Content marketing: Telling Meaningful Stories

How many brands get influencer marketing wrong

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Influencer marketing can be highly beneficial for all involved:

  • The brand 
  • The influencer 
  • The influencer’s audience 

Related: Influencer marketing defined 

But it can also backfire and make us look less positive and relevant than was intended. 

Here’s how influencer marketing often looks unfortunately: 

A brand out of the blue messages an “influencer” and says: 

Hi, what’s your address. We’d like to send you something. 

And then they often send some irrelevant thing that shows they don’t even know you. Some examples: 

  • I’ve received bottles of wine, but I’m a beer (or water) drinker.
  • I’ve received chocolates before – despite me blogging about weight loss and calorie control. And how I eat pickles for snacks. (Post on that here.)
  • Starbucks gift cards. I prefer Dunkin Donuts coffee.

And no, I’m not not thankful for people wanting to send me things, but let’s be relevant. If a brand cares about a connection and thinks it can help them, be sure to know what those people care about and what they stand for. Sending them the opposite isn’t showing that off. 

I know it’s hard to find relevant presents. Ask my wife! Or my team. I sent the team  Amazon gift cards because – though I know them – I find it unbearably hard to buy good gifts people actually like.

But I do know that there are people or there who are great at this. Get them involved in your influencer marketing gift program.

Let’s call it what it is: Those gifts up above will likely work for 80 percent of people. They are like that Amazon gift card. They are save, but when they are irrelevant, they are irrelevant. Yup, I appreciate the gesture, but we can do better. 

Quite honestly, I don’t even need presents but a free test run of a new tool or product is more meaningful. 

Another way brands reach out is messaging out of the blue, asking influencers to share content they “might care about.” Let’s get to know each other first, guys. And: Good content gets shared no matter what. No asking necessary.

This can work when all goals align:

Brand – we have something your audience might care about. How can we work with you? Yes, we want to sell more, but only when it’s relevant to our customers. 

Influencer – I always look for better ways to tell better stories and be more efficient. I also am always looking to learn new things. Teach me and I might share it. For me to endorse it, it has to work! 

The influencer’s audience – Don’t ever mislead them. If whatever the brand is offering is of value, share it. If not, don’t share it. Or share why it’s bit of interest to your community. Some marketing VPs might say that campaign backfired when that happens. 

Also, be transparent. For example, brands can’t buy my opinion, but they can reimburse me for  my attention.

For example: I’m flying to Las Vegas in 2017 for the Adobe Summit on Adobe’s invitation and dime. Certainly, I’ll share things online – maybe in a blog post or more, Twitter and other networks maybe. That’s a given, but I’ll only share what fits with my topics and that I believe my audience will benefit from. (Thanks, Adobe, for the invite.)

Related: Once you have an audience don’t exploit it

How can brands run better influencer marketing campaigns? Here’s the list – for you list lovers: 

  1. Determine value proposition 
  2. Determine how it will benefit influencers and their audiences
  3. Identify relevant influencers 
  4. Do NOT just throw a solicitation their way.
  5. Start building a relationship with them. Share their stuff, ask them questions, etc. Other things people have done for hundreds of years to build relationships, you know!
  6. Give before asking.
  7. Be a partner.

There you have it. A cheat sheet for better influencer marketing. It can work and be relevant and useful to all involved. 

Oh, and don’t promise influencers the great exposure. Most influencers are quite good getting exposure already. They already have an audience and you came to them.

Here’s to better influencer marketing that is useful to all involved. 


Christoph blogs on The Authentic Storytelling Project and is a globally recognized content marketing expert. The IMA named him Internet Marketer of the Year in 2015. He works with healthcare organizations and other brands around the globe.

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