written by
Alan Richardson

How not to market with influencers

talotics.com 9 min read

This case study is a lessons learned from watching someone else market their webinar.

And it is a negative lesson, i.e. how not to engage with influencers.

The basic lesson for me (since this post became quite long) was "look at the marketing that you respond positively to and mirror that, look at the marketing that you respond negatively to, and avoid that".

Spammy Growth Hacking

I first became aware of the webinar due to the spam email tactics of a growth hacker. I wrote about this earlier.

I'll summarise that post here:

  • Connect with influencers and build a relationship before asking them to promote your stuff
  • Don't send tweets asking for something, and then delete the tweet

To some extent I think that the actions taken were a result of someone following 'big growth fast' hack tactics that they might have found on a web site or forum somewhere.

But since the person was a professional marketer and they were working on behalf of a reputable company I have no real sympathy for their choice of approach.


  • I was aware of the webinar
  • I didn't trust the webinar
  • I didn't trust the marketer
  • I wasn't sure if the company was naive or untrustworthy

Any 'relationship' between influencers and the company is off to a shaky start.

Repeated Tactic

I had forgotten about the webinar.

But a day before the webinar was due to broadcast, I received notification of a tweet.

  • The tweet was from the company presenting the webinar
  • The tweet was the first official contact from the company
  • The tweet was a flattery tweet
  • The tweet asked me to promote their webinar

What's a flattery tweet?

"@twitterhandle Hello, InsertName!  We’re organising a free webinar on #HashTagTopic. We know you're an expert in @mentiontheofficialtopichandle and love your work, could you share this with your followers."

A flattery tweet 'flatters' the intended recipient and includes phrases like:

  • you're an expert
  • we love your work
  • you have such a fantastic following on twitter
  • you're a guru
  • etc.

While these are great to receive, they don't always build a 'trust' relationship.

What else went wrong in that tweet?

  • This was the first official contact I'd had with the company
  • It 'mentioned' official twitter handles so that the tweet would appear in those notifications as well (sneaky)
  • It added hashtags inside the message - this works fine for marketing reach but feels really spammy when it is a message sent to you
  • The flattery felt false
  • It had a lot of emojis (I didn't include them in the excerpt).
    People respond differently to emojis I guess, for some people it might build rapport and friendship, but when I receive it from a 'company' it feels forced and not professional.
  • It was a 'reply' message. By putting the twitter handle as the first thing in the message it is acting as a 'reply' on twitter so it doesn't appear in their main twitter feed. In order to see it you have to look in 'tweets and replies'.

I often look in the 'tweets and replies' when I receive a notification, and it is an 'ask', because then I see if the account is really reaching out to me, or if they are sending it out to a lot of people trying to get a few hits.

Anything else?

  • The company followed me the day before sending the tweet

I don't pay much attention to who follows and unfollows me.

But if I receive a notification, with an ask, from someone who is a 'fan' but they only followed me the day before, then that feels like a spam tactic.

  • The tweet was deleted after about twenty minutes

Yup. Sadly the company repeated the same tactic as before.

And they just got unlucky with timing. I wasn't looking at Twitter because of notifications. I was doing some marketing work on Twitter. I just happened to notice the notification. And I just happened to notice it was deleted. If I had not been on Twitter over that twenty minute period I would not have seen it or noticed.

And sadly for that company. The tweet the deleted had actually been 'liked' by someone else. So when they deleted it, the person that liked it wouldn't have been able to find it or follow up on the message in the tweet.

I did contact the company to ask what they were doing and they said that a different person had sent the tweets than before and hadn't been told not to include me. Which I interpret as:

  • we deliberately chose to use the same strategy as before
  • we created a list of influencers and asked someone to spam/contact them
  • we know the strategy didn't work out well before since you gave us feedback
  • since you gave us feedback we thought we'd avoid you rather than see if your feedback was valid
  • we noticed and then deleted
  • we hoped you wouldn't notice

This is not good marketing.

How did the strategy work out for them?

It is important to look at objective measures for feedback as well as subjective measures.

This blog post is a subjective measure.

Let's consider the objective measures.

  • They sent out 17 tweets like this
  • 1 was liked, but deleted
  • of the other 16, two were retweeted by the receiver
  • of the two that were retweeted, one received two likes and one received one like
  • the likes were from either the sender or the receiver or both

Is that a success?

There were 14 influencers who ignored the tweet.

And one influencer (me), who contacted them to say:

  • I don't think this will work out
  • Why are you repeating the same bad strategy?
  • Here's what you can do to salvage the situation

I don't know how the company is viewed by the other people they contacted.

Why adopt this strategy?

I will assume that they adopted this strategy, either because they were advised to by the Growth Hacker, or they were copying the previous strategy.

They did target a smaller set of influencers but the strategy was basically the same:

  • pick a set of influencers you want to promote your stuff
  • reply to the influencer with a hashtag laden flattery tweet asking them to promote your stuff
    The tweet content was slightly different for each influencer but same enough that when seen together they look like spam.

And that's it.

Even after receiving feedback that the campaign was not working out, they didn't reach out personally.

It is never too late to personally contact influencers and build a relationship and make a trusted connection.

It is never too late to personally contact influencers and build a relationship and make a trusted connection.

How to find a good strategy?

There are plenty of posts with good advice on influencer marketing:

If you search for 'how to get influencers to promote my stuff' (or similar) you'll find plenty - I only included results above that didn't have spammy popups or 'wait... before you go' pop ups.

A key thing I consider when marketing is 'Would I want to be marketed to like this?'

Of course that might not work out if you are quite happy receiving spammy unsolicited contact messages that ask for something immediately without building any trust. But... my advice still stands.

Look at the marketing that you respond positively to and mirror that, look at the marketing that you respond negatively to, and avoid that.

If you keep this in mind there are things you probably won't do:

  • popups on site
  • overlays on leaving
  • email marketing with no content
  • direct messages asking without giving
  • re-tweet content because you need to keep the flow of content

Things I've stopped doing because I didn't like them

  • popup on site (even though it was tiny and lived in the corner of the screen)
  • popup for email signup
  • re-tweeting content for the sake of it

I will give the company the benefit of the doubt and assume they had good intentions but believed in a "10 quick hacks for marketing success" approach regardless.

Look at the marketing that you respond positively to and mirror that, look at the marketing that you respond negatively to, and avoid that

What could they have done?

In the 15 days since the growth hacker initially made contact, they could have engaged in a campaign to promote their webinar.

Instead they sent out two tweets. Both exactly the same image and almost the same text.

And then the day before the webinar - send out the spammy tweets - even if the influencers had responded positively it might not have made much difference in that timeframe.

What might the campaign process look like?

Over the 15 days...

For influencers - build relationships:

  • follow the influencers on twitter
  • comment on their tweets or blog
  • engage with the influencer
  • contact the influencer via IM on twitter if they followed you back
  • contact the influencer via email or linked in and build a relationship
  • try and add value in the interaction
  • mention the webinar
  • if the relationship is going well and you are in conversation then ask them to promote

For paid marketing - find some and pay for attention:

  • Find some newsletters in the topic space and sponsor a promotional slot in the newsletter.
  • Find influencers that promote stuff when they are paid and ask them to promote you.

Create blog posts promoting the webinar which add value and have a sign up call to action:

  • interview with each presenter
  • sneak peak of some content
  • summarise some previous work from the presenters
  • explain some stuff in detail that the webinar is only going to summarise
  • describe some of the problems, that the webinar will solve, in detail
  • find examples of the problems on the internet and use as case studies

Any of the above, would have been a more productive approach.

It would have created ongoing relationship, and useful content. Value based content can continue to drive traffic to the site by changing the call to action e.g. after the webinar change the call to action to a 'sign up for the replay' or 'hire us to help you solve these problems'.

Value based content can continue to drive traffic to the site by changing the call to action

Avoid hacks

None of this is complicated.

  • Avoid hacks in your marketing.
  • Market using techniques your happy to be on the receiving end of.
  • Market using value.
  • Build relationships with influencers.
  • Find ways to decide if your strategies are working.
  • Change your strategies when they are not working.

I'm grateful to this company for approaching the marketing in this way so that I could think about what I disliked about the approach and learn from it.