Why I Hate Influencer Marketing

This blog post is about internet and tech “influencers” and not discussing celebrities or otherwise famous people.

When I launched Luper, I sent numerous emails and tweets to influencers in hopes of getting a slither of a mention on a website. Did it work? Absolutely. If it wasn’t for a blog post on Lifehacker and a feature on AbduZeedo, there’s little chance my app would have crossed the 1,000 download mark.

Will I keep trying influencer marketing? Of course. If an influencer can get more eyes on my content I would be stupid not to try it.

But I actually hate influencer marketing.

The entire process of influencer marketing is flawed

You carefully craft an email with a good subject line that’s short, sweet, and to the point, because after all you are trying not to waste their time. Yet, after all that work you don’t get a response.

I may be off base here but if I spent the time to find who you are and write an email specifically for you, I expect a response even if you are not interested in what I have to offer.

Influencer marketing is about enticing the influencer to engage with what you have because you are trying to appeal to their own self-interest. If you are a new tech startup, you might offer a writer a new story about your startup in exchange for some increased exposure. If you are a hotel company you might offer a local mommy blogger a free night at a hotel for her and her family in exchange for a review about her experience.

Simplified it’s “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” but the scratching needs to go both ways for the process to work and that’s the problem.

I understand “influencers” are bombarded by requests but it seems many have let their ego get the best of them and have developed an aura of entitlement and a severe superiority complex.

What makes this even worse is when you ask 10 people if they’ve heard of that “influencer” that aren’t in the marketing or tech and startup scenes, nine of those ten (if not all ten even) people have never heard of that person. I’ve actually done this experiment more than once.

What makes an influencer an influencer anyway?

Is it because they have a column on an influential tech blog? Is it their number of Twitter followers? Or is it the pedestal we place them on?

Many have reached influencer status because of their depth of knowledge but it seems more still have reach influencer status because of their salesmanship and skills at networking and getting in front of the right people not because they know what they are talking about. I experienced this first hand at New Media Expo last year. 75% of the panels were worthless because they consisted of “influencers” throwing out “blue sky” type phrases mixed with industry jargon. Very few speakers and panelists actually spoke about insights gained through their own personal experiences.

An influencer is only an influencer in his domain

In my family, the influencer, when it comes to anything house related, is my mom. When it comes to electronics and technology it’s me. We’re influencers in our own domain. I don’t try and pretend I know how to cook and my mom doesn’t try and understand technology.

The CEO of 100 employee company might not be on Twitter but he is definitely influential in his domain, which for him is his company.

A tech blogger with 10,000 Twitter followers might write about startups but how many startups has he built. An app reviewer might write about new apps but has he ever built his own app? How many marketing campaigns has that speaker actually launched and what were his successes?

We can all read about a subject matter and familiarize ourselves with the jargon but does that make us influencers? I can read all about HTML,CSS, and Javascript but if I’ve never built a website does that make me a front-end developer qualified to speak to others about the subject.

We’re all enablers

We enable influencers to act like influencers when they have no foundation for their platform. We have to be more selective of who we deem as influencers.

We need better criteria, that includes context of the subject matter that defines their domain, before we attach the label of influencer.

An influencer level status should be attained not just through expertise but through the level of engagement with everyone else.

Finally, we need to be more selective to whom we present what we’ve worked so hard to build because not all influencers are worth the time or effort to reach out to.