Interview: Jake Ludington Reveals Being an Influencer Is About Connecting People


Author’s note: This interview is part of a series I started a while back when I first interviewed influencer Andru Edwards of GearLive.

Let’s start with a little background about you. What do you focus on as an influencer?

My primary interest as an influencer is in helping people find the right technology to address their specific needs.

In the consumer space, that means helping people find apps and gadgets that allow them to express themselves creatively.

From an enterprise computing perspective, I try to learn as much as I can about software and infrastructure solutions so I can help point people in the right direction when they look at solving bigger picture business challenges.

How did you get started?

No one talked about influence when I was starting out.

Way back in 2001, I started writing about some of the challenges I was facing with audio and video production for the web.

My biggest motivation at that time was to document how I solved something so I wouldn’t need to remember how to do it the next time.

My writing quickly became a blog where I would post detailed how-to tutorials explaining how I solved something, so the next time I needed to do that same task I had a cheat sheet for what I did.

It turned out that other people found my how-to content useful and questions started pouring in.

The questions resulted in a steady stream of topics for me to write about.

As I gained a reputation for providing reliable information, individuals and companies reached out to me to help them solve problems, which translated into more writing, video tutorials and consulting opportunities.

My own needs for knowledge changed over time and I started looking at how to solve bigger problems, which is how I got more deeply involved in enterprise IT topics.

Jake Ludington in Paris

You cover a lot of ground as an influencer … B2C, B2B as well as video … what is your favorite and why?

My favorite subject to geek out about is probably content distribution – figuring out how to connect audiences with great content.

That actually touches on both the B2C and B2B worlds.

Part of the reason I make videos and write about both B2C and B2B is that I love aspects of both.

At the end of the day, all of us, from the CEOs of the world’s largest companies down to the barista at your local coffee shop are consumers.

Beyond just recommending the latest gadget or talking about cool apps I find useful, I think about how consumer focused tech also impacts the way we do business.

On the B2B side, I like looking at ways to solve really big problems.

B2C doesn’t operate at the same scale, so getting the opportunity to understand how B2B products solve big problems is also exciting to me.

I see that you work with many brands and get invited to events by them to cover topics and products, so what advice can you give marketers about how to work with influencers like you?

Get to know the people you want to work with.

Read a few of the things they’ve written or watch some of their videos before you approach them with a pitch. And don’t try to force an unrelated product into their niche.

I can’t tell you how many times I get emails from people who will try to interest me in a product that has nothing to do with any of the topics I’m interested in!

What advice can you give to other influencers who would like to work with brands as you do?

Be professional. Be prepared. And don’t only focus on getting paid.

What I mean by that is prepare for any engagement with a business like it’s a real meeting, because it is.

That might mean simply reading the last couple blog posts from a company or it might mean installing their app and using it before you meet.

You’ll get more out the engagements and the brands will be more likely to take you seriously.

As for the getting paid part, we all need to make a living, but I do a lot of things with brands because I either really believe in the product or because there’s some amount of fun to be had.

Too many people who are currently calling themselves influencers are only looking at how they can get paid for talking about a product, whether they actually love the product or not.

Jake with Emmitt Smith

Do you have any pet peeves about working with marketers or brands? If so, what are they?

This goes back to my earlier answer, but marketers frequently try to make broad leaps about my interests without actually getting to know me first.

I get plenty of emails from marketers who will start by saying something like, “I saw your article about GoPro, I think you’d really like our robotic teddy bear.”

That’s pretty tone-deaf.

What do you look for in a brand when working with them? Do you look for a certain attitude or focus?

The product needs to be something I would use myself. If I wouldn’t use it or recommend it to someone as a solution to a problem, I won’t work with a brand.

In the B2B space, that means I need to be able to see some value that solves a business need.

I might not personally have that business need, but I need to have a clear understanding of who does and how the product solves that need.

In the consumer space, it means the product needs to be something I would actually be willing to spend my own money on.

The people representing the brand are incredibly important as well.

In general, I look for people that I’d want to talk to me more than once.

Ideally they are people that I’d love to spend time with over coffee or a beer if we happen to be in the same city.

I’d rather work with brands that I can work with for a long time than do a one-off just because the company has budget this quarter that they are trying to burn.

Jake Ludington with Bobby Simmons

Any horror stories when working with a brand on a project (no need to name the brand)?

I can thankfully say I haven’t had any true horror stories.

I think that’s partly because I’m incredibly picky about who I’m willing to work with, so I avoid some of the potential problems by doing a thorough job of vetting up front.

I’m sure you get approached by brands frequently. Do you have a set of requirements you look for when working with a brand?

My two primary requirements are wrapped up in two simple questions:

Is the product something I would actually use myself?

If not, I will pass on the opportunity, no matter how much money is offered.

Is the company looking to create a relationship with me or are they simply hoping they can goose their quarterly numbers?

If they company is looking for a quick hit, I’m probably not the right person for them to work with.

What trends do you see emerging that influencers and brands should be aware of?

Probably the biggest thing I see right now is the need to be more transparent in disclosing the relationships with brands.

The FTC has started cracking down on influencers who aren’t being open about why they are talking about a particular product.

Influencers who were behaving ethically and disclosing their relationships already won’t notice any difference, but I think there are definitely folks out there who haven’t been forthcoming about their relationships.

Jake Ludington video influencer

What aspect of being an influencer is the most rewarding to you?

The most rewarding thing for me is the occasional unsolicited “thank yous” I get from people who read and watch my stuff.

I love helping people.

Do you have any thoughts on the state of influence marketing at this point in time?

I think the term “influencer” has been a little polluted recently.

Sometimes that means a celebrity like Kim Kardashian, when really what someone means in that case is they want a celebrity endorsement.

Sometimes influencer means paid product reviewer.

Brand representatives who are looking to have a real impact via influence marketing should be thinking about how to find people who are passionate about their products and have the potential to convince others that the product is as great as the influencer thinks it is.

At the end of the day, if the people you engage cannot help move your potential customers off the fence and get them to make a purchase, then they don’t actually have any influence.

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  • Salman

    I am a big fan of Jake and I follow him on my different social network. I admire his work. I totally agree with his word by Jake influencer means connecting people.

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