can discover a lot about a niche. This helps you determine who the power players are, who talks to who, is the niche competitive about news, is it more of a collegial atmosphere, and it helps you determine how you want to approach your outreach.
2) Is there a niche social media site or a group that is a connecting point?
Often times in various groups you can fine one or more niche social media sites that connect blogs together. These can act as a great resource for you in discovering who are some of the top blogs and often they allow you to flesh out your list quickly.
A site like milblogging.com is great example of small niche communities designed around a topic. It might be a directory with social features, a Ning community, or a group on a large social network whatever the case may be you can often find large groupings with discussions within a niche. These niche sites give you information on what people in this space find important, what the hot topics are, and different information including information about pitches people have made to them.
3) Is there a common discussion occurring?
Often times there are opportunities that you can discover by looking for common threads within a niche. Maybe the bloggers are talking about how PR people are pitching them, a common charity cause between them, or an event that they regard as being important. The point is that a common theme may give you information, opportunity, or direction on how you should approach this niche.
4) Are they using other mediums?
Another great tactic in looking at these niches is studying to see what other social media sites people in this niche are using. Maybe they are using Twitter a lot or maybe you see a high use of Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, FriendFeed or YoutTube. The point is that there maybe secondary way that you can reach out this niche and a different place where the main conversations are occurring.
I’ve ran into certain niches that really have taken to Twitter (like wine bloggers for example) while others have had a strong tie to other social networking sites. The point is want to make sure that you leverage your companies/blog/clients accounts on these sites when pitching these customers. It could be their preferred method of connection.
In the end it might be simpler to buy a list of slam together a bunch of search results into a spreadsheet then mass e-mail everyone you want to reach out to. However you aren’t going to create a relationship that is mutually benifical, you aren’t going to become a voice in the community, and you aren’t going to see a lot of success without studying how the niche operates without you in it. You are coming to come off as an outsider just trying to push your message down the throats of these bloggers and your campaign will have some very poor results.
What techniques do you use when examining a niche?