Follower Count isn’t Everything
Let’s start this out with a quiz. Imagine you’re a French food brand that’s launching a new line of fully vegan desserts in supermarkets around Paris. In an effort to help you promote your new products on social media, you want to recruit Paris-based Instagram influencers who work in the vegan category.
You’ve searched for influencers and narrowed down your list, making sure that all the remaining options are located in Paris and post about vegan food. You’re left with three profiles, and have to choose one to collaborate with your brand on its campaign.
Do you choose….
- Influencer 1, who has 15,000 followers?
- Influencer 2, who has 100,000 followers?
- Influencer 3, who has 1,000,000 followers?
So what did you choose, and why? Did you choose option C, thinking you’d get maximum reach, and therefore the maximum possible ROI?
This was really a trick question. There is no right answer, because without knowing more about these three influencers, you can’t make a well-informed decision about which would be the best fit for your brand’s campaign.
We’ll revisit this question later on, but for now, let’s break down everything you need to know about finding influencers and choosing the right one for your brand.
How to find influencers
First thing’s first: before you can choose one, you have to find influencers! There are a few ways to find influencers, depending on the budget and time you have to dedicate to the process.
If you don’t have the budget for extra tools or manpower to help you find influencers, searching on social media is possible. But, know that you’ll spend a lot more time and effort conducting your search, and you won’t get the same insight that comes included in the other options.
If you want to search directly on social media, start by trying to find influencers who have already expressed interest in your brand. If influencers already know about and like your brand, they’ll be more receptive to potential collaborations.
Look for influencers:
- Who already follow your brand’s social media account.
- Who have liked, shared or commented on your posts.
- Who have mentioned your brand or used your branded hashtags in their content.
- Who use hashtags related to your sector or niche
Searching through social media manually will eat up a good chunk of time, and you’ll also have to spend time communicating with influencers to get data about their performance-driven metrics (more on that below).
If you’re interested in saving some time and energy, and have a bit of budget to spare, there are better ways to find influencers.
Influencer marketing platform
If you can spend a bit of money, but want to have less of a headache when you need to find influencers, an influencer marketing platform is the right choice for you. Yes, you have to subscribe to use this software, but that investment gives you trifold benefits:
- Search for influencers with filters like location, category, followers, engagement, etc.
- Analyze influencer profiles on the spot with detailed data about their performance-driven metrics
- Organize your search results in lists, which you can export and use to automate outreach
An influencer marketing platform is the middle of the road option for finding influencers. It’s more expensive than nothing, true, but it’s also much less expensive than hiring an agency. And while you’ll still have to manage the campaign in-house, your search will be a lot easier thanks to the search engine’s filters and immediate analytics.
Influencer marketing agency
The benefit of an agency is that you can pretty much wash your hands of looking for and managing influencers. But this outsourced work doesn’t come cheap; agency fees can easily reach into the thousands, per month. So before contracting an agency, make sure your budget affords for its price tag.
An agency will handle your campaign from start to finish. They have networks of influencers, and will choose those that can best help you reach your campaign goals. They’ll communicate with influencers, collect published media, and report on the campaign’s results.
Agencies are best for large campaigns that would be a real hassle for your own marketing team to handle. And although an agency let you step back from the situation a bit, you’ll still have to stay on top of things to make sure your brand is benefiting from the experience.
Performance-driven influencer metrics that go beyond follower count
While talking about how to find influencers, we mentioned that it’s important to analyze their performance-driven metrics before making any decisions about which you want to collaborate with. Doing so will show you an influencer’s strengths and weaknesses. This analysis can also reveal any potential influencer fraud, which is a top concern among marketers.
But what are these performance-drive metrics, exactly? And how can they help you recognize and avoid fake influencers? Let’s break down what you need to take into consideration when analyzing an influencer’s profile.
Follower growth over time
Follower count is important. But it’s not the most important metric when it comes to evaluating influencers. Follower count determines a profile’s reach, as well as an influencer’s price tag. But it doesn’t make a profile inherently better than others. You have to also look at how they gained those followers.
Organic follower growth is a steady albeit slow process, which looks like a hill if plotted out visually. This type of growth is more long-lasting, and shows that people are interested in an influencer’s content.
On the other hand, if you see that an influencer’s follower count is spiking up and dipping down, their followers might not have been accumulated due to quality content and commitment to their profile.
First check if the influencer recently went viral or hosted a giveaway. Both are occasions when it’s normal to get a big jump in new followers in a small amount of time. But in the absence of something like this, spiky follower growth could be a sign that the influencer bought fake followers.
Engagement rate measures the level of interaction between an influencer and their audience. Basically, the more followers trust an influencer’s content, the more likely they are to interact with it in some way.
The way to measure engagement depends on the social network in question, but for example, on Instagram, we’d measure it like this: total engagements (likes + comments) divided by total followers multiplied by 100.
Engagement rate averages vary based on the network and the follower segment. So, Youtube influencers with 50K subscribers can’t be held to the same standard as Instagram influencers with the same range of followers. So, it’s important to know the industry averages, or use an influencer marketing platform, which will automatically compare an influencer to the average rate among their peers.
Extremely low engagement is always a negative sign. It shows that either no one is interested in the influencer’s content, or perhaps that the influencer bought fake followers. Fake followers are often bots, who don’t actually interact with the influencer’s content.
Likewise, extremely high engagement can also be negative, as influencers can also buy fake engagements. If you see an influencer with 30% engagement rate, but then see that the average for their peers is 3%, something may be up. What looks too good to be true usually is.
Do you know about the follow/unfollow strategy? If you use social media, you’ve probably come across it at some point. It’s when an account follows a bunch of random people, waits for them to politely follow back, and then unfriends them. Some influencers use this tactic to pump up their follower count.
Now, what’s the problem with this? The random accounts the influencer follows tend to be real people, so it might not seem like such a bad thing at first. However, if an influencer is accumulating their followers this way, they’re banking on social media etiquette instead of betting on the quality of their content.
To see if an influencer is using this strategy, simply compare their number of followers to the number of accounts they follow. If the ratio is close to 1, they may be using follow/unfollow.
In addition to checking out statistics related to an influencer’s profile, you should analyze their audience to make sure you’re reaching the people you want to reach. Look at basic demographics like age, gender, location, language and interests.
On top of making sure you reach your target audience, analyzing audience demographics can also reveal potential influencer fraud. If this Paris-based vegan food influencer suddenly had a majority of her followers from Russia, speaking Russian and interested in video games, then something might be strange with the profile. It could be that the influencer bought bot followers.
We’ve talked a lot about fake followers by now, and there’s one more metric you can use to reveal if an influencer has purchased them. Audience authenticity can be analyzed two ways: manually or with AI assistance.
If you want to evaluate it manually, you have to sift through an influencer’s followers to see if they seem like real people. Do they have names, biographies, and profile pictures? Does their speech seem natural? Do they follow accounts that have similar interests, use the same language or come from similar places?
If you’re using influencer marketing software, the AI will do this work for you. When you access the influencer’s analytics information, you’ll see what percentage of the audience may be bots.
How to choose the right influencer for your brand
Now that you know how to find influencers and what to look at when analyzing their profiles, let’s talk about making the final decision about which ones to collaborate with. The right influencer is totally relative to your campaign objectives, as well as your brand and its values. Let’s take a look at what it means.
Know your goals
Before you can make any decisions with respect to influencers, you need to know:
- What you want to get out of the campaign?
- Who is your target audience?
- How much can you offer an influencer in incentive?
Answering these three questions will help you plot your influencer discovery journey. And don’t fret if you can’t pay influencers a lot. Nano and micro influencers, who have the highest engagement rates in the industry, will often accept collaborations in exchange for free products alone.
Make a good match
You may have heard this advice before: find influencers who align with your brand. Essentially, what this means is finding the right match for your brand and its values. Companies do this when hiring employees, too. If you run a gym, you wouldn’t hire a personal trainer who hated exercise, right?
Well, extend the same idea to influencers. If you’re promoting vegan products, collaborate with vegans! If your fashion label’s clothes have hippie 60s vibes, don’t choose an influencer who’s entrenched in an 80s aesthetic.
Moreover, make sure influencers align with your brand’s values. If you claim to stand for racial diversity, use influencers to show that. Is size inclusion a part of your brand value proposition? Then work with influencers who fill that spectrum. Or, maybe your company is focused on using only sustainable materials and manufacturing. There’s an influencer for that, too.
Now let’s go back to the question from the very beginning of the article, but with extra information added in.
You want to recruit Paris-based vegan Instagramers to help your brand promote its new line of vegan desserts launching in supermarkets around Paris. After narrowing down your search to three options who each align with your brand, who do you choose?
- Influencer 1: 15K followers, 3.8% engagement, 7% suspicious followers, 68% located in France
- Influencer 2: 100K followers, 2% engagement, 30% suspicious followers, 50% located in France
- Influencer 3: 1M followers, 0.9% engagement, 12% suspicious followers, 15% located in France
After having read the article, you should be able to see the clear winner here, and it’s… Option A – Influencer 1! Although Influencer 1 has the lowest follower count, they have the highest engagement rate, the smallest percentage of suspicious followers, and the largest percentage of followers actually located in France. In addition, as a micro influencer, Influencer 1 will also be the most budget-friendly option for your campaign.
So, remember: follower count isn’t everything. There’s a lot more at play when it comes to influencers, so make sure you’re getting the full picture before making important decisions for your campaign.