What Social Media Managers Should Be Looking For In Influencers (It's Not Follower Count)
I know the feeling. You get a little giddy when a person with 155K followers and a blue checkmark sends you a message about collaborating. They promise you a dedicated post on Instagram and maybe a story or two in exchange for your product (or service). You obviously have something they want, so why are you gawking at that number at the top of their profile?
In business we’re automatically accustomed to thinking that measurable, big numbers are a concrete way of determining the way a campaign is going to go. For instance, if you’ve once run a campaign that had a lifestyle creative and conversational copy and had an ROAS of 15, then you would assume if you doubled your budget, you would double your return.
Unfortunately Influencer’s follower count does not determine their return, no matter how much they will try to convince you otherwise. I singlehandedly developed and manage our current Influencer Outreach program (among other things). I attribute a lot of our brand awareness (and more than 25% of our sales *hair flip*) to our successful social media outreach campaigns. I try to work with anywhere from 5-8 ladies a month. However right now it’s a little hard to schedule calls with dozens of potential bloggers when I have a thousand other things to manage at the office (we’re redesigning our website, we’re expanding in more places internationally, and our fan/follower count grows by the hour—which can be overwhelming if they’re a particularly “engaging” bunch.
I was lucky enough that the first influencer I worked with was an absolute gem. Not everyone I had the pleasure to “work with” (“be scammed by” would actually be a more accurate term) initially was quite as nice. There was one woman from the east coast that had a decent amount of YouTube subscribers and views on all of her videos. I don’t know why, but she did, and I was just starting in this position and we needed more brand awareness. We spoke on the phone and we agreed on the partnership; our product and DNA testing service for her YouTube video talking about us. She sent in her sample and got her results. Then I was ghosted. I emailed, I called, I tried everything to try and contact her. Then I thought, ‘maybe she miscarried and is grieving’. I was giving her the benefit of the doubt. Yet, she continued making videos, still pregnant, and eventually had her baby boy—which we told her she was having, by the way.
Another instance was probably 6 months later into my position, when I was a bit more experienced but nowhere close to the level of expertise that I’m at now. I received an email from a woman in the Chicago area who was a seasoned blogger and influencer. She vwas very prepared and thorough in her email about what her numbers were (as far as followers, demographics, and website analytics) and also what her “rates” were. She let me know that she charges the “standard” $150 per 10K of followers (she had like 60K followers LOL) and also included her address and PayPal email for payment. Flabbergasted, I left the email in my inbox for a few hours before I was ready to tackle it.
Eventually after speaking to my supervisor at the time and him advising me on what to say, I went back and tried to get the reply done. I thanked her for her interest in our product and told her that I would love to discuss the request further. I said that unfortunately we didn’t have the budget for that type of ad spend on a single campaign that we could not predict the return on (it was pretty early in the company and our sales were nowhere close to what they are right now), which was true. I told her that unfortunately I would not be able to fulfill that payment request, but if she would like to try and come to an agreement on an exchange, then to call me. We did eventually end up chatting and she did sign an Agreement with us, only agreeing to post a stagnant Instagram Post tagging us. Oh well, we actually gained a good amount of followers and awareness from it. Was it worth close to $1000 in ad spend? I’m not convinced.
I can manage your Influencer Outreach Program! Contact me.
But Doesn’t Follower Count = Potential Reach?
NO! Do you know how easy it is to buy followers? I’ve seen prices as low as $20 for 10K followers. What I’m most proud of for our brand is that none of our followers are bought. Zero, zilch, nada. Not because I’m a bad Social Media Manager, but because I believe generating meaningful leads and fans of your brand will increase sales.
Influencers are the new celebrities. People aren’t reading magazines and looking to models and famous people for recommendations. That is fake. They are looking for people they can relate and connect with easily through social media. Who are you more likely to trust the opinion of, a girl with a husband in the military from Washington who has 45K followers and vlogs/does makeup tutorials? Or Beyoncé placed conveniently in front of a Mac product? I think I know your answer. Working with Influencers is a great way to spread awareness and reach potential leads—they can reach a demographic you hadn’t even considered yet. Cross-promoting through channels will only help your website connect with other websites via copy and SEO.
Engagement is Key
Literally, it takes probably an extra 30 seconds to go to your potential collaborators’ page and check out their posts. Look at how they talk about other companies and products. Look at their photos and aesthetic and discern whether it will fit with your brand. Look at the likes and comments!
Before I email anyone back, I check to see what their engagement ratio is. I’ve turned down potential influencers with over 100K followers because I didn’t think they would fit with our brand. On the flip side, I’ve also turned down people also with 100K followers because their engagement was nonexistent. Do NOT fall into the “big follower number” mindset! The easiest way I do it is take the likes + comments on a post then divide it by their follower count. If it’s completely skewed and horrible, then chances are you’re getting fooled.
Don’t be like me. Don’t fall for the high follower count. Most of the time, those are the most flaky, unreliable, and ungrateful people to work with.