How to Leverage Crowdsourced Content to Exponentially Grow Your Audience

 

Isn’t it a pain?

You spend all that time researching and writing a post, but people would rather tweet Seth Godin’s 100-word posts—in thousands!—than to share yours.

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There’s a good reason for this, though.

Seth is a ridiculously successful entrepreneur. He’s written over 17 bestsellers and shows no sign of slowing down.

So while some of his posts may seem simple (maybe you could’ve written them), people love them because they trust his opinion.

You don’t build this kind of success, trust, and audience overnight, however—it takes years of hard work.

But what if you could get Seth (or an expert in your niche) to write some content for your website? It would get a lot more attention than your writing normally does.

And it’s possible, I promise

You can even take it a step further by getting several experts with large followings, whom your target audience instinctively trusts, to help you write content.

This is called crowdsourced content.

The reason for the name is pretty obvious: you generate content from a crowd. Technically, the crowd could be anyone, including influencers in your niche.

Crowdsourcing has been growing in popularity ever since KickStarter exploded as a platform for people and companies to crowdsource investments for products.

The amount of money raised through crowdsourcing has nearly doubled every year since 2009:

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And it shows no signs of slowing down. In 2014, crowdfunding grew by 167% to $16.2 billion in raised funds, and in 2015, it will continue to grow to an estimated $34.4 billion.

We’re not talking about crowdsourcing product development (that’s an interesting topic for another day). What we’re talking about is using the connectivity of the Internet and the work of several others in order to create remarkable content that grows your business.

There are 3 main benefits of crowdsourced content:

  1. Reach a larger audience: People share things they feel invested in. When they contribute to content, most are happy to share it with people they know. In the case of influencers, this can be a huge audience.
  2. Connect with people: Whether you want to connect with an influencer or an audience member, creating a great piece of content together is a great way to open a dialogue and start a relationship.
  3. Build your authority: The more you’re associated with other people in your niche that readers trust, the more you become an authority. I told you that it takes a long time to build up authority, and employing this tactic can accelerate it a bit.

So crowdsourced content is the best thing ever, right?

While it has some massive upsides, it also has some limitations.

First of all, it’s not easy. I’m going to show you how to create effective crowdsourced content in this article, and trust me, it will take you several hours to put together a great post. Secondly, you can’t solely rely on crowdsourced content for two reasons.

If you’re constantly crowdsourcing your content, your website will lose your voice, which is something you need to have to develop a loyal following. Additionally, you will run out of sources or annoy the ones you have if you’re always asking them for help. You can’t do a crowdsourced post more than once every few months.

That being said, a crowdsourced article is a powerful tactic that you should have at your disposal. I’ll show you later how it should fit with your content strategy to get maximum benefit from it. For now, let’s look at how you should approach creating crowdsourced content.

Pick one of two types of crowdsourced content

As a general rule, there are 2 types of crowdsourced content.

The first type involves surveying or polling your target audience. This is typically most useful when you already have a sizeable following. You can find out what their problems are and write an article such as “The X Biggest Mistakes Made by [Audience],” or “The X Biggest Problems of [Audience].”

Carol Tice does it very well. She regularly tries to find readers with useful stories and combine them to create articles that resonate with her other readers:

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To a smaller degree, I like to do this as well when possible. For example, in my post on the 11 Things You Should Do After You Publish a Post, I included an example of a comment left by Maham to illustrate a point.

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The second type of crowdsourced content is where you ask experts to answer a question, and then you compile their responses. This is commonly referred to as an “expert roundup.” At its core, it’s just like an interview, except you’re only asking one (or a few) questions, and you’re posing it/them to multiple people.

While polling readers and users is a great way to get feedback and create some good content, it won’t do much for blog growth. However, this second type of content leverages your experts’ authority and capitalizes on their audience to help your blog.

That’s why I recommend that small- and medium-sized blogs, those focused mostly on growth, start with crowdsourcing content from experts. And that’s exactly what I’m going to focus on for the rest of this article.

The way you do it is extremely important. Some crowdsourced articles get barely any shares, while others get thousands. I want you to achieve the latter.

I’m going to take you step by step through the process you should follow to maximize your results from an expert roundup.

Step 1: Pick the right question

Pick the wrong question, and you’re done before you even started.

Seriously. If you pick a bad question to ask your experts, they just won’t respond.

Guidelines for choosing a question:

  1. Don’t pick a question that’s too simple.
  2. Don’t pick a question that’s too complicated.
  3. Don’t pick a question with an obvious answer.

If a question is too simple, it’s not worth answering. For example: “Do you think businesses should create a blog?”

That’s a yes or no question, and literally everyone will say yes, so it’s a pointless question.

If a question is too complicated, it’s too much work for an expert to answer. A question such as: “What is the best step-by-step process to promote a blog post?” would take thousands of words to answer.

Finally, if the answer is obvious to a particular expert, they’ll realize that your main goal is to try to get them to send you traffic, and not to create a great piece of content (which it should be). For example, if you asked an expert who blogs about email marketing: “What is your favorite marketing channel?”, the answer would obviously be email marketing, so why would you ask this?

Your question should be not too simple, complicated, or obvious, and be a question that your target audience cares about.

The best way to find a good question is with some simple keyword research.

Before we get started, make a list of keywords in your niche—they can be pretty broad.

For example, keywords for a nutrition site might be:

  • healthy eating
  • exercise
  • cooking tools
  • best diet

Now that you have your keywords, let’s see where you can get ideas for your question(s).

Idea source #1: Quora

Enter your first keyword into the search box. Click on “Topics” on the left menu to find the most popular relevant topic. Assuming you picked a popular and broad keyword, you’ll find a group with at least a few thousand followers:

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When you click on a topic, you’ll see a mixture of current and past relevant and popular posts. Look at the questions that have the most “upvotes,” preferably at least a few hundred.

Remember, you need to look for a question that can be answered by someone giving their opinion because that’s the main point of having experts answer it.

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The question “How do I ensure I’m eating well for university on a $30 a week budget?” has 546 upvotes, so it’s a popular question that people want answered.

However, this question is far too open-ended and complicated to ask an expert. What you could ask instead is: “What is your favorite healthy meal that can be made for under $2 per serving?”

For now, just note down the popular questions on a spreadsheet so you can come up with one later. Go through as many keywords and groups as you can.

Idea source #2: Reddit

As always, Reddit is a great way to see what people are most curious about.

If you’re not familiar with Reddit, it’s a community site where users can submit questions and links, and the rest of the community votes on them. We’ll be looking for questions that come up a lot and get a decent number of upvotes.

Start by searching for your keyword in the sidebar:

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The results will come from a variety of communities called subreddits.

You can either click the subreddit there to filter out results for that specific community, or you can navigate directly to that subreddit.

If you choose to filter the results, you’ll only see the most relevant results for your keyword. Look through these, and note down popular questions.

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From these results, it’s clear that questions about snack ideas are very popular.

You could derive the following questions for your experts from them:

  • What is your favorite healthy snack for traveling?
  • What are the 3 cheapest and easiest snacks you know of?

If you go to the main subreddit, you’ll see posts about all relevant topics (not just your keyword).

To see the most popular questions, click “order by top”:

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Do the same thing as before, noting down any questions that you think you might be able to turn into an appropriate one for your experts.

Idea source #3: Google Keyword Planner

While it’s a basic keyword research tool, it’s still really useful for a task such as this.

Type in your keyword, and click “Get ideas”.

Then, click on the “Keyword ideas” tab, and start noting down popular keywords that lend themselves to questions:

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Based on the above results, you could ask: “What do you think is the most important healthy eating habit?” or “What is your best healthy eating tip?”

Overall, it’s really not that difficult to find a good question to ask. You can find several good ones with each method. The tricky part is transforming it into the right type of question of the right difficulty.

The reason why you’re looking for popular keywords and questions is because the more popular the question you ask, the more interested your target audience will be in the answer.

Not only will it be an interesting article for people to read (more subscribers), but it will also lead to more sharing and traffic.

Step 2: Decide who you will ask

This next step is just as difficult as the first one.

You need to target experts based on the question(s) you want to ask.

I get hundreds of requests every month to participate in expert roundups. Some of them are asking me about topics such as nutrition and technology, where I’m not known as an authority. Obviously, I never answer such questions.

Not all examples are that obvious though. Experts who write about nutrition are very different from experts who write about healthy recipes or fitness. The influencers you ask your question(s) must regularly write about that topic.

If you target the wrong people, you will get a dismal response rate.

Your best targets: past participants

Not all experts like to participate in these roundups—or not very often. The good news is that unless you’re in a very uncommon niche, other bloggers have already filtered out these people for you.

The idea is to find experts that regularly participate in roundups.

Start by Googling “expert roundup + [keyword]”

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Depending on your niche, you will have to search for several keywords relevant to your question.

Go through at least a few pages for each term.

For each relevant roundup you find, write down all the experts that participated in it.

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If you’re in a niche such as marketing, you’ll have no trouble finding hundreds of experts. In those cases, scroll down to the comments and see which of the experts commented (or shared). It’s likely that they’ll at least comment on your roundup as well.

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Find some fresh blood

In addition to the same old faces that participate in many roundups, it’s a good idea to find a few low- to mid-level bloggers to include.

Since they don’t get asked very often, they’ll be more likely to participate and eager to share the article. Plus, it gives you a chance to get new opinions that your readers may not have heard before.

To find these hidden superstars, you will have to do some digging. You can employ three methods.

Method #1

Use BuzzSumo’s Influencer search. Enter a general keyword related to your question. In my example, I chose “healthy”. Use the filters as shown below to include only bloggers and influencers.

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What you’re looking for are influencers who aren’t extremely well known. Ideally, they’ll still have at least a few thousand Twitter followers (which you can see on the right).

Add as many quality experts as you can, and repeat the process for any additional keywords.

Method #2

Next, we’re going to use twtrland. Create a free account, and enter a key term in the search bar.

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This tool is designed purely for identifying influencers on Twitter, which is perfect for this. A free account only shows 50 results per keyword, but you should still be able to find at least 10-20 new influencers (try a few keywords).

Method #3

Finally, head over to Alltop. This site is a directory of blogs organized by niche. The other good thing about it is that almost all blogs were added by their owners, which means they’re highly active in promoting them (and more likely to participate).

Try to find your niche/topic in the menu to make sure you don’t miss any relevant blogs. If you can’t, search for your keyword:

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Either way, you’ll get a page of relevant blogs. You can click on the site titles to visit them.

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I left this method till last because it takes more work.

At this point, you need to check whether your question is appropriate for these experts, so look through a few posts to make sure it’s a good match.

Additionally, see if they have any following by looking at the number of comments and/or social shares.

Don’t stop until you have at least 50 quality experts in total. More is always better.

Find their email addresses

You will need to contact all the bloggers/experts at some point with your question.

Start by going to their sites and seeing if they publicly list their email addresses. Most likely, they don’t.

The simplest way to get their email addresses is to join their email lists. Go to their homepages or blog posts and look for a signup form somewhere. Any good blog will have one.

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You should get a few emails from their personal email addresses within the first few days of subscribing—perfect.

If for some reason you can’t find an email address, opt for a Twitter or LinkedIn account instead.

Engage your experts to boost your success rate

If you send 50 emails, would you rather get 20 or 30 responses? Obviously 30.

The biggest mistake most people make when trying to do an expert roundup is sending cold emails.

“If I know the person that’s sending the pitch…, I’m 20x more likely to contribute.” — Brian Dean

In general, the bigger the expert, the more you need to do to get on their radar.

You need to find a way to stand out enough that they know who you are by your name or at least don’t think you’re a stranger.

Here are some ways you can use to establish contact in almost any niche:

  • Leave thoughtful comments: Unless they only get a few comments per post, you’ll need to leave thoughtful commentsideally, near the top of the commenting section of each post. There are four or five names I recognize just because they’re always leaving me detailed comments within an hour or two of me publishing a post on Quick Sprout.
  • Mention them in articles: While you can’t do this for everyone, you can mention some experts in your other blog posts. Send them a quick email, telling them you featured some of their work, or mention them on a social network by using an “@” or a “+” symbol, depending on the network.

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  • Submit their best content on Reddit (or similar site): Then send them a quick email once it gets a few comments and upvotes. Tell them you submitted it and that the commenters would probably appreciate a response if your influencer has a spare minute.

The key thing in any of these methods is to do something useful or valuable for the expert and then let them know about it in a non-pushy/polite way. Don’t be limited to just these three techniques if you have other valuable skills you could offer.

Step 3: Pitch perfect

If it’s your first time doing this, the first two steps probably took at least a few hours. You’ll get faster over time.

Now you need to contact your experts through the email addresses you’ve gathered (it’s okay if that took a few days).

Just to set your expectations, you need to realize that even very successful bloggers get only 50-60% reply rates when they do expert roundups. If you have an unknown blog, it’s going to be at least a bit lower (but it should be over 30% if you follow everything here).

When emailing, the most important things to keep in mind are:

  • keep it as short as possible
  • make the question clear
  • don’t seem desperate
  • be polite/sincere

I’ll give you a template you can use, but as always, you should take the concepts here and create your own. That way, your email won’t look as everybody else’s.

Subject: Expert roundup for [website]

Hi (name):

I’m a big fan of your blog. You’re my go-to resource when I want to learn about [specific topic they write about – get this right!].

I’m creating an expert roundup, and you were one of the first names to come to mind that I’d love to include. Here’s my question for you:

If you could provide a 50-100 word answer, that’d be fantastic.

I’ve invited X other experts to add to the article. [Expert 1, 2, and 3 have already agreed – optional].

I’ll craft a great custom bio for you to attach to your response.

The deadline for an answer is [date – at least a week]. I really hope you are able to contribute.

Thanks,

[Name]

An alternative way to collect the responses is to include a link to a Google form that you create.

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You can include whichever fields you like. Only include what is necessary, though; otherwise, some experts might see the forms and decide it’s too much work.

I recommend including:

  • Name – so you know who’s answering
  • Email – only if you don’t have everyone’s email already
  • Question – obviously you need to include your question
  • Specific requests – ask them if they’d like to promote anything or link to a specific place

When people submit their answers, they will be sent to a Google Sheet that you can use just like any other spreadsheet:

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This will save you some work going back and forth between emails.

Important: After someone replies and answers the question, send them another email as soon as possible thanking them for contributing, and tell them that you’ll notify them when the article goes live.

Step 4: Craft an article that stands out

Now that you have your responses, hopefully at least 10-20, you can create your article.

Start with the headline. The rules for creating a strong headline here are the same as for any other article, but it’s much easier in this case.

The reason that it’s easier is because you’re limited in your options. You already have:

  • A number of experts
  • The fact that they are experts
  • The topic from your question

That doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room.

If my question was: “What is your favorite healthy snack for traveling?”, my headline would be something like: “22 Nutrition Experts Reveal the Best Healthy Snack for Traveling.”

Write an intro to introduce the topic, then summarize the results if you can (will depend on the question):

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Next, you just need to present the answers in an attractive layout. There are no specific rules as long as you are consistent.

Here’s an example:

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Get your experts’ pictures from your their About pages or Twitter profiles.

To write a good bio, you should have two or three sentences that explain:

  • who they are – not all the readers will know everyone
  • a highlight – say something notable about them (get from their About page)
  • any promotions – if you’d like to highlight a book or product

Don’t get lazy here. A good presentation will have a big effect on the number of shares and amount of traffic you get.

If you have a lot of experts (20+) and want to go the extra mile, sort the experts by categories.

To wrap up your content creation, you need to add click-to-tweet links throughout the content.

Install the TweetDis plugin. Then, select a good quote in each expert’s answer, and click the shortcut button in the WordPress menu.

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In the options, click on the dropdown arrow beside “Add” and choose “hint”:

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When you’re done, your text will look to your readers like this:

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If you pick a good sentence for each influencer, you’ll get quite a few extra tweets from your readers.

Step 5: Be clever with your promotion

The whole point of an expert roundup is to leverage the authority of your experts, so we’ll start with that.

Send out your thank-you emails

As soon as you publish, send an email to each influencer thanking them for participating, linking them to the post, and asking them to share it.

Here’s a template you could use:

Subject: Expert roundup is published!

Hi [name],

Thanks again for being one of the X great experts who contributed [what their opinion was on – e.g., their favorite snack]. The roundup is now up at:

URL

Please let me know if you’d like me to make any changes to your section.

If you’re happy with it, I’d really appreciate it if you shared it with your audience. I created a custom Twitter link that already has the title and link filled in if that makes it easier:

http://ctt.ec/Tab7Y

If I can ever help you share your work, just let me know, and I’d be happy to help.

Thanks so much,

[name]

To make that custom Twitter link, you’ll need to use ClickToTweet. Create an account and then fill out the form with your Tweet info:

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When you click on “Generate New Link,” you’ll get the HTML code for the link. Just copy the actual link from it, and paste it in the email.

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Email some more—to your list

Even if you don’t have a huge email list yet, this is still a great piece of content that they will be interested in.

Let the experts first share and comment, and then promote your post to your list a few hours later.

Contact commenters of other recent articles on the same topic

If you have the time, you can try this effective strategy to add highly engaged members to your readership.

The idea is to find other recent articles on a very similar topic. Anyone who has commented on these articles is probably still interested in the topic, and since you have a way better article, they’ll be happy to hear about it.

You can contact them to let them know about the article. You can also gently nudge them towards commenting and joining your email list.

To start, Google your article topic. Be specific:

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To filter the results to last week, click on “Search tools,” and then change “Any time” to “Past week”.

Open these links, and scroll down to the comment sections. Depending on your topic, you may not find any commenters that link to their sites (you can use their contact form). Even if you don’t, this only takes a few minutes to check.

If you do find someone, send them a quick email like this:

Hi [name],

I saw that you commented on [article title] on [website] a short while ago.

I thought I’d drop you a quick line and let you know about another article you’ll probably like. I rounded up X experts and got them to reveal [topic].

If you’d like to check it out, here’s the link:

[URL]

Let me know what you think about it. If you’re interested in more content like that, just sign up for email updates.

Cheers,

[Your name]

Alternatively, if the site uses Facebook comments or Disqus, try to leave a (non-spammy) comment that includes a link to your roundup.

Share it on social media

Just like any other post, you should promote this roundup according to your social media strategy. This means sharing it during the next few weeks.

Like I said before, you can also tag your experts on social media if they haven’t shared the post yet:

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Tag only a couple of experts each time you share the post so that you’re not bothering the same people over and over again.

In addition, find a relevant subreddit, and submit the post. Expert roundups typically do pretty well in most subreddits, which could drive another few hundred visitors to the post.

Step 6: Repeat and scale

I told you at the beginning that creating great crowdsourced content wasn’t easy.

That being said, it can produce great results for growing blogs.

If expert roundups work well in your niche, I recommend repeating them on a regular basis: somewhere between two to four times a year. Schedule them in your content calendar because it can take three to four weeks to put them together, as you’ve seen.

If you get exceptional traffic or links to your first roundup, you might be tempted to create them more often than that. But when you do them too frequently, you’ll either have to keep including the same people (many will get annoyed after a few requests), or you’ll have to include lower quality experts (which won’t produce the same results).

If you’d like to scale up your expert roundups, you’ll need to contact more experts. If you put together an article that featured 50, 60, or more experts on a really interesting question, it could have a long-lasting effect on your traffic.

To do so, you’ll probably need some help. Think about hiring a virtual assistant to complete the easier parts of this process. Show them this article, and have them find influencers and collect their contact information.

Additionally, they may be able to do some of the groundwork (creating bios, leaving comments) so that you could create your article without working on it for weeks or months.

Conclusion

If you don’t have authority, borrow it. I just showed you how.

Crowdsourced content is only going to get more popular in the future as other marketers and companies recognize the massive potential it has.

Most influencers get dozens of requests every month to participate in expert roundups but typically choose only a few to contribute to. If you do everything I laid out here, you will be one of them.

Have you ever put together an expert roundup? Let me know how it went in a comment below.

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