Marketing 12 min read October 26, 2017

Q&A With Ann Smarty: Discussing Influence Marketing With a Real Marketing Influencer

Q&A With Ann Smarty: Discussing Influence Marketing With a Real Marketing Influencer

Elena K.
Editorial Head at Serpstat
Interest in influence marketing and guest blogging has been growing steadily over the past few years. This is not surprising as both of them are very effective long-term ways of promotion that provide all kinds of benefits like higher traffic, buzz around your brand, trust and of course natural link acquisition.
But there're so many issues beginner marketers face trying to accomplish these forms of marketing. Thus we asked a real marketing influencer and former Editor-in-Chief of SEJ to reveal all the secrets of influence marketing and guest blogging. Ann Smarty is a professional blogger, brand and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas, co-founder of ViralContentBuzz.com, founder of MyBlogU and TwChat.

Thanks so much to Ann Smarty for spending the time to answer all of my questions!
— All platforms you created are to help content marketers to overcome the issues they may face. What inspired you to start these platforms and how did you come up with such project's ideas?
*MyBlogU is the community of writers and bloggers who are eager to exchange their case studies, digital assets, expertise and knowledge to help each and get help in return. Viral Content Bee is a web-based platform that utilizes a crowd-sourcing model to facilitate the generation of real "social buzz" on quality content.

— I remember being new to the SEO community and how tough it was to get established and heard. It takes months (if not years) to build a social media influence for your content to finally get noticed.

This was the inspiration behind both the projects. You don't need any influencer to submit your request on MyBlogU or submit your content to ViralContentBee, but once you do, you'll see random people helping you! They will send their ideas and help you create content through MyBlogU and you can then utilize ViralContentBee to get that content shared. Both the platforms fill one common gap: The need to go beyond your own circles and spread your content further.

MyBlogU is the sister project of MyBlogGuest. We took some non-guest-blogging featured MyBlogGuest members were asking for and turned them into a new project. The idea of ViralContentBee wasn't mine. I was approached by the industry friend Gerald Weber who offered to partner to create the project. I liked the idea and we developed the site functionality together.
— Are there any new projects you are already working on or are going to start? Tell about them, please.
— I haven't started yet but I am planning to work on an advanced social media people search tool. Something that would help people utilize their existing social media relationships to connect to bigger brands, like Mashable or Google.
— What has been your main career achievement?
— I built a brand big enough for Google to make an example of it. MyBlogGuest has always been a pure model of people exchanging content for mutual benefits (exposure, traffic, etc.). Yet, the concept of guest blogging was largely abused, so Google had to announce MyBlogGuest penalty to scare people off using guest blogging for link building. MyBlogGuest survived and my name has become very well known in the industry. I think building a huge brand name without any external investments has been my biggest achievement so far.
— Last month you took part in Influencer Marketing Days speaking about influencer-driven content marketing. I read the recap of your speech and it was great! I'd like to dig a bit deeper into a subject as influencer marketing isn't well understood by many marketers.

Share some core principles to follow while making the first contact with an influencer.
— Here they are:

1. The biggest one: Think long-term. Influencer marketing only works if you look far ahead and ignore one-time benefits (like traffic spike, for example, or immediate ROI). What counts is the long-term relationship with niche influencers who will be happy to help out whenever you need their help.

2. Respect the fact that all influencers are different. Some want to be paid, others will deep a monetary offer an insult. So don't hurry engaging them: Help them first and get to know them better

3. Take your time before reaching out for the first time: Work on personalizing your offer, connect on multiple networks, engage with them on social media, promote their content. Again, the whole process takes months and years!
— What channel(s) do you recommend to use to connect influencers for the first time?
— Twitter is the most open of all the platforms. You don't need a mutual connection to reach out or engage with anyone there (unless their Twitter feed is private which is almost never the case when it comes to influencers). So I think Twitter is the best tool for the first contact.
— Influencers receive so many messages in all possible channels that the one you send can go unnoticed. Thus lots of marketers are trying to attract attention by using confusing and even weird message titles. Do you think it's a good practice? What do you recommend to include into the message title?
— It may work (it did for me a couple of times), but it's a risky tactic either. Many of the influencers may be offended or irritated and that will ruin the chances of building strong relationships with them. I'd use the time brainstorming a catchy email subject elsewhere, e.g. properly engaging with them on social media first, so that your name rings the bell when you finally email.
— Okay, now the message is written, the title is also formed based on the best practices, and it's finally time to wait till the answer. But how long to wait? There're lots of tools to track the status of your message, if it's already read but there's no answer for 1-2 days. How to long to wait before writing again? And how many attempts to do trying to remind about yourself are okay?
— Oh those automated email follow-ups are annoying! I almost never use them myself and I recommend against using them on a large scale. A much better way to follow up is to send a Tweet a few days later.

An even better way to follow up is to check that person on Linkedin (if you haven't yet) and find common connections who can help you reach out more effectively through a personal introduction. That's the most powerful way to get in touch!
— The articles by you are now published on lots of well-known and high-profile websites as Mashable, Entrepreneur, MOZ etc. Moreover, you're a former Editor-in-chief at SEJ. So you can analyze the guest posting process from both of sides: guest writer, who submits an article and editor who decides whether to approve this article or not.

What are the main points editors of the popular blogs pay their attention to while reading the guest posting request? How to make your letter stand out of hundreds of other requests?
For editors:

1. Skim through and see if it's something your readers would enjoy reading;

2. Check if the content is original (using tools like Copyscape);

3. Google the author name and see if there are other good columns that author contributes to;

4. If there are any commercial "SEOed" anchor text in-content, run!!!!

5. See if the author did his/her due diligence, e.g. added high-quality reference links, images using proper license, screenshots, etc.

For guest authors: Seek common connections to be introduced to editors or start working on those. This business is quite closed: You won't go too far alone. You need help. MyBlogU is a good place to start!
— Share some tips to help beginner guest bloggers to become a contributor to the popular platforms.
— It's tough and you'll probably get neglected or rejected several times, so grow thick skin and don't give up easily! My pitched have often been lost and the only way I got in was a personal recommendation.

So your best bet is to find people working for a publication you are interested in and start working on developing those connections first. Publish exceptionally great content on your own blog for those newly-built connections to know how great you are.
— There's no secret that lots of posts include ads or are written to promote some tool or platform. How to include the ad to the post to make it look natural and be approved by the editor but at the same time bright enough to get the desired clicks?
— Here're the crucial ones:

1. Only promote projects that you like (use yourself) and

2. Always be very clear with your editors that some of those links are self-serving. Good personal relationships with editors are priceless, so don't spoil them!
— You've written hundreds of posts covering different topics. What are the main components the article should have to go viral?
— Most of my content doesn't go viral but I don't target it to, in most cases. I create content that can help solve problems, instruct, give clues, etc. The best feedback I've received from an industry peer is that she has my name as a tag in Evernote to easily find my content for further reference. Here are the guidelines I go by:

1. Always write something you'd use yourself for reference. Be proud of every piece you are publishing. Solve your own problems and answer your own questions in your content;

2. Use lots of images (screenshots, charts, etc.);

3. Brainstorm some "content upgrades", i.e. something a reader can walk away; with, for example a free PDF cheatsheet, a collection of all images you used in the article, a template, a free spreadsheet with all the data and more;

4. Always find tools that help solve those problems. Readers love playing with tools, so the more tools you offer, them higher are the chances that they implement your advice right away.

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