When I pitch my influencer marketing services these days on behalf of my digital agency Gerris, I find that I am not competing against humans at other agencies, I am fighting it out with Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, Bing Ads and even Pinterest Ads.
What’s more, because there have been so many bad actors in the influencer marketing space, it’s quickly becoming perceived as a cash-only, pay-per-post, payola game. I guarantee you that if you reach out asking me to write about your product, service, client, or event and you’re unable to give me a plausible, compelling, or attractive why, then I’ll do one of three things:
- Ignore or delete your email (some report as spam)
- Ask for too much money (to make ’em go away, though they often pay)
- Out your terrible, insulting, pitch onto my sites and the Bad Pitch Blog
When you do outreach you never hear back from 1 so, if you’re tone deaf, you’ll just assume that everyone you reach out to with your insufficient outreach comes back with their rate sheet in one hand and their right hand out for the cash. Payola, baby!
Almost three years ago I wrote Blogger outreach is more PR than social media. I think it’s worthwhile going back this this article if you haven’t read it before. In it, I go through my process and talk about the value of earned media versus paid post.
Much along those lines, earned media is still the best policy. Here’s what we do these days:
- Prepare every campaign as if it’s a traditional PR campaign (it’s not selling, it’s sharing)
- Make sharing, posting, and blogging your pitch is as easy as possible (premasticate!)
- Make sure your “gift” (be it review products or exclusive news) is perceived as valuable by the influencers
- Be responsive to any and all questions, queries, or concerns by hand immediately (be kind!)
- Reach out several times (see “ignore or delete your email”) because people are busy and they don’t know you. Let ’em know you mean business. That you’re serious and intent on communicating with — reaching — them
- Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it — these are not sales conversion, they’re real people and you’re investing in community not links, not SEO, not Google Juice or social signals.
Remember, if your campaign doesn’t check all the boxes of being a publicity, PR, or buzz campaign, it won’t work as an earned media campaign. And, if you can’t convince the blogger or social media influencer that what you bring to the table today, via email or DM, is a win-win-win, then you’ll end up with goose eggs.
“Gifts” can be anything: exclusive embargoed news, access to an early private beta, access to your client for interviews or meet-and-greets, copies of your book in whatever format the influencer prefers (including Kindle-native, a PDF won’t do), full-size test products. You can go for sending testers but beware of being perceived as cheap — influencers love to be spoiled (actually, most insist on being spoiled).
No matter what your ultimate agenda, no matter what your final goal, being perceived at all, ever, of being a user “just for juice” and you’ll be lucky if you just get a request for money. If that’s what you’ve been doing, pull the plug and go back to the drawing board — it’s worth the time. If you do your job, you’ll not only be securing mentions and reviews — and links — on blogs and across social networks but you’ll be initiating what could be a persistent, long-term, professional relationship.
When you make an acquaintance online it’s up to you to convert that casual engagement into a full-blown relationship. The best brands have teams of ambassadors who are very happy to not only tweet or blog once on your behalf but become a happy part of your volunteer ambassador squad or even, if they’re luck, a sponsored team.
Did I know about Oiselle Running and Athletic Apparel for Women before last Friday? No. But I sure as hell do now! I have been indelibly branded by Oiselle because they have both done an amazing job of engaging their community and also providing products that women like (you need to do both, right? You need to start with an amazing product even before you start an influencer marketing campaign). And, now that I have seen Oiselle in real life during the 5k, I see Oiselle ambassadors everywhere, especially on Instagram — over 18,648 #oiselle tags!
So, it’s not about selling, it’s not about marketing, and it’s not about advertising. It’s about relating, it’s about engaging. If you can find people who ache to become part of Team You and you treat them special and give them an amazing experience and a generous gift, you can earn the (free) attention of hundreds if not thousands of people. And, unlike ads, these reviews, links, and mentions persist forever and don’t just fade away the moment you stop paying your ad networks.
Now it’s your turn. Remember that there are a million real people in two million real bunny slippers out there who could potentially join Team You in 2016. Stop treating them like numbers and appreciate them all for the beautiful Children of God that they are.
Go git ’em, Tiger!