How I Earned a Feature in Forbes With Social Media

Your phone rings. When you answer, it’s a journalist from the most important media source you can possibly think of. Wave a magic wand. Who is it? Oprah? The New York Times? CNBC? That pinnacle for me is Forbes. Why? My target audience (those running professional services practices) not only read Forbes, but they trust it as a credible source.

In this article, I’ll share with you how I earned a feature in Forbes with social media. [Article update: as of November 27, 2017, it’s now two articles]

Forbes article from November 27, 2017 – Leveraging Social Media’s Top Secret: The ROI Of Top Of Mind

Forbes article from February 16, 2016 – How To Achieve Great PR When Your Product Is A Service

On September 16, 2015, I was the Keynote Speaker for Social Media Breakfast Madison. During that talk, I shared my goal to be featured in Forbes. I was initially hesitant to mention that goal, though, since I had no idea how I’d accomplish it.

I shared the things I’d already done, and showed the audience where I was trying to go.

Something really cool happened: people who attended that speech contacted me in the subsequent months to ask, “How’s the Forbes thing going?”

Goal-setting tip: if you really, really want to accomplish one of your goals, just share it publicly. Well-meaning friends will keep you on-task.

On November 4, 2015 at 5:15 a.m. central time, like I do each morning during the business week. I was browsing Help A Reporter Out (HARO) {get my Help A Reporter Out Cheat Sheet here} email that was in my inbox. If you haven’t subscribed to HARO yet, please do. It’s a FREE email subscription that matches reporters with potential sources (you). In this email I saw this query from writer Cheryl Snapp Conner of Forbes –

Paraphrasing, her query said – “How are you using LinkedIn for thought leadership and PR?”

“Here’s my shot!” I thought to myself. “I’ve been using LinkedIn to publish articles to build my personal brand, and I know the Forbes readers will really benefit from the tips I’ll share.”

  • About a week later, Cheryl published the article for which she was seeking sources in Forbes. I was not mentioned at all in her piece. I was disappointed, and I felt like I missed my chance.
  • A couple weeks after that, because Cheryl’s first article performed so well, a second piece was published with the same theme. I was not mentioned in that article either. I became even more downtrodden.
  • A third article, yet again with the same theme, was published by Cheryl a week later. My brilliant recommendation was omitted from that piece too. I was despondent, and I’m ashamed to admit, a little salty.

“Who does she think she is? Writing three articles about this topic without even mentioning me? Doesn’t she know she’s affecting my confidence?”

Shortly after that, I found out who Cheryl really is.

In an attempt to convince myself that Forbes wasn’t that important to me anyway (sour grapes), I went to her Forbes Contributor page and started reading through the backlog of her stories.

Guess what I found out? Cheryl is a frickin’ awesome writer. Her column is absolute gold for those looking for real-life, how-to PR tips that are both tried and proven. I thought to myself, “Wow, I need to share her stuff with the audience I have on social media. They’ll really benefit from the work she’s done and the great ideas she’s sharing.”

So, I started sharing Cheryl’s articles on LinkedIn and Twitter. Each time I did, I tagged Cheryl in the post as a way of saying, “Thank you.” After all, she was doing all the hard work (writing the articles), and she was helping ME look good because I was sharing something of value with my audience.

To my surprise, Cheryl started acknowledging my shares. She’d reply with something like, “Thanks for sharing, Spencer!” How cool is that? This famous Forbes writer was thanking me in public. Since I knew she was paying attention, I continued sharing and she continued acknowledging. 

Let’s pause for a sec to think – why would Cheryl thank me for sharing her articles? I can think of three reasons:

  1. She’s a wonderful and generous person. That turned out to be absolutely true.
  2. Because I’m tagging her in the post, she actually KNOWS that I’m sharing her stuff. How many times have you shared articles online without telling the author you did? Please start doing that! Why? Because…
  3. Cheryl, as a writer for Forbes, is really measured by one overarching criterion by her editor. What do you think that criterion is? Is it the timeliness of the topic? Is it the quality of her writing? Compelling photos or graphics to accompany her posts? Nope. It’s website traffic. Forbes is a business, and the more website traffic I can drive to them, the more they can charge for their ads.

If I’m sending my audience to her article, thereby generating traffic for her posts AND making her editor happy, it’s just a good business practice for her to thank me, right?

Out of the blue, on February 15 of 2016, I received this very brief email from Cheryl after she visited my website:

“Spencer – we have much in common 🙂 I’d love to write a column on some of your best PR tips for entrepreneurs, that they could enact themselves without an outside agency (examples work great too) – and many thanks! Cheryl”

I, of course, emailed her a lengthy response later that night, and on February 17, this article went live.

Since then, I’ve continued to share Cheryl’s articles to the audiences on my social networks. She’s continued to thank me, and our friendship has grown.

What should you do with this idea? Use your social media presence to help other people look good, because only good things will result. Maybe your big opportunity is just around the corner.

Speaking of…would you please share this article and tag me in it? I’d love to thank YOU publicly as well.

Spencer X Smith

Spencer helps you save time through teaching digital marketing and social media strategies in plain English, after proving they actually work for himself first. He also is an instructor at the University of Wisconsin and a columnist for InBusiness.

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