An engaging content strategy has been an essential part of many a successful marketing campaign in recent years. However, only 30% of marketers say their content marketing efforts are effective.

Luckily, there are now thousands of industry leaders out there who share their expertise online. They work hard to cultivate relationships and maintain their position as an authority within the industry, and connecting with them can help your brand tap into the power of influencer marketing—an outreach strategy that goes hand-in-hand with content marketing.

Partnering with influencers helps get your message in front of a much larger audience and drive conversions, as well as help accelerate buyers' decisions.

Moreover, taking a closer look at what key influencers are sharing can help you remain competitive, especially if they're your fellow marketers.

Fractl (my employer) recently created a list of 21 marketing influencers based on a combination of follower count, regular Twitter usage, and a percentage of marketing-focused tweets. Using BuzzSumo, we analyzed the most recent 100 links each of these marketers shared on Twitter over a two-day period (excluding links to his or her own site) to get a better understanding of what they're talking about and what sites they're visiting to discover best-practices.

Here are four takeaways from that analysis; use them to elevate your content strategy and amplify your outreach efforts.

1. Subscribe to niche sites: These publishers are regularly promoting content that provide best-practices

Although a lot of the most-shared sites were household names—including Inc., Entrepreneur, and Forbes—most marketing influencers recognize the value of learning from their colleagues and so they turn to industry-specific sites to get inspired and fuel their marketing-related tweets. Moz, Content Marketing Institute, and Convince & Convert all earned spots on the top 10 most-shared list.

Additional analysis revealed that most posts offered a list of tips and other ways to optimize marketing efforts. These tweets also favored content specific to the digital marketing industry, with hashtags like #seo, #content, and #inbound used frequently.

A key takeaway for marketers? To remain competitive, visit these niche sites daily to review posts that outline the latest industry trends.

2. Tweets that featured big-name publishers tended to focus on entrepreneurship, which means these sites have lead-generating potential

A lot of the influencers included in our study are entrepreneurs, so it's not too surprising that most of their Twitter feeds highlight links from publishers that focus on best-practices for business owners (e.g., Entrepreneur, Forbes, Inc.). Popular hashtags included in these tweets were #entrepreneur, #startups, and multiple abbreviations for small business such as #smb and #sbz, further emphasizing the focus on entrepreneurship.

For marketers, this means there are a ton of potential leads visiting these sites in the form of entrepreneurs and founders. To drive conversions, outline an outreach strategy that targets these sites while promoting content that highlights the high ROI of content marketing.

3. Expand your marketing efforts to include more social channels, particularly those focused on visual content

Another popular topic with these marketing leaders? New social networks that promote visual content.

Instagram and Snapchat were featured in more tweets than Facebook and Twitter, with popular posts indicating that more brands are investing at least some of their marketing budget in these younger networks.

However, another trend seems to be that most brands simply don't understand how to use these new platforms at all. Consider the following headlines shared by Mike Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner:

  • 6 Easy Ways Your Business Can Get Snapchat Followers
  • The Ultimate Snapchat Tutorial
  • 4 Simple Steps to Share Your Snapchat Username

These indicate that readers are interested in the very basics of Snapchat. The silver lining for marketers? The frequency of these posts indicates that there is still room for your brand to remain competitive in the space.

4. Don't discount the value of self-publishing sites

Influencers also revealed a preference for publishers that rely heavily on user-generated content. Both LinkedIn and Medium earned spots on the top 10 list for overall most-shared sites. And when you include Business2Community, SlideShare, and YouTube—all of which earned a spot on four influencers' personal top 3 list—one-third of the marketers included in our study are regularly sharing posts from self-publishing sites.

A bonus? Due to the nature of these sites, there was no established trend in what topics were shared, so posts covered a variety of verticals. For instance, some were more technical—including this presentation shared by Moz founder Rand Fishkin on how to optimize unstructured data for search—while others were a simple list, such as on how to boost productivity, shared by Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Marketing.

The big picture? Influencers are a great source to determine what's working

Keep in mind that the way brands connect with consumers has changed. A rise in social platforms has empowered people and offered new ways to build communities and niche networks. As a result, consumers now look toward each other and industry leaders before making decisions.

Marketers can learn a lot from these more established voices who are driving decisions, and these 21 influencers offer ways you can improve your current marketing strategy. (See the complete list of influencers along with additional insights into what topics are leading today's marketing discussions.)

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Marketing Influencers: Four Ways to Elevate Your Content Strategy and Amplify Your Outreach

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image of Andrea Lehr

Andrea Lehr is a brand relationship strategist at content marketing agency Fractl, where she works alongside a team of creative strategists to produce data-driven campaigns about industry trends.

Twitter: @AndreaMLehr

LinkedIn: Andrea Lehr