Lee Odden

How to Improve Influencer Engagement? Avoid These 50 Fails

Lee Odden     Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing

Brands: Stop Doing These Things!

Influencer Marketing is hot and that means the value of influencer relationships is higher than ever.

Working hard to romance in-demand experts to collaborate, co-create and even advocate can be a substantial investment. The mutual benefit from these long term relationships can mean anything from hugely successful marketing programs for brands to top billing at speaking events, book deals and consulting work for the influencers.

Unfortunately, outreach communications, expectations and negotiations with influencers to work together are often so lacking of empathy, relevant context or even courtesy that the industry expert “checks out”. Losing influencers is sad and wasteful.

But it doesn’t have to be that way if you know what makes them leave. Trust me, I work on influencer outreach nearly every day (sending and receiving) and am both guilty of committing some of these influencer marketing sins and having them committed against me.

So, with a little help from some of my marketing influencer friends, here’s a big list of what NOT to do.

50 ways to lose your influencer:

  1. Using the wrong name in a pitch email or other inaccurate information (that should really be correct).
  2. TLDR requests that take forever or never get to get to the point.
  3. Irrelevant requests that have little if anything to do with the influencer’s expertise.
  4. Not making it clear what the value exchange is.
  5. Being too familiar and friendly with influencers on the first contact. Hey, we’re not actually friends (yet) are we?
  6. Making it difficult by asking numerous, complicated questions, like those fun essays in college.
  7. Unreasonable deadlines: “Hi you don’t know me,  but please send me 1,000 words by tomorrow.”
  8. No credibility. Emailing a pitch from a gmail address and pointing to a website that looks really spammy or just bad.
  9. #influencerstalking Following up one day after the first pitch. Then again the next day. Then again the next day and so on.
  10. #failuretofollowup Asking for participation and then never following up.
  11. Cold shoulder. Engaging an influencer online several times and then ignoring them when in person at industry events.
  12. Lying or being disingenuous in any way.
  13. Bait and switch. Offering access to a tool to preview, then requiring an guided demo where the influencer is “sold to”.
  14. Bait and switch 2. Inviting the influencer to an event, then requiring attendance of a presentation where the influencer is “sold to”.
  15. Micromanage. Requiring an unpaid influencer to cover specific topics in specific ways to the brand’s benefit that are not natural to the influencer (or their community).
  16. Taking advantage. Expecting an influencer to do for free, what really should be paid for – moderating a panel, writing substantial content, extensive participation requirements.
  17. When a brand takes unearned credit for ideas the influencer created, wrote about and used in their business.
  18. Misappropriating. Using influencer content in ways never intended, especially when it is monetized by the brand or someone else entirely. Also, misrepresenting how the influencer’s contribution will be used. For example, saying it is for a public article and then using it for a gated ebook.
  19. Making public, disparaging remarks or being disrespectful about an influencer.
  20. Not being patient – these people are busy!
  21. Switching the conditions of participation – shame on everyone if there is not a written, signed agreement for specific expectations.
  22. Not being thankful for the influencer’s efforts. This goes both ways too – influencers should be thankful for the opportunity as well.
  23. Failure to communicate. Managing communications and coordination poorly, in a disorganized way and without clear direction.
  24. No edits. Publishing influencer content “as-is” without copyediting.
  25. Being an asshat. Going over the line with sarcastic humor in influencer communications – you really need to know if they’re in to that.
  26. Slimy SEO. Taking the influencer’s contribution and then SEO-ing the heck out of it with keywords and anchor text galore.
  27. Backchannelling. Reaching out the the influencer’s “boss” or co-worker to ask why the influencer hasn’t responded to pitch emails.
  28. Not being clear about the premise or context of the ask and thereby confusing the pitch.
  29. Being one sided. When brands do not follow through on commitments made to the relationship.
  30. And you are? Changing the client side contact and not doing any kind of hand off to ensure continuity.
  31. Making it incredibly difficult to share the result of the brand/influencer collaboration. i.e. not providing pre-written tweets and social shares, properly sized graphics, embed codes, etc.
  32. Inappropriate asks. “As for asks like promoting your product (books, webinars, conferences, etc.) in exchange for affiliate revenue please DON’T.” via Carlos Gil
  33. “Out-of-the-blue Asks. I get requests from people I know really well every week. What makes you think I’ll make time to work with you if I’ve never interacted with you before? Take some time to comment on my posts, rate my podcast, review my book. I’ll return the favor in a heartbeat. If you hit my inbox out of nowhere… Delete.” via Drew Davis
  34. Too soon. “My pet peeve is when someone follows me on Twitter or Instagram and/or fans me on Facebook and immediately reaches out to me with a request to check out their business.” via Kim Garst
  35. “Ask Them To Sell. Your influencer is there to help you increase the awareness, association and consideration of your brand in a certain space – not to shill for you.” via Gerry Moran
  36. Using the wrong channels to communicate: “Sending me a message about LinkedIn using Facebook.” via Jason Miller
  37. Hello, can I interrupt you? Calling an influencer without an appointment to pitch. via Mark Schaefer
  38. Peerless pressure. PR people that try to persuade influencer involvement because their peers are involved too – except they are not. via Mark Schaefer
  39. Impersonal pitches. When companies send out generic en masse pitches, like a robo-call, but via email. The personal touch can make or break an influencer’s decision to engage. via Chad Pollitt
  40. “Don’t tell me your story, let me tell my story. ‘LESS fabrication, MORE facilitation’ = a boost to your Return on Relationship, #RonR.” via Ted Rubin
  41. Lazy duplication. “When you get that really interesting Tweet inviting you to take a look at something and then when you click through to it you also see that they have composed basically the same message to 579 other people on Twitter.” via John Jantsch
  42. Delegated and impersonal. “Reach out to me directly yourself. Do NOT delegate this critical step to your marketing agency, PR professional, team member, assistant or intern. Do it yourself and make your note personal. If you want me to respond, I expect you to do the asking yourself.” via Heidi Cohen
  43. “Not greasing the skids. Influencers are most likely to add commentary if there is some kind of existing relationship.  This means at least some kind of history where the person reaching out has already been sharing the influencer content.” via Joe Pulizzi
  44. “Expecting too much in one ask. For example, writing a 1000 word article on your platform due this week without a previous relationship.” via Joe Pulizzi
  45. Misleading opportunity. “Asking for 30 minutes of my time to discuss a “partnership” – which actually means you want me to sell your stuff to my clients.” via Ardath Albee
  46. Asks that are complicated, ambiguous and without deadlines. via Rebecca Lieb
  47. Not following up with that blog post, ebook, or copy of the interview the influencer contributed to. Influencers are indeed interested in seeing the fruits of their labors. via Rebecca Lieb
  48. Abusing the kindness of an influencer by asking over and over again without showing any special consideration. “Set the tone and rules upfront. Influencers can’t be expected to take part in everything you do, so say that. Set the ground rules and expectations.” via Bryan Kramer
  49. Giving up, as in not being persistent (over time) with credible, relevant offers and reasons to engage. “Give them a reason to come back, ask them what they are working on and keep the conversation going.” via Bryan Kramer
  50. Spamming. “Signing up for an app that spams your “top influencer” with automated messages is a sure path to a rocky relationship.” via Glen Gilmore

Basically your takeaway from this list is, don’t do these things! Learn from these mistakes, pet peeves and advice.

To be successful with an influencer relationship, brands need to consistently make an effort to research the experts they want to engage and find out what motivates them. Create value and set clear expectations. Make working with your brand a very easy and satisfying experience. Listen and communicate in a meaningful way – not too different than any relationship, actually.

For brand marketers that want to point their influencer marketing efforts in the right direction, I recommend these collections of resources for best practices:

  • Featured Influencer Marketing ResourcesTraackr
  • What You Need to Know About Content & Influencer Marketing. BONUS: Case Study and 18 articlesTopRank Marketing
  • Influencer Marketing eBooksGroupHigh
  • Influencer Marketing EducationOnalytica
  • Social Listening in Practice: Influencer MarketingBrandwatch

You can also learn more about TopRank Influencer Marketing Consulting.

If you’ve been on the receiving end of influencer outreach and communications, what are some of your pet peeves?

Photo: Shutterstock

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. As outstanding as this list is Lee, I think you missed a big one (or am I the only person this happens to?) – completely off-topic pitches! (Which show the PR flack really has no idea who you are.) I blog about b2b technology marketing and related topics – yet I’ve received pitches about fast food restaurant videos, new menswear brands, Hollywood movies tie-ins to food brands, and pet care products (just in the last few days). Ugh.

    • Hi Tom, Off-topic asks are indeed a top fail and is included in the list at #3
      “Irrelevant requests that have little if anything to do with the influencer’s expertise.”

  2. Avatar heidicohen says

    Lee–Thank you for including me. I love how fun you make this piece to read. Every PR professional should print it out and post it in front of their computer before they call or email. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  3. No worries Mark, it is how we learn. Following up is a great idea as long as it is respectful, personal, succinct, actionable and relevant.

  4. Hi Lee
    Wonderful list of fails on influencer marketing. A few of them even make one never be in connect with a targeted influencer. They are the people who don’t have time to review their decision and once they de-friend someone never add him again.
    Thanks a lot for sharing this epic post.
    Have a great day mate

  5. Make it relevant and valuable to the influencer before you ever get to the ask. Figure out what’s in it for them first. Try to engage lightly before reaching out by following, commenting and sharing first.

    Short messages are good. Meaningful is best.

  6. Enjoyed this post, but wished I had found it even a day earlier as entering into my own influencer marketing campaign and just identified about 5 different things I should have avoided. Have this post now favorited, so won’t be making those same mistakes again. Thanks Lee!

  7. All these points – so helpful. So important to remember that influencer marketing isn’t a science, but an art.

  8. Nice round up. I’d summarize it as “don’t be a marketer”

    We all love to buy. No likes to be sold to. Let’s stop making the kind of marketing we hate. 🙂