Everybody on social media is trying to sell you something…including me. Even if an Instagram post isn’t blatantly urging you to shop a product, the image serves as a digital portfolio, and a heavily curated idea of who that person is, or more accurately, who they want you to believe they are. Many companies have been quick to jump on influencer marketing, and some companies exist solely the on backs of influencers (ie: Bootaybag, DIFF eyewear, etc.), but as a new territory with little to no widespread education and studied research on the topic, many companies and consumers alike can easily get fooled. While I’m no expert, my experience working with various brands, pitching to companies, working in fashion marketing and doing lots and lots of research has helped me create a handy guide on what to look for in an influencer.
Repeat after me: having tons of followers does not mean you are a good influencer. This is something I wish more companies understood since many brands are still very naïve about having a high-follower count. With the option to buy followers online or participate in giveaway loops, many followers aren’t real or genuinely engaged and it’s very easy to decipher when this is the case. If a company is looking at follower count and nothing else, they could end up paying thousands of dollars to an influencer with 40k followers but see poor results with negligble sales. Instead, it would be significantly smarter to pay a dozen micro-influencers with real, engaged followers.
What to look for: Click on a person’s Instagram followers and scroll through them, assess how many bots follow them (look for “private” followers, followers who only have 0-3 posts and followers who have 10 followers but follow 6000 people).
Engagement is the amount of likes and comments on a post. Consider an influencer’s follower count. While changing algorithms are hurting most of us, there should generally be a consistent number of likes and comments on a given post. My comments range from 20-100 and my likes from 300-600. For around 8,000 Instagram followers, this isn’t bad.
What to look for: A person with 12k followers (or any high amount) who gets around 100-200 likes a post but only two comments. Maybe they’re having an off-day or it’s an uninteresting post, but generally this is a sign of fake followers and/or poor engagement, as engagement should be significantly higher for users with tens of thousands of followers. Bonus, make sure they’re Fohr Card certified.
Besides a few fashion brands and Kardashians, I don’t typically follow anyone with more than 100k followers. There are exceptions, but generally I find the higher the number of followers, the less authenticity exists. Every post becomes an #ad and their relationship with their audience is more about income than inspiration. With so many companies offering partnerships and #sponcon, it can be tempting to take every opportunity that comes your way, and many do. For example, I’ve been approached by several diet companies and always turn them down. That type of content is not what I stand for. I only partner with companies and products that I actually use and have chosen not to showcase certain products after receiving them due to their poor quality.
What to look for: Photo captions are integral. Genuine bloggers and influencers want to engage and understand their audience. They will ask questions, reveal personal details or struggles and want to create a community. Watch out for bloggers who hawk everything from detox tea to feminine products, snack foods, water, eyewear, clothing, lotion, etc…
Any aspiring or established blogger/influencer will have clean, crisp photos. Whether they take pictures or hire a photographer, these posts should be inspiring and/or helpful (ie: tutorial, styling advice). Everybody has their own style and I follow a variety of bloggers who maintain different and unique feeds, some minimalist, some moody, some bright and airy, but they all have consistent feeds with clear photos. Personally, I avoid bloggers who only ever post their Gucci, Chanel, [insert expensive designer here]. It’s easy to be rich and take a picture of your possessions, it’s not easy to create unique and beautiful images, especially when you’re broke. Learn how to edit your photos with no professional camera or equipment here.
What to look for: Instagram is purely visual and consequently superficial. Look for bloggers who have original and consistent feeds with clear and crisp photos (ie: nothing blurry, dark, over-edited, overly photo-shopped, copy-cat images, show-off accounts that only post their lavish life and designer bags)if anything for your sanity alone.