Just stop it: why influencer outreach is dumb in 2016

“I really like [Star Trek Online], and seeing it marketed in such an underhanded way just feels … icky.”

  • Kotaku commenter, DarthPumpkin

The content of this Kotaku article is a perfect example of Internet marketing gone wrong.

The article shares a “pitch” email from a marketer. In this case, the marketer has identified a list of authors / bloggers / vloggers / media outlets with large, active audiences (called influencers in marketing-speak) and has devised a process in which the influencers can (favorably) review his or her client’s product in exchange for $120.

As a marketer who, sadly, has both designed and executed virtually identical influencer outreach plans I have to say that being put on blast by Kotaku is probably my biggest nightmare.

Here’s why.

At the core of influencer outreach is the idea that influential people got that way by being manipulated by the industries they influence. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Influencers are passionate about their industries and can see right through your marketing bullshit. Keep in mind, they know WAY more about whatever you are trying to shill than you do. They probably know it sucks. Their fans probably know it sucks. $120 isn’t going to keep it from sucking.

So how do brands reach influencers?

Easy. Stop sucking.

The best way to get on an influencer’s radar is to build a product worthy of being there. I have trouble believing that this is a difficult concept to understand, yet I continually see influencer outreach attached to marketing plans of all levels and ambition.

So why is influencer outreach still a thing? I’ll answer that succinctly. Because it sells.

The line item influencer outreach is almost NEVER questioned by clients and marketing VPs. Simply put, it sounds good and is one of those things that everybody thinks is a great idea without proof of it ever being one.

So the moral of the story is, if you can’t be smart, sound smart.

 

Leadership vs. Mentorship

In my career, I’ve been asked to build and lead teams.

It’s definitely an exciting proposition to build and lead a team. Having the resources and authority to staff your own department is a luxury not afforded to all. But what exactly is leadership? Does having a title make you a leader?

In my experience, no. We’ve all had bosses that couldn’t do their job for shit. We’ve all thought, I could do that better.

For me, leadership starts with helping those around you, including your boss who may (like it or not) need to learn from you. For me, leadership is mentorship.

Think about the opportunities you have on a daily basis to help those around you develop their skill vs. fix a problem for them. In the workplace, problems can be a good thing as they are indicative of someone pushing either their own limits or the limits of an assignment.

As an employee, the easier and safer way to (relative) prosperity is to show up and do as you’re told. As a leader, the more difficult path of challenging brand dogma and questioning why things are the way they are creates a deep understanding of project needs and goals.

Armed with a deep understanding of the issues at hand, leaders remove boundaries for staff members.

For example, if a member of my team is an excellent marketer but relies on an agency to provide images for a Facebook ad carousel, I will teach that team member enough Photoshop to stimulate a personal desire to learn more.

As another example, if a team member is a strong digital artist but lacks significant experience as a digital marketer, I will show that artist how to build audiences in Facebook that he or she could then create specific pieces of art that may appeal to specific audiences. Then, I’ll empower that artist with his or her own campaign so he or she can see, first hand, how creative and audiences work together to generate engagement.

At the heart of mentorship is empowerment. By empowering those around me to develop passionate interests in personal development, my job as a leader becomes easier. I don’t have to worry about people coming in late, leaving early or slacking off half as much as I normally would with a disenfranchised workforce. Also, I don’t have to worry about staff turnover as much which reduces lost work time and the costs associated with finding and training new talent.

In conclusion, I think it’s important to mention that even mentors need mentors. Don’t overlook this. Being the smartest person in the room is a terrible thing. Always look for professional opportunities to both share your knowledge and to gain it from others.

[BATTLEPLAN] Marketing to Generation @Me

As a marketer, I consider most people aged 13 to 30 years to be a part of Generation @Me where likes, comments and follows serve as social currency.

If you want to design a program that appeals to Generation @Me, you need to first design a program with social currency flow baked-in.

I say baked-in because social currency flow can’t be something you layer in or place on top of a program. It has to be the program.

Here’s the “How do I market a brand or IP to Gen@Me” formula

  1. Be a thought leader, influencer and taste maker which means being EXTRAORDINARY at something
    1. If you are not already all of the above, you’re pretty much dunzo because there’s someone out there that is.
    2. You can rent a thought leader but at the end of the day, the majority of the equity stays with the thought leader.
  2. Bring your personal audience to the public brand
    1. You need a small but committed group to spread your message. These are people that can vet you personally.
  3. Show and share the love
    1. As a thought leader, you have pockets full of social currency to pay out. As you like, comment, follow or otherwise pay out social currency, you’re rewarded with social currency in return. This is social currency flow.
  4. Become a bank
    1. Be mindful and selective of how and who you lend social currency to. More often than not, you can lend it to yourself to launch additional brands.
  5. Sell shit
    1. Here’s where people start – they want to sell things so they use social as a layer instead of the program. They’re thinking backwards.

In conclusion, I’d just like to acknowledge that anyone could disprove the above with a case study of someone that did something great who wasn’t an influencer or didn’t have any knowledge of what they were doing, The above is (somewhat) agnostic of being lucky, having influential parents, friends, loved ones or being in the right place at the right time – all of which can elevate your success levels no matter how much you suck :)

Windows 10 phones are full-size PCs

This is a very good idea and could potentially be an Apple killer.

Windows 10 phones can function as full-size PCs when connected to a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Apple still has the “cool” factor but seriously, Apple wants you to buy an iPhone, an Apple Watch, an iPad, a MacBook, an iMac and an Apple TV. That’s 6 devices with so much redundancy between them. There’s nothing sexy or cool about redundancy – two of Apple’s core appeals.

Here’s why I love the idea of your phone doubling as your PC:

  • Less is more. Uncluttering your life is always better than complicating it.
  • One device to upgrade vs. six
  • One device for your life – work, home, play.
  • Store everything in the cloud, including backups. Lose your phone? Buy a new one, restore from the cloud.
  • Charging docks that double as USB, HDMI and Ethernet connection stations.
  • Your job pays for your phone.

Horsepower and heat are the only remaining issues. Battery life? Maybe. But if your phone is docked all day at work, maybe not.

UPDATE 01.04.16 – USB-C display with included USB hub

http://www.engadget.com/2016/01/04/acer-h7-usb-type-c-display/

Planned Failure

Perhaps the most overlooked success tactic is planned failure.

We seem to proceed with themes and projects as if they’ve already been embraced by our audience before our audience has ever seen the theme or project. Then, when our themes and projects underperform, we walk away because failure was not part of the plan.

When failure is part of the plan, you get this wonderful thing called iterative learning where audience feedback is applied to a theme or project and successful improvements are made.

It’s a wonderful thing and makes everyone feel talented and smart . And if there’s one thing talented and smart people need it’s constant reassurance. Without it, their skills atrophy, they leave for other opportunities or otherwise begin to suck. Then you have sucky people working on ill-planned projects and, well, you don’t have to plan to fail in that case because it’s almost a certainty.

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