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What to Look for in Great Influencers

Last Modified: January 31, 2023

recent article on WWD showed that “four out of every five of nordstrom.com’s mobile web visits that came from referral traffic were driven by an influencer.” It just shows again that referral marketing is no joke. It’s a proven and highly effective way to drive traffic that converts into sales.

But who are the good influencers? If you’re a small business, you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to test dozens of self-professed internet moguls. And it’s hard to go by amount of followers alone, as these days, you can literally buy more followers from a vending machine.

The future!

It’s important to do some due diligence before approaching potential influencers. Here are the factors you should look for before sending that introductory email.

Real, engaged followers.

Depending on your industry/vertical, your ideal influencer has between a couple thousand to hundreds of thousands of followers. But again, don’t be swayed just by the numbers. It’s important to make sure that the influencer’s audience isn’t comprised of bots and fake accounts, but real people who actually may be interested in taking their recommendations (and in turn, purchasing your product/service). Two things to do here:

  1. Audit the influencer’s last 20 or 30 posts and see if the comments actually make sense. A sure-fire way of spotting bots is when the majority of comments are generic “that’s cool!” phrases or emoji that could mean anything (or nothing) for an Instagram post (ie. thumbs up, clapping, etc).
  2. Use a tool like SocialBlade to see the growth of the influencer’s followers. If you see a gradual increase, it’s more likely their growth is real. If you see a sudden spike in followers that sustains for a few days then drops back down, it could very well be a sign that they bought followers around that time.

If there is real engagement and enthusiasm from their followers, there’s no faking it. Another way to spot solid follower engagement is to check how often relevant images/videos are tagged with the influencer. On Instagram, it’s easy to check their tagged tab. If there are thoughtful posts from their followers there, that’s high engagement. If the posts are random, it shows two things: a) their audience may not be engaged, and b) the influencer doesn’t curate the posts they get tagged on. Either way, it’s a sign that they might not be the best influencer to work with.

Knowledgeable and a creator.

There’s a difference between an influencer who actually knows a lot about their niche, and someone who is just a curator of other posts. See for yourself on any social media platform: for every actual legit influencer creating quality posts, there are hundreds of accounts that simply repost their creations.

This is also a repost. Meta.

Your ideal influencers are those that create original content that not only showcases their interest, but their knowledge of their niche. It’s the difference between feeds that simply post images of makeup items they enjoy versus feeds that provide tutorials as they actually use and review them. The real enthusiasts have a clear voice and a point-of-view on their passions.

And sure, if you can snag a mega-influencer, a social media person with millions of followers, maybe their “expertise” isn’t what you’re really after, so much as their reach. But snagging those whales are rare (and expensive), and don’t discount the value of the “power middle” when it comes to social media. They may have less followers, but much higher engagement and influence because they are the thought-leaders in their niche.

Authentic and likable.

You know what’s surprisingly popular on YouTube? ASMR, which stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. People listen and get “tingles” and keep coming back for more. Yes, there is a niche for anything and everything.

Huh. They make microphones with ears.

One personality on YouTube is ASMRMagic that started about a year ago and has 300k followers. Another is ASMR Darling who also started about a year ago and has 1.1 million followers. They’re both attractive women with similar setups and quality. Why the disparity?

One difference seems to be that while ASMRMagic’s videos seem to be quite good, they don’t showcase too much of the creator’s personality. Many of the videos are without talking, and all videos are strictly about ASMR. Meanwhile, ASMR Darling creates “role play” videos as well as non-ASMR videos where she engages with fans and gives updates on her life.

There may be other factors at play, but the latter comes across as more authentic and likable due to her choice of breaking out of ASMR videos once in a while to showcase personality. An ideal influencer will know how to relate to his/her audience and cultivate loyalty by letting them into their lives. Make sure the influencers you target have these traits.

Not all influencers are created equal, even in your specific niche. Do your homework and create your ideal influencer persona. This will help you find and connect with the right ones for your brand.

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Written by

Ruthie Carey
Ruthie Carey