Zach Bussey: Social Media Influencers Suck

The Social Media Influencer is a new concept that has only recently become a term to describe a group of people that marketers and/or public relations people can attempt to exploit to their perceived advantage. The problem with this, and what marketing and public relations firms will realize very quickly is that – Social media influencers suck.

I’m about to let you into the mind of a typical social media influencer, the patterns they exhibit, the reason they exist in the social media world and what their general beliefs are towards brands, marketers and public relations pitches. I’m going to lay everything out on the table for you and let you make up your own mind. I can speak with some certainty though because, well, I’ve been considered a social media influncer for a while now. I also know many people in marketing and PR and have heard their nightmare stories about failed campaigns or ones gone wrong. Not only that, I also know essentially ALL the other social media influencerswithin the Toronto market and have had long conversations with most about this topic.

These same people are bound to disagree with what I’m about to lay out for you, and it’s due to self preservation – we don’t want it to end. It’s also why there has been a ton of hyperbole in blogs lately.

1. The Mind of a Social Media Influencer

The mindset of  a typical influencer is pretty basic: we want invites, products and services. We feel we deserve it because of what we do after receiving it – we blog, tweet and share it on Facebook. Our blog readers read it, our thousands of followers on Twitter see it and our close friends on Facebook listen to what we say. Simply stated, we give you access to the people we know, and we’re giving it to you rather cheaply.

The Problem? The more we get, the more entitled we become. The more we demand. The more we expect. With little to no oversight as to what we do after the fact, we can blog/tweet/facebook and our end of the deal is done. Oh, you didn’t see any results, sales, visits to your site? Not our problem.

2. The Patterns

The patterns of a typical social media influencer are pretty apparent – whoever can hook us up is who matters until 24 hours or less after the event or product is received. We’re only interested in one thing – FREE! Most of us don’t actually care about your product, event or service. We hold no loyalties to your brand. You are the flavour of the day and as soon as our ‘contract’ is done, you’re out the door. (I’ve only recently broken this pattern – I’m loyal to my friends at @FordCanada and my beer buds at @CarlsbergCanada. Other imported beers and truck companies need not apply) This is why you’ll see us blog about the car Toyota lent us one day, the one that Honda lent us the next, the one that GM lent us a week later, and the one that Ford lent us. Each of them has the best cars ever – and we love them so much (as long as they are willing to give us another one soon?)

3. Our Raison D’Etre

We exist for a reason, and it matches the pattern – FREE!  Sure, we’re more than willing to tweet about your event as long as you have free foods and booze – oh and it sure as hell better be open bar! If it’s only two drink tickets, we’re going to bitch and moan about that. We like to drink… on your buck! We swear to god, if we show up at your event and you make us pay? We’re going to be PISSED about how cheap you are! You want us to write about your stupid product and pay for it?! What the hell do we look like? Normal suckers who buy that stuff in stores? Gimme a break. If you want us to write about you, you better be compensating our buzz, our stomachs, our tech gear or our wardrobe, otherwise you’re no good to us.

4. Beliefs about Brands, Marketers + PR Pitches

Generally, we know you guys have a whole bunch of money and you’re just looking for some people withinfluence to talk about you. We know you’re not going to ask us to actually deliver any minimum results – as long as we try, that’s good enough for you. Thank god, because to be honest, we’re not sure if we could actually drive traffic to your site. We also know you don’t really do much research into us, because if you did, you’d know we just blogged about your competitor last month, and another 6 weeks ago, and another 2 months ago.

Heh, switchers like us aren’t really the best spokespeople for your product because after two or three competitors – people just don’t listen to us like they first did. BUT, we should be able to get you a dozen or so followers on Twitter, maybe some Likes on Facebook. But as influencers, we’re just here to try out your product! Ironically, if you just gave out the cellphones, tickets, freebies and products yourself to the people who actually buy it, it would probably spread more online and with better results – one’s you can actually gauge well. But please, keep em coming – we love it!

5. Why We Suck

We’re social media influencers and we influence people. But, the people we typically influence are other social media influencers. We all go to the same parties to hang out, we all tweet the same things at these same parties, and we all blog the same things (just with different pictures of ourselves).

We suck though because people who aren’t invited… the jerks who are just social media people and have no influence who you hope will listen to us and buy the product, service or attend the event… well they dislike us because we get all the invites while they get nothing. We sometimes extend the invites to those people and let them be in our awesome company at the super mega awesome events… but most of the time, they have to sit at home and live vicariously… and vicarious is losing the ‘ar’ and now they are just vicious.

Basically, we would never buy your product. You’re giving it to us for free, so why would we? And if we run out, we’ll just ask you for more OR a competitor will come in and give us theirs and that will be our new favourite. We only go to your events if there’s free food, but especially if there’s free booze! Open bar! If there isn’t, fat chance we stick around longer than it takes to consume those two drinks. But don’t worry, we’ll blog it all… someone might read it and be jealous about the good time we had – but they likely won’t buy either. And those who we do influence? They got the same invite and the same products, so there goes that one… Leaving us with the inferior non-influencers… Well, they’re getting more and more bitter because it’s the same 4 dozen of us invited everywhere, while they are forced to just watch from the sidelines. We suck. It’s pretty obvious. We just can’t believe you haven’t realized it yet.

———————————–

The question, “why would I bite the hand that feeds?” is bound to come up. It has nothing to do with resentment or my own bitterness. I’m getting more invites and offers than ever. The reason is simple – I think we can do better! For too long we’ve been given a silver spoon for which we could base careers on. The problem is, I, formerly, (we collectively) are just looking for a handout.  Bloggers talk about a product once, and never remember them again. We can, and SHOULD do better.

As a new media, if we as bloggers and influencers want to be treated and taken seriously with bigger and better offers to get our ‘influence’ on the public, we need to act, behave and perform seriously. We can’t keep the status quo! We need to deliver results. Deliver return on the investment put into us. We should not be a roll of the dice, a gamble. We may not always succeed, but we need to be held accountable, both for our great successes (so we can learn what works) and our failures (so we can learn what doesn’t). If we don’t… like all media, whether it’s TV, Radio, Print or Web – we’ll be canceled. We suck… let’s be better!

To the Brands, Marketers and PR folks… this is also a request to you to break the mold. Deal with new people. Invite everyone. VIP should be VIP. Work with people who care. Develop long term relationships with bloggers rather than short term – zero/low return one offs. Develop brand loyalty with actual buyers rather than switchers/deal/freebie seekers. Give feedback to bloggers about the success or failure of their posts. You’re the initial gatekeepers, so start using that to your advantage. We need to work together – for our benefits and yours. The path to success isn’t a one time event, it’s ongoing and long term – why should marketing/PR be any different? We suck… we can be better!

Originally published 13 September 2011 on Zach Bussey’s blog