THE INC. LIFE

How Trying to Not Be an ‘Influencer’ Made Me More Influential

When everyone zigs, you need to zag–and zag hard.

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BY Jeff Barrett - 12 Jul 2018

How Trying to Not Be an 'Influencer' Made Me More Influential

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Humor is often underrated as a marketing tool, as a way to connect, as a way to create large and loyal followings.

You applaud a Dollar Shave Club campaign or a tweet from Arby's because it's both effective and fun--and you wish you could do that on a daily basis. So, why don't you? When I went out on my own seven years ago I was intentional about two things: I was going to create a parody of marketing influence, and I would figure the rest as I went along.

If someone posted a quote over a beautiful view of a mountain, I posted something "unspirational." If someone posted a message of "you can do it," I did too--but with a corresponding GIF of an overweight bulldog failing to jump on a couch. You get the point.

In a sea of people pitching webinars, breakout sessions, books, classes and all kinds of other things I understood it, fully. It's not that I think any of those are bad things. Except for webinars. I would rather drive my drunk friends at 2 a.m. through a Taco Bell drive-thru than attend a webinar.

But the world didn't need another person doing any or all of that. And frankly, I wouldn't be that effective doing it because that's not where my passion is.

That's the very long point I'm trying to make.

Don't watch a video of Gary Vaynerchuk and try and be him. He's Gary Vaynerchuck for a reason, and he will always be better at it than you are.

You can, of course, still learn a lesson from what he's done.

Be different.

When you're marketing something in industries with similar competition (Banking, Automotive, Insurance) you have to find a way to stand out from the rest of your competitors. If everyone was being funny, I would advise you not to be.

Humor is just often the perfect counter in an industry, or with your brand. But we don't, in general, look to humor enough.

It's universal. Everyone has a sense of humor. Try imagining the most humorless person you know. Even that person has laughed at least once in the last week. Everybody laughs. Everybody poops.

Humor creates comfort, which may be the most important reason to use it. If you're looking to connect with people as a brand or an individual you first need to make them feel comfortable with you. You'll never convince anyone to do anything if they're skeptical or uncomfortable.

Create a community.

If you use Twitter and wonder why something funny is trending out of nowhere, it might be the work of Hashtag Roundup. Comedian Jeff Dwoskin has created a group of tens of thousands of loyal and devoted "players" of hashtag games that follow his Hashtag Roundup Twitter account.

This group, built on trying to post the funniest and most memorable thing on the Internet that day, is competitive and fun. But it also has a point. Brands can use a group like Hashtag Roundup to immediately create a Moment on Twitter.

That's powerful. The group consists of thousands of players per game that create billions of impressions monthly.

Dwoskin told me that he didn't start out with a monetary goal in mind--like most creators of fun internet-driven pursuits. Hashtag Roundup was a fun way for people to connect that has now become big enough to yield major power in the marketing industry.

The funny thing, pun very much intended, about me making fun of influencers is that I'm now considered one. I speak at marketing conferences about programmatic or AI, and I interview people all over the world. I've even won a Shorty Award.

When I won that award, I got up on stage to give a speech--and saw Hannibal Buress sitting in the front row, watching me. I paused, just for a second. I'm never going to be as remotely funny as him. But I don't have to be.

See, you don't have to be the funniest person in the room. You just have to be funnier than your competition to create your place.

And that's how I became the proud owner of a Ford Focus hatchback. Who says you can't make it big in this world?

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