We’ve been harping on bad influencer marketing a lot lately.
Seriously, our goal is normally to highlight the good instead of calling out the bad, to give you everything you need to totally rock at building connections.
But today we need to talk about some of the uglier parts of influencer marketing: the mistakes marketers make when they don’t give it the time and effort it requires.
When we talk about building an influencer marketing strategy, we always, always, always emphasize setting goals before planning anything or reaching out to anyone. The most important reason for that is to keep yourself focused on what matters to your campaigns.
But what might happen if you dive into this without thinking, without planning, and without a cake to snack on during outreach?
Disaster. World disaster. That’s what would happen.
Just kidding – but any of these influencer marketing mistakes could happen to you, throwing a hit to your future relationships, your brand’s reputation, or your campaign’s effectiveness in the process.
7 easily avoidable influencer outreach mistakes
Reaching out to completely the wrong people
One of the easiest mistakes to make – especially if you didn’t set goals or aren’t keeping them in mind – is flat-out reaching out to the wrong people.
And this is a pretty bad blunder – it doesn’t matter how great other aspects of your campaign are. If you mess up this early on, the rest of your campaign could fall on an uninterested audience.
The two easiest ways to flub this up are:
- Prioritizing audience size over brand advocacy and relevance
- Not thoroughly researching potential partners
And they riff off each other pretty well.
Let’s walk through an example.
You work for a luxury fashion brand that makes professional/business casual clothing for women. You decide to run a campaign with influencers and immediately start researching the influential female fashion Instagrammers and work up a list of those with the biggest followings.
You’ll likely end up making both mistakes.
Doing a wide search like that in a niche so much broader than your own (business casual women’s clothing vs. all women’s clothing) and then only looking at one other qualifier after that (follower number) isn’t enough research to identify who has a brand that will align with yours.
Because of that, the influencers you find and reach out to likely won’t be too relevant to your brand. For example, I’m sure at least one influencer on the list of those with the biggest followings will have a younger audience. Would those younger girls be interested in – or even need – your business casual clothing that’s perfect for the office?
Not researching well enough is an easy mistake to fix. There are lots of influencer research tools that will help you sort through and filter accounts to look at relevant data and get familiar with their brands.
Mistaken priorities can be a little tougher to shift. But remember that smaller, nicher audiences are often way more engaged and can be easier to convert, whatever your campaign’s conversion may be.
Reaching out on the wrong channel
If we assume that you planned out your strategy well and kept your goals in mind when building your outreach list, there’s still one obstacle to overcome in reaching an influencer. You still need to find the right contact information and reach out on the right channel.
Regardless of how popular social media is, email is always my preferable first outreach platform. You’re more likely to get noticed and replied to there, in my experience.
It leaves a “stickier” paper trail, making your conversation easier for both you and the influencer to refer back to and continue. It’s less cluttered than social media – for influencers, especially, social media notifications are non-stop.
But sometimes you will need to reach out on social media first. When that’s the case, there’s a few different rules to play by.
For example, things are tricky when you’re reaching out on Twitter. With only 140 characters per tweet, you don’t have a ton of room to pitch. But you can’t always DM an influencer without them following you, and you don’t want to blast them with 5 tweets in a row about your pitch. (Ugh!)
So when you need to tweet someone, it’s a good idea to send them a “pre-pitch” instead of an actual pitch. Ask them where the best place to pitch them is, instead of diving straight into things. They’ll likely answer with either email or direct messages, and in both of those places you can go into more detail.
And on any network, you want to make sure you’re pitching an account that’s actually used for business/whatever they’re influential about. It’s a huge turnoff to log into your separate, personal account on the weekend to be bombarded with pitches you thought you left at work on Friday.
Sending a generic pitch to everyone (even worse, in BCC)
Okay, so influencer marketing has been popular enough for long enough that when an influencer gets an email, they know that it’s an influencer marketing pitch. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay for your pitch to SCREAM “this is an influencer marketing pitch.”
We can do better than that.
The most obvious way to tell an influencer that you’re reaching out to a ton of people just like them, is to use a blatantly generic pitch you don’t have to customize from email to email.
You know the ones.
They always say “your business” or “your profile” instead of using any personal details outside of the greeting.
It doesn’t contain any details about you or your audience, or any indication they’re familiar with you (aside from they say “we’re familiar with your work”…#fail)
Your full website URL or social media handle might be auto-inserted into the subject line in a way that doesn’t really make sense.
The whole thing reeks of “copy and paste.”
The only worse offense is actually sending out the same pitch at the same time, using CC or BCC to mass email people instead of using individual email threads.
Rambling on too long / not cutting to the chase
Remember that usually if someone’s managed to become influential online, they’re most likely smart, busy, and important.
The easiest way to get their attention is to not ask for too much of it.
A short email that gets to the point, lays out just the most important information, and prompts the influencer for what to do next is all you need.
Don’t write five paragraphs about what you thought about their last blog post. Don’t give them your entire life or business history. Don’t waste time with wishy washy language that makes it unclear what you’re asking for or offering.
The quicker someone can read your email, make a decision about the next step, and tell you “yes” or “no,” the more likely you are to get responses from your outreach.
Asking for a favor instead of offering an opportunity
You’ll also want to be careful with how you frame your pitch.
It’s a small detail that can change something from an “ask” to an “offer.”
Here’s a super simplistic example:
- “Will you please write a guest post for our blog?”
- “We’d be happy to publish a guest post of yours on our blog.”
With that first option, I read it and feel like I’m being asked to do a chore for someone. I’m doing them a favor and it’s not clear what I’m getting in return.
With the second, I read it and feel like I’m being invited to a special opportunity. It’s still vague, but in this hypothetical we’ll say it’s followed up with all the great details it needs.
When you’re pitching “big” people and brands, you need to make whatever you’re pitching them sound like an amazing opportunity for them, where you both win and work equally. It can’t sound like you’re a small fish asking a big shark to help them out of goodwill.
So make sure to focus on the benefits of your offer to everyone, explain clearly what they would need to do and what they get in exchange, and what you’ll do to help them in return.
Not following up
One more mistake that’s easy to make is only sending one outreach email.
Either you’re afraid of bothering people and don’t want to reach out repeatedly and seem spammy, or you just never get around to writing those follow-up emails you originally intended to.
I get it. You want to get noticed, but not too noticed. You want the influencer to get that you’re serious about this without seeming creepy serious and pushy. It’s a line to straddle.
Know that following up at least once is essential, and it’s all about how you time and handle the follow-up. Don’t send it too soon after your initial email – for example less than 24 hours later. But if you wait much longer than a week, you’re giving the recipient tons of time to forget about you.
I usually follow up once 3 to 5 days after my initial email, and depending on the opportunity, once more a week later. It seems persistent, but the casual emails are spaced out far enough that they really serve as subtle reminders.
A friendly follow-up tactic like this helped David Ly Khim go from getting one response to his outreach campaign to a 50% response rate.
Taking things personally
Finally, for the love of the good outreach gods, do not take things personally when you get a “no.” Be mature.
And if you must, must, must take it personally (because we all have those moments), keep those feelings inside your head.
Do not – I repeat, do not – lash out at someone who rejects your pitch.
I recently read about a terrible networking experience from Sol Orwell that literally (truly, actually literally) made my jaw drop.
Sol simply declined to promote something that both he couldn’t endorse, and that his audience wouldn’t be too interested in. It was most likely a poor fit like the ones we talked about in the beginning of this post. Instead of moving on and learning from the “no,” the “networker” got very self-important and lecture-y.
Oh, and even the lecture rant reply was a canned message and sent verbatim to other people who said “no.” Not attractive.
When you get a “no,” accept it and move on. You can maybe, depending on the situation, try to get some insight as to the “why” behind the rejection to learn from (for example, confirming if it’s a “not right now” or a “hard no), but otherwise, drop the topic with this influencer.
It doesn’t mean you can’t try to build a relationship with them or talk to them again, but accept that they’re not interested in this specific opportunity right now.
Figure out what you could’ve done better, and go do that with another pitch to another influencer.
Reach out on the regular
Make sure that when you’re coming to influencers with opportunities, you’re making them sound professional and appealing. That means an intelligent and considerate email, a good offer, and a persuasive but concise pitch.
Are there other ways to stand out? Of course.
There are tons of ways to impress influencers in your pitches – really researching and discussing their work, getting introduced by mutual connections, and more can help take your pitch to the next level.
But follow these tips and you’re well on your way to a “yes,” if not there already.