Not all influencers are unethical, fake, or overpaid… Dear Mishu & 17 friends tell it like it is.


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Q: People say that influencers are selfish and engage in unfair practices. Is that true?

A: Not all!

Dear Mishu Dad & Friends

Recently the media are full warnings about social media Influencers – they they are fake, frauds… that they are unethical, entitled, overpaid. What’s next – claims that they are evil? Here are some examples of these kinds of scare tactics:

I even saw a respectable business magazine that 7 (out of 8) of its “next year forecasts” were “how to protect yourself from”… you know, Influencers! And … soooo many headlines about “the end of..” and “the bust of the bubble” referring to, you got it: influencer marketing.

Can it be? I don’t think so!! I asked 17 of my good friends – all experts in marketing and influencer marketing – to share their thoughts. But first, here is my view:

Do the Influencers bad, fair practices and all that?

And here is an example, from my own experience:

My BFF (a dog, who is also an Advice Columnist) is a Micro-Influencer.
She helped me to solve an issue with my insurance company by getting them to reimburse a $600 out of pocket payment. I had been trying to get reimbursed for the payment for nearly a year with no luck, until ‪#InfluencerMarketing came to the rescue! That’s not a bad influencer, right? Here:

Influencer helps with insurance company out of pocket payment

The results were:

  • very, very responsive (answering within 10 minutes)
  • a promise to fix the issue immediately
  • a process that had been going on for a year was resolved successfully in two weeks
  • all sides are happy and the company got a happy customer and positive PR.

What I like here the most is that the Influencer used her power to change the world in a good way, and to help someone who needed help.
It’s good to have an Influencer like that – really good… and there are so many other examples like that out there!

And another example:

Do you think anything could possibly be bad about these two? Then why say all influencers are bad…?

Read on for thoughts from these experts in the field. I recommend it, as these are people who really care:

1. Joel Backaler (@joelbackaler): I came across a lot of good and bad examples of influencer marketing while writing “Digital Influence.” Ultimately, influencer fails draw the greatest online interest, but that’s because a lot of people look at influencer marketing through a very narrow lens (simplified as consumer brands overpaying lifestyle Instagrammers with no real influence for questionable ROI). Ultimately, an influencer’s “influence” boils down to two characteristics: i. they are known for something within a target community ii. they can influence the actions of target community members. When looked at in this way – and not simply chasing the internet-famous with large follower counts – there are a lot of true influencers producing great content and adding value to their communities in countries all around the world.

2. David Sokolow (@trywefind): People who don’t understand influencer marketing don’t realize that influencers exist because of a larger economic shift, not because of any one social platforms. Now that social media has been adopted so ubiquitously in our lives, this has given anyone the ability to build a name for themselves. In the past, only celebrities that were hand picked could speak, but the notion of influencer marketing has completely changed that. It’s democratized communication, and given it back to individuals, ideally the way it should be. The market is messy today because we are so early, but we’re big believers that in 10-20 years, the notion of becoming an influencer will be as normal as becoming a journalist.

3. Christian Damsen (@damsen): Just as in real life, it pays to be genuine in our digital worlds. Audiences and fans have learned (sometimes the hard way) to see right through those who are disingenuous or pushing ulterior motives. While there will always be people trying to game the system and their audiences, this democratic governance by our followers should help weed out the bad actors and keep us all honest.

4. Meghan Lorine (@eyehateheels): As someone who gained a following because of their style, I have typically shied away from sharing much of my personal life and allowed the fashion to speak for itself.  This past year, I decided to be a bit vulnerable and share with my readers about my battle with endometriosis.  Because of that blog post, I received a message from someone who put me in contact with The Endometriosis Coalition, a non-profit organization fighting for awareness, education, and research funding for the disease.  The founder connected me with a local specialist who got me the surgical help I needed.  I also think it’s important to note that no matter our following – big or small – our voices as “influencers” have a lot of power.  I’m proud that my being open and starting a conversation not only helped me get relief, but shed light on the disease for other women who might be struggling as well.  Endometriosis was one of the top trending women’s health questions of 2018.

Lorine: This past year, I decided to be a bit vulnerable and share with my readers about my battle with endometriosis.  Because of that blog post, I received a message from someone who put me in contact with The Endometriosis Coalition, a non-profit organization fighting for awareness, education,

5. Neal Schaffer (@nealschaffer) : I appreciate your trying to set the record straight about influencers and influencer marketing in general. I think part of the problem is that many have an old, rigid view of influencers that prevent them from taking advantage of the potential that influencer marketing has for businesses. Sure, there are influencers with fake followers and fake engagement that can be an easy way to waste a lot of money. But with the democratization of media influence, for every 1 “fake” influencer there are 99 real people that can help promote your brand in social media. Not all of these 99 people might be appropriate for your brand, and not all of them would want to promote your brand, but there are some that might be open to engagement because they have an interest in the product or service that your company provides. If you look for these influencers in influencer marketplaces, yes, you might find many that don’t have real influence and/or are only in influencer marketing for the money. However, if you were to search social media and develop genuine relationships with social media users, you might be able to find more appropriate and authentic influencers for your brand.

6. Jim Tobin (@jtobin): “Like all forms of marketing, you have good examples and bad. Think about banner ads, particularly in the early days, and how some folks tried shortcuts, distractions and even flaming rotating logos to grab attention. Over time, tactics like that don’t last, but if the industry itself is built on something meaningful, it gets better and better. I’ve seen influencer marketing work so many times that I consider a lot of those bad examples as bumps in the road to something great.”
Jim was also gracious enough to share an example of a good influencer:

The program featured was a campaign to make sure people got their eye exams and took care of their eye health, so it also involved a social good (more here).

7. David J Wing (@djwing_wing) : Many brands think they can buy Influencers, and they’d be right, but they won’t get loyalty. Loyalty comes from relationship building, honestly and transparency. You can see it very clearly with b2b influencers, if they’re invested, if they believe in the brand and you as the influencer liaison, then the results will tell; blog posts, online engagement, event attendance, etc.

8. Lee Odden (@leeodden): Working exclusively in the B2B influencer marketing space, I see many subject matter experts being invited to become influencers with no experience in how the influencer game works. There’s a learning curve for people who are smart and accomplished but maybe not as familiar with the kind of social content creation often associated with industry influencers. To some, that lack of experience might invite criticism about whether certain tech executives, engineers or scientists are true “influencers”, but influence in B2B weighs more heavily on expertise than fame. Luckily, agencies like ours do a great job at making it easier for experts in the B2B world to participate in B2B brand influencer programs. The community gets quality content, the brand gets exposure to niche and highly relevant audiences. And the industry experts get relevant exposure and credibility. Everybody wins!

Case study: Allie is a good example of micro-influencer that kills it.
Allie (a Micro Influencer) is awesome, both on FB and IG

9. Tom Augenthaler (@taugenthaler): Influencers aren’t bots, they’re human beings with desires, ideas and ambitions. This is the the magic of influencer marketing… working through content creators who’ve built followings of their own independent of any media company. Are they all angels? No, but most are good.

10. Eric Webb (@cirewebb): Even if they provide an opposing view, it gives you the chance to give your side of the story and engage a new audience. Those that are believers already will help expand your brand’s message and value. No matter what, “influencers” impact how others think, get introduced and engage with your brand. Take advantage of the power of one to many.

11. John Andrews (@katadhin): While it may seem like a new medium, organized influencer marketing has been around for quite a while now and it evolves as do most forms of media as players pile in and seek to understand how to best optimize the platforms. influencer created content is just that, content. It can be compared to and measured against other forms of content for effectiveness. Authenticity is the key. At Walmart, we experimented with influencers that created content about saving money, Walmart’s core brand promise and created the Walmart Elevenmoms not as a voice for Walmart, but as a way to support content creation about saving money. Authenticity came from the reality that only a small part of their content was about Walmart, mostly it was about saving money. People consumered their content because it was real and meaningful to them. Influencer audiences built on false foundations don’t influence.

Few of those on top can be your best ever Influencers.
A few of those on top can be your best ever Influencers.

12. Owain Williams (@makeitmana): When it comes to influencers, the bad guys get a lot of the press coverage – that is just how media works. But from personal experience in the industry, there are far more good influencers than bad. In fact, those that employ dubious methods (fake followers etc) aren’t really influencers at all. We have fallen into a trap of calling anyone with large follower counts ‘influencers’, where in fact to be a true influencer you need to be…influential. That means being authentic and above all else trustworthy.

13. Jamie Duklas (@jduklas): Influencer marketing is a two-way street. If you provide clear communication, goals, some creative freedom and value the influencer as a partner you’re much more likely to get out of it what you’re looking for.

The majority of Jamie’s sales are dog food and we feel dog influencers provide the strongest connection to reach dog parents. He brings the following examples as influencers, do you see any badness there?

14. Hendrik Siemes: If you criticize Influencers for faking, please understand that this results from social behavior all involved parties (the network we use, the Influencer who produce content, the brand that seeks attention to sell their product & the consumer that consumes), play on an everyday basis. In a digital world where I can control the good and the bad, why would I ever let something negative happen to me (and my profile) again? Why don´t I polish for what I actually will receive attention and honors? Maybe even money? Isn´t this actually too good to be true? Influencers are the result of the society we turned into and the question we have to answer is: Do you hate the game or the player (?) as Influencers play the game of nurturing what today´s society honors & values.

15. Timothy Snow (@SnowinRI)

@SnowinRI There is a human element that's not found in...

16. Tiffany Spencer  (@TiffanyLSpencer):  Love it or hate it: Influencer marketing works. With fragmented media, high distraction, short attention spans and an ever-increasing volume of noise, it’s helpful to market your products through people who already have an authentic connection to your customer. Of course, it’s important to choose wisely when you partner with an influencer, but the right choice can truly benefit your business.

17. Shane Barker (@shane_barker): Definitely not. The majority of influencers work really hard to attract and engage massive followings and to get those followers to trust them. Many of them spend hours on consistently creating content that is original and provides value to their followers.

Influencers are also normal humans who have their own passions, desires, and goals. And there is nothing wrong with aspiring to grow their followings, brand collaborations, and income.

With my experience, I can assure you that not all influencers are fake or indulge in unfair practices.

In fact, I have worked with some of the finest people in the influencer industry who value originality, relevance, and trust. It has always been a great experience working with influencers like retired NFL player, Adrian Ross; actor/director, Angela Bassett; fitness model, Sandra Prikker; and many more.

Big hugs,

Your friends

NG Gordon
Former pro tennis player and Silicon Valley exec. "Dad" of Dear Mishu (, a Micro-Influencer and Advice Columnist based on… my dog. Sharing my experience with marketing innovation and social media marketing with brand owners and managers. Organizer of the North Carolina Social Media Brainstorm Meetup. Listen to me on Social Launch at and my brand new online Influencer Marketing MASTERY Course at I was presenting and teaching at the recent


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