Social Influencer Prospecting with Co-Citation

by Jon Cooper

A few Saturday nights ago, I had a bit of a eureka moment.

I’d been thinking about how we could prospect for social influencers in a way that was more data driven than the current approach of doing keyword searches on tools like Followerwonk.

An interesting feature of BuzzSumo was introduced to me a few weeks prior by AJ Ghergich (@SEO), a marketer that’s very talented when it comes to content promotion. He pointed out to me that you can see exactly which Twitter accounts shared a given piece of content, via the ‘View Sharers’ button next to each result.


This was very interesting, and thought it would be useful to simply grab a list of who shared a specific piece of content that was relevant, and add them to our prospecting lists.

However, on that Saturday night, I realized that this feature was much more powerful than that.

But before we explain how, let’s start with how we currently generate quick-win link prospecting reports for new clients to give you the background knowledge required to make the connection.

What we do, as with any other link building agency, is we look at where our client’s competitors were getting links. We’d then combine those reports together to see which specific pages were linking out to multiple competitors. Linking out to 3 or 4 of our competitors is a much stronger signal of being willing to link to us than those pages that only link out to 1 competitor.

So, I realized that night that you could apply this same methodology to the concept of who would be interested in sharing our content, utilizing this BuzzSumo feature.

If Joe Shmo shared 6 of the top 25 posts on this topic, then there’s a good chance he’ll be interested in my content on this topic too.

Generating A Report

So let’s break down the process:

1. Type into BuzzSumo the topic of the content asset you’re trying to promote.


2. Click the ‘View Sharers’ button for each result & Export that data.



3. Merge all of the resulting CSVs together into a single sheet. (I use Terminal. More info here, step #3.)


Make sure to delete the extra header rows before proceeding to the next step.

4. Use the =COUNTIF formula in Excel to see which usernames occurred most in the entire list. (More info here, step #5.)


Finally, de-duplicate the list based off values in the username column (column F).

What this is doing is taking, for example, those who shared 25 different articles on your topic, and seeing which Twitter users shared the highest number of those articles. So if Joe Shmo shared 6 of those 25, it shows their interest in the topic, and potentially that they’d be very interested in your content as well.

Here’s an example file based off the top 10 most shared articles on Link Building, sorted by our new column (I marked as ‘occurrences’):

Weeding Out The Bots

Before you’re good to go, it’s important to clean up the data by introducing some indicator of whether they’re a real person or a bot, seeing as there’s many accounts on Twitter that just endlessly tweet links.

Luckily, we’ve got a couple metrics already in our spreadsheet:

  • Reply Ratio – the % of tweets from that user that are replies.
  • Retweet Ratio – the % of tweets from that user that are retweets.

You’re never going to be able to perfectly determine if a user is a bot based purely off those two metrics. For example, you might think a low reply rate (<10%) indicates it’s a bot, but some influential accounts (i.e. @TechCrunch) don’t interact much on this level with their followers. So, use the 80/20 rule if you’re just using these 2 metrics as aids. So for example, if they:

  • Share 30%+ of our seed list of content (so 3+ in the Occurrences column of our example file).
  • Have a reply rate less than 5%.
  • Retweet rate over 30% OR less than 1%.

Then they’re probably a bot. Far from perfect, but you get the point. I haven’t perfected this criteria quite yet, but will report back when I do.

Use Cases

This process can help you generate qualified lists of social influencers that you could use for:

  • Custom audience Twitter ad campaigns for content promotion
  • Organic social outreach to get them to share your content
  • General identification of influencers for various campaign types (i.e. finding guest bloggers)

My team will be mainly utilizing the first two, given that this list was generated in a way that makes those two use cases perfect.

Yes, you could use this tactic for general identification of influencers, but I don’t perceive it as anymore useful than a tool like Followerwonk (with the exception of relevance qualification), given its main purpose is to see who’s sharing relevant pieces of content, as opposed to i.e. who’s creating relevant pieces of content.

Assessing Its Usefulness

To me, generating prospecting lists in this way does a much better job of relevance qualification than any single keyword could ever do. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel and go all Alchemy API on a user’s Twitter stream. You can simply just pre-qualify a list of related, highly shared articles, which is much less work.

It’s also important to note that in these data exports from BuzzSumo you have a plethora of other data, such as the websites of the various Twitter users, so if you’re a marketer with limited resources and can’t generate this data otherwise with your own tools, this is another advantage.

What do you think?

Would love to hear your feedback on the idea. We’ll be scaling it up internally as we begin to ramp up our content promotion efforts.

Note: Would also love to know if anyone has a way to do this without BuzzSumo; I don’t want this post to seem biased towards their tool, I just didn’t know of another way to get this data quickly, although truthfully I’ve barely investigated alternatives.

This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 129 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper is a link builder based out of Gainesville, FL. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter @PointBlankSEO.

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  1. Kevin Pike says:

    Great share! I love using BuzzSumo for this exact type of thing… process and scale is the hard part. Happy to hear you got it figured out!

  2. Ben Finklea says:

    Brilliant! This would come in handy when you need to share a new infographic or white paper to a select audience.

    Nice use of Terminal, Geek. 😉

  3. Ernest says:

    Is link building still important? My website has no quality links but still ranks top of the first page for my favourite keywords. Seems to me that content and keywords and the age of the website is till the most important criteria for ranking.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      You’re right, let’s draw conclusions about the entirety of SEO based off your specific site in your niche.

      • Garry Egan says:

        Comment #win by Cooper.

      • Sean says:

        You leave Ernest alone, his forex site is doing great in South Africa with no links, obviously apart from the links in the comments and the other 600 or so he has built.

        Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on using BuzzSumo, personalisation when prospecting for new links is huge and only going to become more important, if you can make a connection with someone over a shared interest, such as a piece they shared or commented on it will make them more likely to share your work.
        This would also be a good technique to use to find contributes to a piece of content people who contribute to a content piece are much more likely to share it..

    • Philip M says:

      Says the guy who is commenting with his forex website lol

    • Vincent says:

      Yes, I think link building purpose is quality back links, generate traffic, and of course a great opportunities for you and for us if we want to get rank our website.

  4. Great post Jon and definitely going to look into your outreach services

    I was doing this yesterday but manually weeding through and teaching our interns. Its remarkable the number of spammy pbns that link to high end content or twitter bots etc!

    Would work nicely to collate a few link opportunities also!


    • Jon Cooper says:

      Thanks Daniel!

      Yep, even strictly on the pure link building end of things, you can just pull the URLs from these profiles and you’ve got yourself a raw prospecting list of publishers already vetted for relevance, so the tie in there is great 😀

  5. sadhu says:

    Hi john, thanks for the amazing article. I find buzzsumo helpful when looking for a wider influencers. But when it comes to niche related influencers, with in a selected region, what you think about that. for example i work for a very reputable local banking client, they want to do a campaign targeting a specific city. considering this a comment page i cant reveal much info, would be great if you interested to have a nerdy chat please email sadhu {at} inspiredagency {dot} co {dot} UK . Would like to know your thoughts on what you think about my approach to this client.

  6. You are my Teacher! Salute for your research and guiding us! Sir. . ! 🙂

  7. well, recently ahrefs.com introduced the content explorer tab which gives the similar social results but i think going step by step as per your process using buzz stream is the only effective way. cheers!

  8. hey John excellent article.

  9. Rojer Martin says:

    Nice post on writing content on a popular topic. It will not only save my time from thinking about a good topic but it will perform in a good way too by a good user engagement.

  10. This is a very awesome strategy Jon,
    To think that I’ve been using Buzzsumo for awhile now but never thought of this feature is crazy. This will really make it much easier to promote any piece of content on the internet.

    And yes i agree with you that when someone linked out or shared up to 3 of your competitors article, there is certainly more possibility of him sharing yours too than someone that just shared one.

    A very actionable tip Jon, will just try it.

    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Best blog so far, proper tips i found here.

  12. Hi Jon,

    thanks for this article, really helpful!

    I just contacted a lot of influencers via followerwonk last week, but this approach is higher %. I just made a list as an exercise for this post, and it gave me 6 people that shared multiple pieces of content around meditation (here in the netherlands)

    Let’s see where this takes us.

    Greetings from The Netherlands

  13. rats & mice says:

    Perfect article, thanks for posting!

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  15. Dan says:

    Great tip! Thanks.

  16. Great post as per usual Jon.

    After one of my main sites got hit for PBN links a few months ago, I am trying to collate every tip in the book for outreach. keep this stuff coming!!

    Been using Buzzsumo for a long time! such a great little tool.

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  19. Anant Patel says:

    Hi Jon,

    Great explanation with image mate!! Buzzsumo is really good tool for social media. I am using Social sharing toolkit plugin in my blog and you can also see directly who share my tweets in their account. Check my blog and click on twitter count you will get ideas about it

    Thanks for valuable post Jon

  20. Really informative post for me. I have learn lots of think from your site. Thanks a lot for your excellent post

  21. Sean says:

    Amazing post Jon! You are extremely clever. I like your emphasis on using tools to scale and automate. I’m a lazy marketer so I love those…lol. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

  22. liam c says:

    great post Jon,

    i am currently interning at a UK based SEO company so this site and your articles are a gold mine for me, just wanted to say great posts and many thanks,


  23. shourav says:

    Great explanation with image mate!

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Finding Social Influencers with Co-Citation Link Prospecting