Instagram “influencers” are masters at the art of quid pro quo, and know how to get free goods and services in exchange for featuring a brand on their Instagram page.

But is it worth it for the brand or business owner?

Joe Nicchi doesn’t think so.

In fact, the Los Angeles-based owner of CVT Soft Serve (a vintage ice cream truck) has had enough of supposed influencers asking for freebies in exchange for a snap.

After endless (denied) requests for free ice cream in exchange for “exposure,” he figured it was time to send a message.

He took to CVT’s Facebook Page to post the following message:

We truly don’t care if you’re an Influencer, or how many followers you have. We will never give you a free ice cream in exchange for a post on your social media page. It’s literally a $4 item … well now it’s $8 for you. #InfluencersAreGross

Is Influencer Marketing Worth It?

Nicchi isn’t alone in questioning the value of influencer marketing.

The value of influencer marketing can be tough to prove, especially with something physical like an ice cream cone.

While online products and services can be tracked with UTM codes, it’s much harder to track when it’s physical.

Furthermore, all the likes, reach and “exposure” (a word Nicchi has come to hate) might never translate into a single sale, given that the influencers audience might not even be local.

But then again … there are the unicorn influencers who can skyrocket a brand to the next level with one mention.

The fact that influencers are backed by thousands of followers provides social proof that is compelling.

Then there’s the fact that people are largely more likely to make a purchase based on a recommendation from a connection rather than a brand.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder influencer marketing is a $6.5 billion industry.

If you’re thinking about working with an influencer, make sure to do the following:

  1. Verify the legitimacy of their following with a tool like this free Instagram Audit Tool.

  2. Evaluate whether their following matches your ideal clients.

  3. Check out their previous work with other brands (and make sure they follow FTC guideline by disclosing the post is an #ad or #partnership)

  4. Ask for data on some of the ROI they’ve been able to deliver thanks to their social posts.

As for Joe Nicchi and CVT Soft Serve?

They’re doing just fine.

CVT has been featured in Vanity Fair, Times Magazine, Newsweek, People Magazine, TimeOut, The Los Angeles Times and many other publications — all without the assistance of influencer marketing.

In fact, since his anti-influencer campaign went viral, he’s got more Instagram followers than ever.

Go figure.

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