Influencer Marketing: We’re Going About It All Wrong

Marketers ruin everything – I’m sure you’ve heard this term before, but maybe you haven’t had it explained. It means that once a platform gains massive amounts of attention, marketers swarm to sell stuff to all the people spending their time there. Then, people quickly begin to get turned off by the marketing and, if nothing is done to filter the marketers, they will end up leaving the platform.

This describes what is happening with “Influencers” across social and digital media.

To clearly describe what I’m talking about let’s define the term influencer. An influencer is someone with a large following that pays attention to what they have to say. The concept is nothing new, we’ve been paying attention to people we respect for centuries. But we began coining them influencers to label people engaging their audiences across social media.

As new as the term influencer is, it was pounced on by marketers across the world to the point of saturation. Just surf Instagram or Youtube for an individual who has gained and large following due to their looks, talents or status, and you will probably find them promoting products or services.

As of this writing, Influencer Marketing is one of the most efficient way for a brand to spend their time. The problem is, many marketers are going about it the wrong way. We are all so romantic about the views. Marketer’s pitch influencers based on their follower numbers, instead of how engaged their following is.

To explain where I am going with this I want you to imagine you are at a party with 500 people in the same room. None of the 500 people know each other, and know one knows who the host is. Then all of a sudden the host comes out, introduces himself as an author and tries to immediately sell everyone his new book which they can buy in the back of the room.

This is a terrible way to get people to buy something, and it’s the same way brands are approaching influencers. Instead of identifying Influencers who have the most engaged audiences relevant to their goals, they are targeting influencers purely on their follower numbers.

If you pay an Instagrammer who has 4 million followers to post your product, but they also get paid $200k a year to post products for hundreds of brands, your product won’t really make that much of an impact. Their audience isn’t hanging on their every recommendation because they know all they do is promote products.

This is why you won’t see results from using an Influencer Marketing network or service. They are full of influencers who are just trying to make a buck for posting content with products. All you will get are views, which don’t mean shit when your goal is to sell products.

If you really want to make Influencer Marketing have a positive ROI for you brand, you have to go about it in a thoughtful way.


First and most important, figure out what your goal is. If your goal is to immediately drive revenue you’re going to have to go big and find an Influencer who is widely respected in their industry. Authoritative influencers captivate their audiences who tend to hang on their every word. A note of caution however, if you don’t have a huge value prop for them, they won’t even entertain your offer.

If your goal is to experience long term brand growth and trust, you should go after influencers with smaller audiences that are highly engaged. Just look at the likes, comments and shares on each of their posts and compare that with their audience size. Do they have 100-200 points of engagement with only 5k-10k? That’s pretty damn good. Are the comments authentic and positive, or are they spammy and fake? When you find an influencer that looks like they are a perfect partner reach out to them with a very specific request and a huge value proposition for them.

For one of our clients, we ran an Influencer campaign in which we asked them to create content using our client’s product in any way that they felt helped grow their own brand. In exchange, we would post their content on our clients Instagram and tag the influencer as the host of a contest. The contest would ask people to tag someone who found value in the post, and they could win a prize. We then boosted the content with some of our client’s media budget as “payment” for the influencers participation. Finally, the influencer got to takeover our clients Instagram Stories to announce the winner.

There was multiple points of value for the influencer:

  • They got exposure to our client’s audience
  • They got exposure to new audiences supported by our client’s media budget
  • They got to giveaway a free gift that they didn’t pay for
  • They got to interact with our audience with an Instagram Story takeover

Our client got the benefit of:

  • Gaining the attention of the influencer’s audience
  • Engaging a portion of the audience
  • Getting recommended by someone with an audience thus building social proof
  • Building a reputation as a fun, exciting and engaging brand

Being this thoughtful in your strategy will result in steady brand growth and engagement over time as you tap into new communities. Here are a few suggestions to get you on the right track:

  • Remember sometimes smaller is better – research engagement not just follower count
  • Develop a specific value prop that you know is delivering more value to them than you
  • Be open to new ideas from influencers
  • Offer to sponsor them for a few months to tryout a relationship and build trust within their audience
  • Support their goals of growing their audience
  • Find a way to measure against your goals

If you do your research, nurture relationships and deliver value, you will build a brand that brings consistent long term ROI before you know it.

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