In a recent Cision report, researchers found that “80 percent of influencers are pitched off-topic information,” which, reading between the lines, likely means the large majority of influencers are rejecting incoming pitches too. Influencers are an understandably selective group—their brand can be made and broken on the right and wrong choices of work. There are very few legitimate influencers who would be willing to risk the brand equity they’ve worked so hard to amass over time to represent something not in keeping with their persona. Yet, brands still seem to struggle with square one of influencer marketing: influencer selection. When choosing an influencer to work for your campaign, make sure not to commit any of these seven deadly sins of selection and interaction.
Like any pitch, you need to be well-prepared in advance to deliver a compelling message to the right group or individual. Pitching influencers is no different and homework begins at the onset. This means checking out the influencer’s blogs and looking through their social accounts. The more thorough, the better. Take notes on the information and genuinely read the posts. Search for background on these individuals to develop a fully formed understanding of who they are and the brand they put forward for themselves. Starting with this approach not only means you’ll never pitch a bad fit again, but also inform your targeted pitch to be that much stronger.
If you’ve begun any influencer pitches via email with something like “dear influencer,” don’t panic—but also never do that again. This dreaded, formulaic email with a bland salutation comprises a major sin of influencer selection, which is generic pitches. If you’ve done your homework, you can sprinkle your pitch with some of the knowledge you’ve discovered about these individuals. You’re looking to do business with them as people first and foremost.
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Exposure and free products alone won’t get you a contract with an influencer. While free products might be nice to have, they certainly don’t pay the bills. Having an influencer post your press release comes at a cost. Same goes for your advertorial guest feature. Travel is often a common component to influencer work as well, and they won’t travel for miles, using their own gas, without you covering the expenses. Influencers should absolutely expect to be compensated fairly for everything you are requesting of them.
Influencer relationship building is just like dating. If someone says no, it means no—end of story. Continuing to barrage uninterested influencers with emails will only guarantee you’ll get blocked and put on a blacklist. Plus, keep in mind that influencers often talk to other influencers, which means word of your reputation can spread quicker than you might think. Treat your influencers like you would like to be treated. Be respectful of their time and considerate of their craft. Make sure you’re always giving clear directions, especially from the onset—after a post has gone live, asking them to make change after change will also be considered harassment.
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Influencers aren’t hired shills. Nor are they extensions of your creative or marketing departments. It is disrespectful to think of influencers as open resources for free ideas, and you should never pick their brains without giving them a consulting fee. Influencers are businesses. Many of them have offices and some even have a staff of employees to help everything run smoothly. Their time is valuable and you aren’t the only one pitching them. Influencers need to be treated with respect as fellow professionals.
Never, ever ask an influencer to break the rules of the industry. Requesting no-follow links is an absolute deal breaker. You’re essentially asking an influencer to run the high risk of having Google penalize their website in the search engine results page. Be sure you understand that influencers are required to use no follow links by Google—here’s the link to Google’s specifics for influencers to keep compliant with Google Webmaster guidelines. Also, never ask an influencer to neglect the use of disclosures. This includes hiding, burying or otherwise being sneaky about disclosing that content is sponsored. While the FTC will not likely go after the influencer unless they have a big stature online, the influencer will take this as a reflection of your business practices and ethical principles.
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Influencers are professionals, and like many people in business, they want feedback. In most cases, they want to know what you thought of their work—the positives and the negatives. Take the time to compliment and provide constructive criticism as needed post-campaign to the influencers you’ve contracted. At the very least, and sadly this is still a rarity, a simple “thank you” goes a long way.
There are plenty of wrong ways to go about selecting influencers as well as interacting with them following their hire. Sometimes both the brand and influencer are ill-advised in partnering—for example, to promote a food product for kids, it would be a mistake for a brand to approach a travel influencer without any children and equally wrong for that influencer to accept the work offer. Fortunately, there are more and more resources to educate yourself on best practices. My hope is that this list will help enlighten brands and marketers in how they approach working with influencers in the future.