How to Lose an Influencer in Five Easy Steps

lose an influencer

By Kerry Gorgone, {grow} Contributing Columnist

Influencer marketing is a hot topic these days, and it’s easy to see why. Linqia, Inc. recently reported that 92% of marketers who used influencer marketing in 2017 found it to be effective, and influencer marketing generates as much as 11X banner ad ROI.

As brands invest more money in influencer marketing, the stakes get higher and it becomes increasingly important to maintain positive, long-term relationships with influencers. A “one and done” approach to influencer collaborations might yield short-term spikes in social mentions (or maybe even sales), but the impact of a single campaign won’t create lasting benefits unless you maintain some connection to the influencers involved.

Of course it’s possible you don’t like influencers for some reason. Maybe their perfect hair, flawless teeth, and jet-setting lifestyle secretly get on your nerves. Maybe you’d just prefer to free up some budget for other channels. Whatever the reason, you might be hoping to count them out for your company’s next campaign.

Good news: burning bridges with influencers is really easy! Here are 5 easy steps to losing an influencer.

1. Don’t value her time.

Nothing sours an influencer relationship faster than pressing the person for lots of work without offering any meaningful benefit in return. This might be money (and in many cases compensation is appropriate), but it could also be early access to your new line of clothing or your new software program, or “behind the scenes” brand experiences.

If you really want to show influencers how little you value their time, bait and switch them.
Promise an all-expenses paid trip in exchange for some sponsored content and then, when they show up, give them staff tees and put them to work at a trade show booth, like Samsung allegedly did with mobile influencers back in 2012.

If you want to ditch an influencer, waste her time with irrelevant pitches. Request that she share content that doesn’t fit with her personal brand or content areas. Pressure her participate in Twitter chats or conference calls in the middle of the day (without any compensation, of course). Be sure to mention that the “exposure” she’s getting by partnering with you is incredibly valuable, so you expect a high volume of tweets and other social mentions to “move the needle” back at social HQ.

2. Don’t set any measurable goals, or if you do, focus on vanity metrics that don’t impact revenue.

For influencer marketing to work, you need to select the right people who have built a trusted personal brand covering topics relevant to your audience. You’ll also need to have a conversation (or several) about why you’re interested in influencer marketing and what you’re hoping to achieve (brand awareness, improved brand sentiment, larger share of online conversation, lead gen or sales, etc.)

The best influencers are professionals who understand the value of their own work. They will press you for measurable goals so they understand what you need and want, and so they can prove their efforts worked at the end of your campaign. This is why, if you want to lose an influencer, you must avoid setting any goals or, if pressed, set goals that are “fluffy” and do not relate to your company’s bottom line performance.

Try to avoid numbers altogether, but if you must set goals, make sure they’re goals your executive team cares nothing about.

Mentions, tweets or retweets, Instagram Likes, and other social metrics work well for this, provided you don’t lay any groundwork in advance for attributing leads or revenue to those channels through trackable links, landing pages, offer codes, or other means. It will be harder to lose the influencer if they’re able to quantify their successes.

3. Don’t bother getting to know influencers as individuals—just lump them all together.

Some influencers are known for fantastic Instagram stories, others write valuable how-to articles and product reviews, and still others interview speakers and attendees at your events…don’t bother to distinguish between them! Just treat all your influencers the same and assign them the same kinds of duties regardless of their personal preferences or aptitude.

If you want to really tick off the influencer, don’t offer any suggestions or ideas based on their areas of specialty. Forget putting together lists of suggestions detailing how you can offer value to their audience and yours—just say you’re super psyched to work with them and can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Putting all the responsibility for creativity and initiative on the influencer is a surefire way to burn him out, and you’ll be rid of him or her in no time. When you’re trying to ditch an influencer, a “wait and see” approach works best.

4. Act super shady.

One great way to lose an influencer is to play it fast and loose with the legal stuff. Don’t have a written contract, for starters. Written contracts clear up any ambiguity and ensure that the brand and the influencer mutually understand what’s expected. That is why you shouldn’t have one, especially not a good one that covers all the details, like the kind discussed previously on this blog.

Along these lines, insist that your influencers comply with all applicable disclosure requirements, but don’t help them understand how to do it. This might come back and bite you in the form of an FTC lawsuit or fine, but if you really want to burn your bridge with an influencer, nothing does the trick like a reprimand from the government.

5. Use him to recruit other influencers you think are more popular.

This might be my favorite way to lose an influencer: court him or her, then drop the hammer by saying that you’d love for him to connect you with “Influencer X,” because you see that they’re friends and Influencer X has a larger following than they do. Being used has the universal effect of ticking people off, so if you want to sever an influencer relationship and you’re short on time, skip straight to this step.

Here’s a bonus step (although it isn’t really a step, because you don’t actually DO anything). Completely ignore the influencer in between campaigns.

If you want to alienate an influencer, you’ll need to avoid building a meaningful relationship with him. Keep things transactional. To that end, only contact him when you’re about to start a new campaign or brand activation and you want his help. By letting all communication between you lapse except when you need something, you create a negative association in the influencer’s mind. Before long, they’ll stop taking your calls or answering your emails and you’ll be free to reallocate your influencer marketing budget to that advertorial you’ve been dying to do since 1993.

Some marketers are already using these steps to burn influencer relationships at a dizzying pace, but somehow, it seems as though there are always up and coming influencers who are willing to fill the void. You might have to work at it for a while, but eventually you’ll manage to completely sabotage your own influencer marketing efforts. It just takes commitment!

Good luck. And if you should change your mind about that influencer, just turn this advice on its head. That’ll put you on the fast track to a long, successful collaboration!

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is a writer, lawyer, speaker and educator. She’s also Director of Product Strategy, Training, at MarketingProfs. Kerry hosts the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast. Find Kerry on Twitter.

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