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?

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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