Influencers are everywhere. There are many routes to take when searching for the right influencer, whether you are a well-known company, or launching a new business. It’s important to recognize the different types of influencers, and to know how to determine who is a real influencer, and who is simply a con.
As a Digital Media Consultant, I specialize in helping small businesses and solopreneurs. From the early days of social media, I have stressed to my clients the importance of storytelling and providing valuable content to their online followers — their communities. By creating a personal brand around their business, they slowly gained more engagement, more followers, and an audience hungry for the experience they offer via social media accounts. In short, they became influencers, which made it substantially easier to sell their products.
Today, I advise them to do the same, but find already established influencers to help them expose their brand and boost reach and engagement via targeted campaigns.
Here are 7 ways to sift through the influencers out there, and avoid falling for empty promises:
1) Followers don’t necessarily equal engagement
When you are looking for the perfect influencer for your brand, you might become blinded by an impressive social media following. Don’t be. While a long list of followers can mean potential exposure for your brand, it’s the reach and targeted market you’re looking for.
In October, a top Israeli website looked at the biggest Twitter accounts (from Celebrities like Gal Gadot, to Members of the Israeli Knesset), and discovered that in many of the Politician’s cases — most of their followers were “inactive” accounts, determining their real average reach per tweet is in fact, much lower than the number of followers they had.
2) Ratio matters
There are a few key things that can help you distinguish between a true influencer — and a fake one. The first perimeter you can easily find the data about, is the Following/Followers ratio (on Instagram & Twitter). The lower amount of “following” vs “followers” is a good indicator. You may come across accounts with large amounts of followers, but with a practically identical amount of accounts they follow. This most likely suggests this account gained followers by “following back”. A close look through their timeline shows a small amount of engagement, especially for an account with a huge following — is a user that is not a real influencer, and will have a relatively low reach per social media post.
3) Traditional PR Firms are just outdated Influencers
Recently, I’ve been helping a friend, a small business owner in the Fine Dining & Lifestyle field, decide how to market herself on a tight budget, in order to grow sales for her store, and book more private catering events and tutorial speaking engagements. She had a pile of business cards and emails with different offers from PR firms, bloggers and social media marketers, and wanted my advice in sorting out the riff raff.
The traditional PR firms were the first to cross off the list. They were asking for thousands of dollars per month in exchange for the promise of interviews and television segments. Sounds great, right? But, that adds up to a whole lot of nothing for a high price per month. What a PR person does, is essentially write out a pretty boring media pitch, and try to leverage their network of reporters and columnists, TV producers and bookers, to get you media coverage. They can’t guarantee it, and after a few items over a few months — they will run out of ways to market you — because they aren’t creative types like today’s expert influencer marketers who tend to create their own original and appealing content for their followers.
We moved on to the social media marketers, bloggers and influencers – who had approached her.
4) The metrics you’re looking for are REACH & Engagement
One offer was from a certain influencer within the Food & Dining field who, amongst other things, was selling posts on his social media accounts. My friend saw his 19K Instagram list, and was becoming convinced it was worth her buck.
I advised her to reach out to him and request his average post reach to get a sense of how many people actually see the ads he is selling as an influencer. Meanwhile, I pulled up his Instagram account. As I scrolled through the videos, I noticed he had attracted less than 2000 views per video and a little over 70 likes per photo. When my friend saw this, she was dazed and confused. Ten minutes later, the self proclaimed guru replied to her inquiry with “We have so much engagement on social that we can’t keep track” — which confirmed my original suspicions regarding the real ROI of this particular influencer.
5) Marketplace Influencers
As we continued to go over the different proposals, there were many with podcasts that offered segments for a price. If we had a special sale to promote, and the audience was a perfect fit as far as reach and engagement goes, this might be a good idea. But, my friend’s business is targeted at a more high-end customer, one who tends to get their recommendations from a more credible influencer, like a well-known radio/television show host, or a lifestyle columnist.
Beware of influencers who will just sell a promotion for the best price, they tend to have less integrity. The best influencers are picky about who they will work with, having their own brand and long term goals in mind. Look for those long tail influencers.
6) Make sure you’re reaching the right audience
Another offer my friend was originally excited about turned out to have all the right factors — followed, ration reach, and engagement — but not the right target audience for her business. It was pretty much the same local crowd of her existing store in NYC, while we are trying to reach out to a national audience to grow sales for the online store.
7) Analytics are the fine print
Whether an influencer hands over all the details and demographics of their audience across social media platforms or not, you can use experts to find and analyze the data that is not provided publicly (YouTube for example, displays the total number of views). Don’t forget to use analytics to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns with influencers to see if you reached your goals.
In the end, she decided to take my advice to dedicate more time on her own social media platforms to organically grow her cliental while establishing herself more as an expert in her field (she has a second book on the way), and to allocate a savings trust for a future collaborative online campaign with other influencers as her brand ambassadors.
To conclude, don’t rush to make deals with influencers who pitch out their services to anyone who is willing to pay them, take the time to go over accounts and social media platforms to compare between influencers and see what they really provide and produce besides a high number of followers, and use the help of professionals to find the best influencers for your brand according to the right metrics.