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The “Influencer” Myth Debunked

Influencer MythIt’s about time someone spoke up about self-described “influencers.”

In fact, asking one to promote your business is often one of the worst things you can do.

Who Are These “Influencers”?

Influencers are typically people who are very active on social media. They are on multiple networks, they have a large following, and they seem to get a ton of engagement. Sounds good so far, right?

Not suprisingly, many brands approach people with this profile to promote their products. Some will do so for free stuff, while others charge a fee.

So why shouldn’t you pursue these people to push your brand? It’s a big waste of time and money.

The Problems With “Influencers”

The most important reason why you should not target “influencers” in your promotional efforts is because they’re not actually influential! It’s a mirage created by the echo-chamber. So-called influencers get a lot of retweets and mentions but they mostly come from others just like them. They tend to stick together and puff each other up, but have little reach beyond their narcissistic circle. The message rarely gets out to the people who would actually be excited to try your product.

Working with “influencers” means you miss the larger opportunities from targeting the audiences that want what you’re selling.

Self-described “influencers” are not connected to your message, feel no loyalty to you, and have no investment in your success. This can damage your brand if they promote a misrepresentative message, or worse yet, actively turn against your company.

“Influencers” can be real bullies! I’ve personally seen an individual pressure a business I was working with to provide their product for free entirely on the grounds that he and his friends are “influencers.” This attitude shows a total lack of commitment to providing value for the businesses, of which he claimed to be a big fan. What really irks me is that he was not willing to support a growing business by paying a fair price for what he knew was an excellent product – that’s just wrong.

The Social Media Users You SHOULD Be Working With

Rather than looking for an “influencer,” look for an authority. An authority is someone who has a targeted audience that listens to what they have to say about a given topic. Look for authorities in your industry. People with audiences that would be genuinely excited about what you’re doing.

Most importantly, authorities motivate people to take action. Whether that action is purchasing a product, signing up for an email list, or sharing your message with the right people, the rare ability to inspire ACTION is what true influence is all about. – Click to Tweet

Just keep in mind, not all audiences are linkerati. Just because someone doesn’t get a lot of links or retweets, doesn’t mean their audience won’t cling to their every word.

The great thing is, you probably won’t even have to pay them. If you have something their community can really benefit from, they will be looking to you for an excuse to share it. True authorities are focused on what is going to give their audience, rather than themselves, the most value.

10 Signs You’re Dealing With An “Influencer” Instead Of An Authority.

1. They talk about their Klout score regularly.

2. They have a blog with no clear topic or message. (They gotta keep their options open!)

3. They are always interacting with the same group of people over and over again.

4. They act very aggressively towards businesses who make mistakes. (This comes from feeling above mistakes and anyone who makes them.)

5. They’re  constantly spamming their audience with contests. (All those random brands they’re promoting…)

6. They don’t have their own unique online voice.

7. They don’t have a focused interest in one or even a few topics. Instead, they’re constantly changing topics.

8. They’re generally negative. (If you can’t provide real value, negativity will get people talking.)

9. They’re bullying you into giving away more than is reasonable

10. They list #influencer in their Twitter bio.

Are these bad people? Not usually (except for the bullies, of course). But are they the right people to promote your product? Not likely.

So What Now?

Who would you target in order to grow your reach online? Spend 15 minutes and find 5 people who would personally love your business AND who have audiences that would love your business too. Do it today.

P.S. Have you ever had a bad experience working with an “influencer” to promote your business? Share your it in the comments below so other people can avoid the same thing.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Lyndon Johnson May 9, 2013, 3:15 pm

    A great point, well made Casandra, thank you! I’ve been making a similar point for a while – that it’s not just that you ‘engage’ a lot, but what you’re saying that matters.

    I LOVE the idea of finding authorities, not influencers and more businesses need to adopt this approach. I’m not sure why so many people quote their Klout score, it’s clearly the gamification of influence, rather than a measure of authority yet the majority of self-titled ‘experts’ and ‘influencers’ still perpetuate the myth that it matters! It doesn’t and by claiming otherwise, they’re exposing their lack of knowledge.

    • Casandra Campbell March 10, 2013, 4:23 pm

      Thanks Lyndon! You described this phenomena perfectly when you said “gamification of influence”.

  • Oz October 4, 2013, 7:58 pm

    WOW! This is a fantastic take on Klout and influence. And you’re right, there are influencers and authorities. The people who’ve talked most about their Klout scores have been the folks who really don’t have a message, they’re good at asking a “Question of the Day” and getting people to reply to it.

    One thing I noticed a few months ago. I was weeding out my Twitter followers (dead accounts and annoying people). I noticed that the “thought leaders” and more interesting people didn’t have a Klout score next to their handle. So … they actively deleted their accounts? Interesting.

    • Casandra Campbell October 4, 2013, 8:13 pm

      Hey Oz – thanks for stopping by! It could be that a lot thought leaders are deleting their Klout accounts. Although, I think it’s pretty useless, I still keep Klout hooked up because I like the freebies and special treatment you sometimes get. However, I won’t pretend that anyone would care if tweeted about some perk I just received, or complained about bad service somewhere. Companies that are giving away free stuff to people just because they high Klout scores are making a big mistake!

  • Maxine Dean September 13, 2016, 11:42 pm

    Thank you very much for the great and valuable information.
    I have been pondering whether or not to seek out a youtube influencer to promote my skin care products, but i am going to truly rethink it.

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