Though working with social media influencers may seem like a relatively new marketing tactic, influencers have quickly proven to be a worthwhile investment for many brands. So much so that brands are predicted to invest $15 billion on influencer marketing by the end of 2022. As interest and usage of influencer marketing continues to grow, so does the number of social media influencers. Another report estimates there are upwards of 37 million total influencers—defined as social media users with 1,001+ followers—across Instagram, YouTube and TikTok today.
Once you’ve identified a group of potential influencers for partnerships—and before you propose working with them—it’s critical to vet them to ensure you’ll invest your resources wisely and in line with your brand values.
When we assess influencers for potential brand partnerships, we consider these key points:
- Do they have engaged followers? Consider not just now many, but how engaged their followers are. At first glance, an influencer may seem ideal because of their high number of followers. But if their followers don’t interact with the content (through likes, comments, re-shares, saves, etc.), how much of an impact are they really making? You can get a better idea of their influence by determining their engagement rate. A good rule is if their engagement rate is at least 1% to 3%, they have a decently engaged audience. Note that the smaller their following is, the higher the engagement rate should be.
- Who are they reaching? So, you’ve found the ideal influencer with an engaged audience, but who IS their audience? In order for a good influencer partnership to work, their audience needs to care about your product or service. Identify your brand’s target audience and cross-reference it with your influencer’s audience. What are their followers’ gender, age, interests, location and other demographics? Do they match the type of folks you want your brand’s message to reach?
- Do they work with other brands? Next, you’ll want to confirm if they work, or have worked, with any brands that compete with yours. If they have any sponsored competitor content in the past year, they may be unable to work with you due to the competitor’s contract. Plus, you’d need to consider if you’d want to work with an influencer who has a paid relationship with a competitor. Additionally, it’s a good idea to check for how often they participate in paid partnerships. This matters because if seven of their last 10 posts are paid partnerships, the content they’d create with your brand would likely not feel like an authentic recommendation of your product.
- Beware of fake followers! Unfortunately, many so-called influencers try to appear to have a larger following and reach than they actually do. They accomplish this by purchasing fake followers, or “bots.” To ensure an influencer’s authenticity, first, look again at their engagement rate. Bots can’t engage with content, so you’ll likely weed out influencers with fake followers because they have very low engagement rates (less than 1%). Secondly, confirm that those fake bots are masquerading as active followers. You can determine an account to be a “bot” by checking for limited profile information and/or no content living on their page. Third, the comments section may display a lack of comments, or spam-like comments, because of their bot-heavy following.
- Finally, don’t forget a controversy check. It’s in your best interest to check for any controversy surrounding the influencer or those they may be associated with. The easiest way to check for controversy is a simple search online to find recent news stories or articles associated with their name or brand. The more well-known your influencer is publicly, the more likely you may find a controversy that could impact your decision to form a partnership.
The vetting process can take some time, but it’s an essential step to ensure your partnership will be worth your investment. Influencer management tools can help streamline parts of the vetting process, though nothing replaces human insight. A powerful marketing tool in the hands of an experienced manager of influencer partnerships is the ideal combination to produce compelling results for your brand.