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.



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