Insights & News

How To Find Influencers In Private Online Networks

Private social networkOver the last few years, you may have noticed that online influencers have become a little more difficult to pinpoint. Some people will say this is because the social media space has become noisier. In part, that’s true. Many business professionals are cutting through the noise by creating private groups to connect with people that matter the most. The most useful private networks are comprised of people who share the same goals or interests in the spirit of collaboration. Many of these groups have rules of conduct and are invite-only. Some are set up to be secret, and are therefore unsearchable on Google.

Disclaimer: Don’t pass go if…

As with traditional media, we don’t advocate that you find or join a group just so you can pitch your news. That’s a really bad idea. We DO advocate that you join networks in industries related to your work and build relationships. Help other people. Share what you know. Learn from other people. Promote the people you learn from. Then, if you have a completely relevant pitch, use full disclosure and approach your private network connections.

Similarly, monitor the private group before you jump in. If there is a specific influencer you’d like to work with for a client, take the time to read their blogs, social networks, and build a relationship before you ask for a story whenever possible. Participating in private groups is a long-tail strategy.

In other words, use common sense. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s get onto the good stuff.

How to locate private online networks with active influencers:

LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn is more than a place to post your resume and walk away. There are a ton of groups on LinkedIn, some private, that connect like-minded professionals. You can easily find these groups via LinkedIn’s search feature.

Your search results will indicate if a group is open or closed. If the group is closed, you can apply to be accepted. Sometimes you won’t be accepted to a group you want to join. Try sending a private message to the moderator to gain access. Especially if you’re in a B2B industry, it’s likely that there are a handful of closed groups with active influencers inside.

To get the most out of LinkedIn, steer clear of the overly promotional groups. Look for groups with lots of organic discussion. If you can’t find any that are relevant to you, your target demographic might not be convening on LinkedIn.

G+ Communities

You might not love Google+, but don’t count it out. At New Media Expo, Guy Kawasaki shared that Google+ is for passion. If you are trying to reach influencers, you are probably looking for passionate people in relation to a particular subject, right?

There are many open communities in Google+, but some of the best ones are invite only. The good news is that these are easily found in search. You may find yourself in a position that you can see where the influencers are, but you can’t access them. It will take some creativity and strategy to reach these influencers.

If you’re in public relations, check out this private Google+ community full of industry influencers: click here.

Facebook Groups

You might think that Facebook is for friends, family and Farmville, but influencers have been gathering in private Facebook groups more and more over the last few years.

Sometime in the last year I personally realized that my most valuable business networks are all on Facebook. Because of this, I am giving Facebook Groups a little more attention in this post than the other networks. You may or may not find Facebook groups as valuable as I do, but I hope you give Facebook a chance.

Some examples based on my personal experience:

  • In 2011 I created a closed social media group with a friend who is a fellow social media pro. Our group has 230+ handpicked members and the engagement rate of the group is over 42%. The only way to get accepted to our group is to have a career in social media, be referred by an active member and approved by a moderator. Members of the group collaborate to solve day-to-day issues, share opinions and recommend products and services. Since the members have been vetted, there is a high level of trust and respect among the group.
    *Note: This group was initially created on LinkedIn and Facebook in parallel. The LinkedIn group has less than ten members. Find out where your demographic lives and communicate with them there.
  • Another closed group that is valuable to the social media community is Social Media Jobs. It’s exactly what it sounds like- a network for social media pros to share job postings, and look for jobs. I know a number of people who have found jobs through this network. If you’re not a social media pro, take some time to find similar groups for your industry. Sharing job postings you stumble upon with others is a simple, fulfilling way to give back to your professional community.
  • I also belong to a few other professional development groups that extend my network further than I ever thought possible. They give me the opportunity to learn how other business professionals see the world and tackle their day-to-day work. Getting outside of my social media niche and learning from a broader spectrum of marketing and communications professionals has been valuable.

Facebook groups aren’t limited to business. You may find some valuable groups that benefit you personally.

  • I belong to a group of mothers who had babies in December 2004. It’s secret, which means the public can’t find it and we can share whatever we want without repercussions. The online group has led to many offline friendships. It also serves as a good word-of-mouth marketing proof point. If one mom recommends a product, nearly all the others purchase that product and share their feedback.
  • You may know that patients have been gathering in closed and secret groups for some time. These groups enable people to build community and find emotional and medical support from similar patients. If you have any medical condition, it’s worth doing a search to see what you find.

Facebook groups often have the highest barrier to entry as compared to other platforms. You can find the closed groups on Facebook via search, but finding a secret group isn’t easy. I recommend that you ask your peers if you’re looking for a specific kind of secret group. Finding influencers on Facebook is hard work, but if your niche is there, the work pays off.

Do you participate in private groups? Share your experience in the comments!

photo credit: Nathan O’Nions via photopin cc