I’ve seen some pretty sketch outreach in my years on the blogosphere.
I still get irrelevant pitches, bad pitches, strange or unreasonable requests, and I’m sure people with far more reach and influence get even more.
But in recent months, the frequency of a particular sort of “influencer outreach” tactic is increasing, and it’s concerning. So, let’s stop this once and for all, okay?
Stop using guilt as leverage.
As a recent example, Anne Wheaton posted this to her twitter feed:
Personally, a few months ago, I had someone tag me and about a dozen other “social media influencer” types in a post on Facebook about a cause they cared about, asking us all to post and share. Ok, pretty par for the course so far.
But they also added the comment “Let’s see who walks the walk”, the implication being that those of us that talk about and teach the importance of being “social” in the business world should demonstrate that by sharing this post because that shows that NO REALLY, WE’RE SOCIAL! LOOK!
Then later, they posted how “disappointed” they were that more people tagged in the post didn’t pony up and share the post.
Setting aside the simple fact that being rude to someone is not likely to garner their support, now or in the future, there are four main problems with this approach.
1. Valuable communities are not up for grabs.
Most influencers I know have worked hard to cultivate a voice, credibility, and trust among the people that like and follow them. Which means that they’re not likely to simply provide access to those people simply because someone asks them to (at least I hope they aren’t).
Effectively you’re asking someone to use their clout (with a ‘c’), reputation, and reach to amplify your message. In turn, they are asking their community to provide attention and in many cases take an action, whether that be to donate or buy something or spread the word.
I don’t know about you, but once I’ve earned someone’s trust, I know that the first way to wreck it is to sell them out to the highest bidder and start shoving a bunch of stuff in their face to do and buy because some other random person asked me to.
Communities are valuable. You don’t get to become part of someone else’s unless you’ve earned it.
2. Your cause may not be mine.
There are about a zillion causes out there in the world.
From hunger to homelessness, animals to children, healthcare to veterans to clean water. It’s dizzying the number of things there are to do, fix, support, encourage, solve…the list goes on.
For the most part, humans want to do good things by humanity. With the exception of the extraordinarily selfish, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a person that would say “No, I don’t really care about helping causes or solving world problems.”
But we each have our beliefs, our value systems, and the causes we care about. None of us have the time or energy to care about everything all the time much less take action to further those causes. And if we all try to support everything all the time, we simply dilute the attention and impact we could have if we narrow our focus and concentrate on the one or two things that matter most to us.
Your cause is likely very worthy. You’re undoubtedly trying to do amazing things.
So are we all.
My belief in the value of your crusade isn’t diminished because it’s not one I share. But neither are you entitled to my or anyone else’s support simply because you ask for it.
Not everyone is going to align with your mission, and that’s okay. There are plenty of people that will. Those are the people you want to find and activate. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Reach and influence are not the same.
How many times have you bought something only because a celebrity endorsed it?
I’m guessing not many.
But how many times have you bought or talked about something because it was recommended by someone you know, respect, or trust as a member of the interest group that you share? Maybe that person is a celebrity. Maybe not.
But if they’re connected to the cause, their influence is exponentially higher than it would be if they simply provided a promo that leveraged the sheer reach of their audience for a moment in time.
I’m unsure why this is still a question.
I’ll be the first to tell you that both quantity AND quality of information matter when you’re trying to build something. But the right reach is so much more important than big reach, and we keep proving that over and over again when promotional stunts backfire completely because they were aimed at MORE instead of BETTER.
Invest the time in finding the influencers that are passionately connected to your cause instead of simply the ones with the giant audience. Because…
4. Relevance is key to credibility.
Back to Anne up above for a second.
Let’s say I connect with Anne on something related to a cause near and dear to my heart: animal rescue. She’d be a really good choice because she does awesome animal rescue projects, and she and her husband Wil are rescue parents themselves. So it’s likely a cause she cares about, and she probably has friends and connections that also care about that cause. Relevant.
(Which, by the way, is totally not a guarantee of her support. Quit assuming that one, folks.)
It’s not that Anne wouldn’t care if I shared something about childhood cancer or mental health. It’s just that both she and her community are probably a better fit for something else.
In my smaller world, people look to me for information about social media and enterprise social collaboration. Maybe some about business and entrepreneurship. Probably animal rescue, and a little bit about mental health.
So my reach would probably be valuable around those kinds of topics. Not so much about cars, or knitting, or parenting.
Moreover, if I start pushing a bunch of stuff around topics that don’t fit with the ones that have helped me establish my authority, that authority and trust immediately degrades. People know the disconnect is there and while I don’t have a fancy chart to share with you to back it up, I’d be willing to bet that they’re far less likely to click, share, or take action on that post.
The Most Important Reason to Stop It
I’ll close by saying that the most important reason to avoid the guilt tactic is that it’s taking effort and attention away from the very cause you’re trying to support.
Now you’ve turned the focus to the person who wasn’t interested, publicly shamed them or put them on the spot (which probably alienates them for good), and diluted all of the things you could be doing to further your cause and message through the people that actually love and care about what you’re doing.
There’s a quote I’ve seen about promoting what you love instead of bashing what you hate. This is sort of the same thing.
Put your chips down where they can matter most. Stay gracious, engaged, and positive with the people that are connected to your business or your cause. Let go of the people who aren’t your people, no matter how tempting their audience may seem.
Influence is a slow burn, not a flash flame.
Invest wisely, and it will pay you back richly over and over again.