The White Moose Café debacle is probably one of the first things that springs to mind when you think of influencer marketing gone wrong. Also known as #bloggergate, the faux pas dominated social media back in January.

It all kicked off when UK based blogger, Elle Darby, made the mistake of asking Paul Stenson, the manager of Charleville Lodge in Dublin, for a freebie. Stenson (an influencer in his own right, whether he likes it or not) proceeded to post screen grabs of the email across his highly engaged social media channels and chaos ensued.

Stenson reckons real influencers don’t ask for freebies, that brands simply come to them if they want to collaborate. In this instance, the outreach came from the blogger and was picked apart in front of millions of pairs of eyes. Ouch. We’re still not convinced that the whole thing wasn’t an elaborate collaboration of sorts between both parties, but regardless, bIoggers would definitely have learned a thing or two about how not to approach a brand.

But what about the flip side?

Are there any pitfalls that brands need to be aware of when reaching out to bloggers?

First of all, is influencer marketing still a thing? There has been a definite backlash against some of the #spon #ad #collab posts that have been clogging up Instagram feeds and Snapchat stories of the same few big names in the business. Consumers are becoming more cynical and tired of influencer marketing. But is it still worthwhile? We believe so, but only if it’s done well.

The key to successful influencer marketing is not to be fooled by big numbers and flashy media kits. Do your homework and look at the engagement rates. Does your brand’s ethos align with what a particular influencer is doing? Does a particular influencer you’re keen to work with have authenticity or will your brand’s voice be just one of many being pushed?

If someone seems to have reached saturation point with their endorsements, think twice about using them. A walking, talking billboard is still that: a billboard. The most successful collaborations are authentic and emerge from a natural affiliation and attraction between the influencer and your product. Don’t force it – otherwise it will come across as just that: forced.

So if you’ve found an influencer that you think would perfectly fly the flag for your business, are there best practices for approaching them? Absolutely. Here are our top tips for reaching out to them via email:

  • Get the subject of your email right. Don’t make it look spammy, make it short and sweet. You want them to open your email so blathering on in the subject without hinting to what it’s about, won’t do you any favours when they’re facing an inbox of hundreds of emails. “Possible Collaboration?” is a decent suggestion. It gets the point across that there’s something in it for them. Influencers make a living from working with brands, so an email about a possible new gig will grab their attention.
  • Be personal. Get the basics right – know their real name and not just their username or blogger name. Refer to a particular blog post you enjoyed and keep your language professional but friendly. A generic email that looks as if it could have been sent to a number of people won’t grab their attention in the same way.
  • Explain why you’re contacting them. Don’t beat around the bush or be wishy washy about who you are. Give them the relevant information about your brand and why you think they’d be a good fit for you. Send them links or examples of why you think their ethos matches yours. Let them know what’s in it for them: are you offering samples, discounts, review opportunities, payment or otherwise? Don’t make demands too early or come across as pushy. A collaboration should be just that: a collaboration. No one knows an influencer’s followers better than they do, so make it clear that you’re open to ideas and suggestions and working together in a mutually beneficial way.