Gini Dietrich

Eight Tips for Influencer Marketing Done Well

By: Gini Dietrich | March 24, 2016 | 

Influencer Marketing Done WellBy Gini Dietrich

Every time I see a Pantene commercial with Selena Gomez, it makes me laugh.

One look at her hair and you know she does not use Pantene.

She might have allowed them to use it on her right before the commercial was shot, but that’s the one and only time Selena Gomez has ever had grocery store shampoo on her hair.

I guarantee it.

Not only that, but she had a professional stylist do her hair for the professionally photographed shoot.

Because we all have professionals hanging out in our bathrooms, waiting to do our hair every morning.

That’s the perception Pantene wants to leave you with, of course, but it’s not transparent or authentic.

But hey, let’s continue to use celebrities for influencer marketing…because it’s so “real.”

The same goes for Lindsay Lohan “using” a drug store teeth whitener, Marshawn Lynch doing a QVC spot selling Skittles (albeit, hilarious), and Jerry Seinfeld in a Windows ad.

Sure, it might create interest—at least in watching the commercial or looking at the Instagram feed—but celebrity endorsements aren’t what they once were.

Celebrities No Longer Influence Us

Of course, there are brands that do it really well—Nike, for instance, always seems to be right on target.

But the reason most fail at this is we are no longer in an age where celebrities influence what we do, what we wear, or how we look.

You know who is? You. Your family. Your next door neighbor. Your friends.

In Influence Marketing, the book that Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella wrote, they talk about this phenomenon.

You can do one of two things when thinking about influencer marketing:

  1. You can save all of your pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters and C-notes to hire a celebrity for a one hit wonder; or
  2. You can work with people who might have 100 fans on Instagram or 3,000 followers on Twitter, but every one of those people takes an action when that person shares something.

Of course, you want to be certain the influencer actually uses your product. Transparency and authenticity don’t work, if not.

For instance, Android, Windows, or the “eat broccoli” association should never, ever ask me to help them.

But Apple, Trek, Peleton, SoulCycle, Athleta, or Lululemon?

I’m all over that!

In fact, I work with Iris, Zignal Labs, and Dynamic Signal because we use their products here and we believe in them.

Reputation is All You Have

In a recent podcast with Heidi Sullivan and Todd Cameron, we talked about this very thing: Influencer marketing has to be believable, transparent, authentic, and real.

I recently had an experience where an organization invited me to work with them as an influencer. I was pretty excited about it because it’s a brand I really believe in.

But, during the negotiations, it came out that their expectation was not that I would create my own content, but they would do it for me. And I would run it here, verbatim, as if I had written it myself.

When I pushed back on that, they said, “All of our other influencers love it because they don’t have to do the work.”

I walked away from the opportunity because we couldn’t get past that. I refused to run their canned messages here and they refused to let me do the content creation, based on my experiences working with their product.

I believe what I said was, “I cannot run a blog called Spin Sucks and then be found out spinning your messages for you.”

And that was the end of that.

But it’s true: Pretending that I had written that content would not have been believable, transparent, authentic, or real…and you all would have eaten me alive for it.

Warren Buffett said it best,

If you lose money for the firm, I will be understanding. If you lose reputation, however, I will be ruthless.

No, thanks.

No amount of money is worth ruining the trust we’ve worked so hard to build with all of you.

Influencer Marketing Done Well

If you want to do influencer marketing really, really well, here are some tips:

  • Find the people who already use your product or service. They might have already written about your or gramm’d about you or tweeted about you…and you saw a pretty large uptick just from that, alone. It’s fairly easy to find your big users who also have a social media following. Start there.
  • Your influencers don’t have to have large followings. Quite the opposite, in fact. There might be someone with 100 blog readers, but every time he or she recommends a product, 90 of them buy. You’d much rather have that than work with someone who has 169,000 Twitter followers and only 90 of them buy when he or she recommends a product. You can have a 90 percent response rate or a point zero, zero, zero five percent response rate.
  • Don’t try to control the relationship. Even if the influencer talks about the cons of your product or service, that is 10 million gazillion times better than he or she sending out your canned messages. It’s more real…and that authenticity builds trust.
  • Be clear about what you want. Earlier this year, I received a super cool virtual reality headset in the mail. To say I was excited about it was putting it mildly. But nowhere in the materials did the company tell me what they wanted me to do with it. I may have made one mention of it in a blog post, but that’s it. If you send an influencer something and you want them to do something with it (if they love it), tell them so. It’s okay to be clear and direct about that kind of stuff.
  • Request, don’t demand. Like my experience above, you want to make sure the requests you make still fit what the influencer already does. Remember, their community has been cultivated and nurtured with care. If you make demands of them, it won’t work. In fact, it might backfire. The only reason I’ve not named the company I walked away from is because I have an innate need to be liked. Not everyone cares whether someone who has made them mad still likes them.
  • Make it easy. Every, single human being has 16,000 other things they are doing. When you throw something like this into their world—exciting or not—it takes some effort to add it to their task lists and get it done. Make it easy as possible for them to do it.
  • Be open to new ideas. Likely the people you want to work with have done this a time or two before. Part of the allure of influencer marketing is you have several people (versus one celebrity) talking about your product or service. And you don’t want them all saying the same thing (like robots) or doing the same things. Let them dictate how they might be able to help you.
  • Require disclosure. Do you know that not one company I work with has asked me to be certain I disclose? I do, of course, because I know the rules. But if you are doing influencer outreach, please, please, please make sure you ask them to disclose the relationship.

And now the floor is yours.

Have you done influencer marketing or been asked to help support an organization? What tips do you have?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • Great piece, Gina. I’d like to recommend a 9th step, which is hyper-personalise your approach. I’ve been a PR, VP of digital, blogger and a journalist over the years and run blogger relations campaigns for major brands, and there are some basic things that comms pros do not do well enough:

    – research the blog (as a soccer travel blogger for I receive invitations to restaurant and cocktail bar openings – completely off-target!)
    – offer unique content, not spam
    – even get the editor’s name right – you’d not believe how often influencers get ‘Dear Blogger’ or ‘Hi there, I hope you’re well!’ opening gambits

    Influencers often receive spam, so it absolutely key to personalise/customise your approach.

    Readers might be interested in this podcast on pitching to influencers that I recorded this week with freelance tech journalist, Gordon Kelly (writes for Forbes, among others)

    • “even get the editor’s name right”

      Like Gini as opposed to Gina? 😉

      • Gini Dietrich

        Ha! Almost everyone makes that mistake.

      • Guilty as charged. Apologies, Gini.

    • Gini Dietrich

      Amen, amen, amen! Like you, I get ridiculous pitches. It’s pretty frustrating and makes me sad for the entire industry.

  • This is terrific advice on influencer marketing! Not sure why (insert sarcasm icon here!), but it totally reminded me of the classic Wayne’s World advertising scene – 🙂

    • Gini Dietrich

      Oh my gosh! That is SO FUNNY! I need to re-watch that movie. It’s all gold.

  • I’ve been sitting here for probably 10 full minutes trying to figure out how to respond. This is a favorite topic (for selfish reasons!) You raise such excellent points (side note: Selena’s stylist is welcome to occupy my bathroom and fix me up any morning that works for them). I guess the most logical place for me to respond from is the influencer side. // As you say, when all is said an done all we influencers have is our reputation. That’s why it’s important to choose who we work for carefully and execute well. This is a small nuance, but I am not sure how many influencers are out there whose followers will do what they recommend en masse. The math of that is probably a little more incremental (like some people will compel 25% of their followers to do what they ask vs others who would be doing well to get a 10% compliance rate). I agree it’s most effective to use influencers who are current users or who, at a minimum, like your product. In the fitness arena that’s big —- it would be ridiculous for me to do a campaign for shoes that are so painful to run in they result in injuries. // I know I have said somewhat petulantly here in commentland that some vendors won’t look at influencers who don’t have HUGE followings. I “get” the numbers of that, but appreciate you encouraging them to look at the “smaller” but arguably more passionate influencers. They will be heartened at how hard we will work for them. I would love to address all your points but I feel like I’m already writing a novel. Therefore, a few other thoughts not on your list. Influencers need to look at basics of their blogs (some of which I STILL HAVE TO DO): a press kit, easy share buttons, a public instagram page (honestly people apply for IG campaigns who have private profiles) // Networking is really important. I definitely outspent what I made to go to the International Auto Show in Miami (which was technically for “local” bloggers) but it has paid off in many ways and introduced me to the hispanic blogger community in South Florida as well as the automotive/women’s blogging community. It was worth every penny. // Lastly, going the extra mile creatively is probably a choice that can only ever help an influencer. Here’s what I wrote about that on LInkedIn Sunday.

    • Gini Dietrich


      • YEAH! That experience was out of this world (sorry I couldn’t resist).

        • Gini Dietrich

          Ba da dum!

        • Kate Nolan

          +1 (Where’s my “like” button???? 😉

          • I do miss the old “like” function. But thanks for the +1!

    • Gini Dietrich

      I have another friend who is doing some work with Netflix. She doesn’t have a huge following, but man alive! To your point, she’s super passionate and way more involved than anyone who has twice or three times her following.

      And LOL to the people who apply for Instagram campaigns who have private profiles!

  • Yes yes yes. It takes years to build up trust, and a second to lose it. Had to recently reject a pitch to try and review a margarine product, because margarine.

    • Gini Dietrich

      It’s so funny you say that because just last night Mr. D and I had a conversation about how we can’t use margarine. Because, butter.

      • a) Butter, always. Though sometimes shortening in certain baked goods. And for frying tacos. So bad, but so good.
        b) Parkaaaaaay. Butter. Parkaaaaaay. Butter. (Blame Liz, she got me thinking about old commercials!)

        • Did you see the old food sticks commercial I posted to my FB page? Oh so “vintage” (70s)!

          • Mmm… Yes, space food sticks. Just rolls off the tongue. 😉 (Note: I’m certain an astronaut would not have been able to open those with gloves on. #jussayin)

          • Yeah that would be awkward!

  • I wonder about the truth of this sentence: “When I pushed back on that, they said, “All of our other influencers love it because they don’t have to do the work.”” I suspect that SOME of the other influencers may have liked it for that reason. But I wonder just how much of that was a way of influencing the influencers to run the canned copy.

    • I agree, Bob. I loved working on the Florida Prepaid Program campaign – they gave us all the facts (which for obvious reasons had to be uniform) but free rein to incorporate them into our personal stories. It made it a pleasure to be a part of the campaign.

    • Gini Dietrich

      Based on my experience with them, I imagine it wasn’t truthful at all. I get being busy and needing stuff that makes your life easier, but not at the expense of killing the trust one has built with their community.

  • Dear Gini,

    I love you very much!

    Ahhhh… you know this is one of my favorite topics because we talk about it often enough!! I’ve been the campaign runner.. I’ve been the influencer.. and I’ve been the recipient of really bad PR email campaigns. I’ve seen these campaigns run really well (not often enough though, sadly) and I’ve seen them be a hot mess because the agency had no idea what they were doing (more often than not). I think the thing that I hate the most about influencer programs is when the brand we’re supporting doesn’t play a part in using the content that we’ve created. I rarely have a brand retweet my posts.. or share them.. or anything. I wish they would realize how much more effective their time and money would be if they did that one simple thing. My other beef with influencer campaigns is that agencies who just look at top surface numbers and not engagement (as you mentioned above). I may not have 250,000 MPV but I guarantee I’ll bust my tail and go above and beyond the call of duty to work with you. Unlike a lot of the influencers with those kind of numbers.. Anyhow…. glad you hit this today!!

    • Gini Dietrich

      They don’t share the content you’ve created. Mic. Drop.

    • Gini Dietrich

      (And I love you very much, too!)

      • Kristen, you are totally singing my song! AGREE!

        • It kills me!! And it’s not just one or two… it’s the majority of them that don’t use our content.

  • I am shocked. You mean you don’t think Anthony Davis who makes $7 million a year from is NBA team plus other endorsements wouldn’t go to the same H&R Block person I would go to?

    I am teaching a youth entrepreneurship class where the participants create businesses. I forwarded his post to one of the students that will be working with influencers. I thin the post will really help her.

    • Gini Dietrich

      I just spit water at my screen! And somehow I also don’t think Anthony Hopkins uses Turbo Tax.

      I’m so happy to hear from you! xo

  • Let me correct this ““All of our other influencers love it because they don’t have to do the work.” to “All of our other influencers “love” it when they sound like a robot.” Sigh.
    I am far from the influencer realm at the moment, but even now I’m thinking about what and how I would approach it. It has to be honest, thoughtful and appropriate and a lot, not all, but a lot of sponsored content misses at least one of those three requirements. I’d love to slap up a post and be like “whatevs”, but it’s important to me that everything is workable so people trust what I produce. Yes, it’s more work, but in the end it will pay off. Unless I win the lottery, then I’ll just slap up whatever. 😉

    • Gini Dietrich

      I’m fairly certain, even if you do win the lottery, you won’t slap up whatever.

      • Yeah… Probably not.

  • Great admiration for how you run you business and your life.

    • Gini Dietrich

      Thanks, Rose! I credit my mom.

  • I love this post Gini, a great intro to Influencer Marketing and how to do it well without being an ass with the blogging community.

    • Gini Dietrich


  • Yes! I <3 this. Are we actually supposed to believe Selena uses Pantene for real and our hair will look like hers if we do? No one really does, obv. So why do we continue to suspend our belief for ads like this? Why are they still so "normal" seeming? Self-aware ad campaigns are what really resonate, for me – like McDonalds. Like, just answer my questions for real and tell me what I want to know about your product and know that I have common sense and am not a fool. When a brand shows they recognize me and just want to offer me what they genuinely just have to offer, that's what impresses me.

    • Gini Dietrich

      I totally think if I use Pantene my hair will look like that. You don’t think so?!?! Did you just rain on my parade??

  • I’m a little confused on how Marshawn Lynch selling Skittles isn’t “real.” That was such a natural fit (and the QVC spot perfectly spoke to Marshawn’s particular brand of weird) that I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

    • it brought awareness to skittles but did it influence you to go buy them?

    • Gini Dietrich

      I have insider information so I know it didn’t work. Apparently he HATES Skittles and gave the team a really hard team when they asked him to do certain things. I’m not sure why he even agreed to it, but hey…I guess money talks.

      • I have to weigh in on this one (being that he’s a recently retired Seattle Seahawks player and I’m a die-hard Seahawks fan). I don’t know who said that Marshawn Lynch hates Skittles, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Unless he’s been leading a huge lie since he was a kid. He frequently eats them on the sidelines before or during games. It started with his mom when he played Pop Warner football. Lynch is about as anti-BS as it gets, so it’s hard for me to see him doing a spot for a product he hates. Now, I could believe that maybe he hated the Skittles people that were telling him what he could or couldn’t do or say. But I’m not buying that he hates the product.

        “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” – Marshawn Lynch

        More about the history of Lynch and Skittles:

        • Gini Dietrich

          Huh. The friend who worked on the campaign with him did not have very nice things to say about it all.

          • Gini Dietrich

            I’m totally going to call him right now and say he steered me wrong!

  • Great post Gini – my favorite subject. I think the market has evolved to the point where most people understand that influencers are not just celebrities. They play a role in certain instances but they don’t drive the results most brands want which is word of mouth with the right group of people. You are right that influencers don’t have to have a ton of fans but I think where most people get stuck is how they identify those people. If they use quantitative or qualitative metrics to make a decision they have to find a way to justify their time and money spent with those people. I’m excited to see the market continue to evolve their thinking beyond impressions.

    • Gini Dietrich

      I believe you have an answer to that, don’t you?!?!

      • for some people – but this is a big challenge with executives that don’t understand how this works still.

  • Laura Petrolino

    And THIS is precisely why Mickey Gomez and I believe Band-Aid should offer us a sponsorship.

  • Great piece Gini. Resonance over reach & learn to relinquish control.

    Influencers are influential because they consistently create compelling content that resonates with a select audience. The content resonates because it’s authentic.

    The more you try to control the message via a straight-jacket of a creative brief, re-write requests or pushing for further edits, the more the authentic voice is diminished to a whisper.

    Influencers have grown their audiences because their opinions chime with those of their audiences. So, let them speak. Let them speak in their voice. That’s why it’s so important to ensure you’re working with the most appropriate influencer in the first place.

    Ensure you do your digital due diligence. Ensure your chosen influencer(s) adhere to disclosure regs.

    FTC is going to start cracking down on non-conformers. It’s ruling on Lord & Taylor and with Xbox & Machinima are just the warm-up acts.

    Finally Gini – loved the C&C podcast last week. So pleased you made the decision not to become that ballerina!

  • Great post! I don’t use Pantene either (mostly Wen), but could sure use her stylist (but toned down a bit).

    No, I can’t say I’ve used influencers directly, nor have I been invited to do so. What’s up with that?! Don’t they know who I am!! I mean come on!

    I am also a little sick that this latest company wouldn’t allow you to post your comments and reaction in your own tone. Seriously, what is wrong with so-called “modern marketers” who are incredibly old-fashioned in their strong-armed and canned approaches?

    Real modern marketers know that speaking in one’s own voice, using real language and real reactions, is going to buy more goodwill and endorsements than anything they could suggest out of their copywriters. Please, people…work with us here!

  • I’ve been hoping for an up-to-the-minute roundup of influencer marketing strategies. Thanks for crafting this piece, Gini. I’ll be sure to point my students to it. ~ Alison 🙂

  • Thanks for your honesty, Gini! I feel like so often PR professionals become too wrapped up in selling their product, but as you point out, their reputation and transparency is far more important than who is in their ads/campaigns. As a college student, I agree with you 100% that celebrities do not influence us as much as they used to. Instead, my generation enjoys hearing about real people and the struggles they face. We like to see people like ourselves and how they benefit from a product; those “real people” are much more relatable than any celebrity could ever be. I enjoyed reading this blog and especially appreciate your advice on influencer marketing!

    – Mackenzie Ross, Writer/Editor for Platform Magazine (

    • I think we all prefer to hear from people who actually use the products. I mean, I could take a lot of money from ChromeBook and tell you I use it, but you’d be able to see through me. Because I am an Apple girl, through-and-through.

  • With great respect to my idol (that’s you Gini) I would have added ‘Show your gratitude’.

  • Kudos for walking away from the artificial influencer oppo. My B2B clients are increasingly understanding the need to engage with influencers. And since we’re already producing quality content on a regular basis, it positions us nicely to establish our cred and engage with them honestly.

    Influencer marketing is also often a great way to collaborate with the client’s corp comm team.

    • Thanks, Chris! And yes…you are absolutely correct. This is one of the very best ways to create real partnerships.

  • Any advice on how to work with influencers for B2B services (as opposed to B2C retail goods)?

    • Sure! Actually, all of my experience is on the B2B side so all of the blog post applies. But I don’t know that it matters. People are people and influencers want to be treated like human beings who are respected for their networks and the trust they’ve built with their communities. It’s about getting to know the influencer, figuring out how your service or product best fits what they already do, and then being open to working with them on something specific versus trying to get them to do the same thing as the other influencers.