How to Identify, Evaluate, and Choose Influencers for Your Next Influencer Marketing Campaign
It’s no surprise that more and more brands are looking to get in on the marketing powerhouse that is influencer marketing. With reports coming in that tell us how 92% of consumers now trust recommendations from individuals (even complete strangers) over brands, there’s never been a better time to join the game.
With so many self-proclaimed “influencers” popping up across the web, it can get a little tough to figure out which ones are a good fit for your campaigns. In fact, choosing influencer partners can be one the biggest hurdles to overcome if you don't know which metrics matter and which don't.
How can you tell the difference between an influencer that is going to push your brand to the next level vs. one that will just eat up your marketing budget with no return on your investment?
So, who actually qualifies as an influencer nowadays? They really do come in all shapes and sizes, so there’s no cookie cutter mold you need to stick to. Follower counts, niches, platforms all vary from one influencer to another, and from one campaign to another.
Let’s get one thing straight right out of the gate - not every influencer is Kardashian-sized. And that’s ok. While those world-famous sisters may be able to show your brand in front of a huge audience - that audience will also be hugely diluted.
Micro influencers who have a following of 3-10k can be even better for some campaigns as they manage to target your campaign to a more streamlined audience. So mega, macro or micro - follower size isn’t everything.
Unfortunately, not all influencers out there are in it for the right reasons. In recent years, there has been a rise in services that sell fake followers to wannabe influencers to bulk up their profiles.
Spotting these fake influencers is an art form, with the phenomenon spreading throughout social media - but it can be done! Avoiding these is paramount to getting the most bang for your buck.
Let’s get down to the cold, hard numbers that play a part in finding your perfect influencer.
So many marketers focus too much on follower count, and not enough on engagement rates. And that is a HUGE mistake. The biggest way to measure the ROI of your campaign is through how much engagement your posts receive.
An influencer with good engagement rates is an influencer that can connect with their audience - which is exactly what you need. Taking a look at their feed and how many comments, shares and likes they’re receiving will help to give a good indicator of how a sponsored post with your brand will perform too.
But what does a good engagement rate look like?
This chart shows the results of the Instagram Influencer Rate report from Influence.co and shows us how average engagement rates can differ wildly between different follower brackets.
Influencers with smaller followings have higher engagement rates.
Always bear this in mind when comparing influencers. If your potential influencer has thousands of followers and only 10 likes per post - steer clear. They are not going to bring your brand the value it deserves.
Where is your brand already active online? Are you reaching your target market effectively there, or should you be looking to branch out? Not everyone has an account on every platform, so your influencer outreach should bear this mind when you make your selection. Of course, with each passing day there seem to be more and more platforms to explore, but here is a round up of some of the top ones to help.
The grand daddy of all social media, there are nearly 2 billion users on the platform, and these users range in age from teens to grandparents. For most businesses - at least some of your audience is hanging out right here.
But, with all the recent changes to their algorithm, the needle is beginning to move away from business pages and focus more on “real” conversations. While this could be an awesome move for influencer marketing - it’s worth keeping in mind when selecting your platform.
Possibly the most popular platform for influencer marketing, Instagram has been rapidly growing over the last few years and now boasts a usership of over 800 million.
With more women than men on the platform, and 59% of users under the age of 30 - this is an ideal place for promoting beauty, fashion and lifestyle products to a captive audience. You’ve also got the opportunity to work in real time by utilising Instagram stories as part of your campaign.
Despite criticism in recent years, Twitter has been redeeming itself recently, and its user base is steadily growing once more - now at around 330 million active monthly users.
If your brand is targeting millennials - this is where you want to be. This age group is active more than any other with 36% of 18-29 year-old Americans having an account here. And now that they’ve upped the maximum character count for posts, creators have even more space for awesome content.
One of our favorite platforms for influencer marketing is blogs. And yes, while this isn’t a social media platform, it has some awesome benefits for marketing campaigns. If an influencer talks about you in one of their blogs, that post isn’t going to disappear into the abyss in a few days or weeks. Blog content is evergreen, and will sit on their site - and on Google- for a very long time.
In terms of audience, this will vary from blog to blog. Everyone uses the internet nowadays, so there is a great potential in terms of reach here.
Just like blog posts, YouTube videos are going to continually bring you more traffic than a traditional social media post. They will sit on that influencer’s channel for as long as they want it to, and with proper keyword use and subscriber count, will continue to pop up in people’s searches too.
Offering a slightly younger audience than blogging alone, but with video content swiftly overtaking written content online, this should definitely be on your radar.
As we mentioned before, the actual follower count of an influencer is not necessarily the biggest concern when making your selection. The more important metrics to consider is who those followers actually are.
And, this goes beyond determining if those followers are real people or not.
Platforms like ours enable brands to see a better snapshot of an influencer’s following than simply scrolling through their profile manually. Understanding who the influencer’s following is in terms of age, location and interests can be supremely beneficial in sourcing and building your influencer marketing campaign.
But, should you be looking for an influencer whose audience is the same as yours? This can be a great way to go, because you know that that demographic is already into your product. But, you could also use your influencer marketing campaign to fill up the holes in your own following.
Already popular with teens but want to start bringing in more twenty-somethings? Find an influencer whose audience spans both these age groups, and you’ll be good to go!
We also offer brands a look into the kind of niches that an influencers content spans - there aren’t many people who are solely focused on one industry anymore. If we look at the example above, this influencer would be great for children’s fashion and food brands, as well as trendy food companies, and family based travel products.
OK, so the statistics and data are super-important, but your target audience don’t really care what engagement rates these influencers have. They care about the content. Content is king, remember? And researching the kind of content, voice and affinity with your brand are essential steps in choosing the best influencer for your campaign.
Every influencer approaches content creation from a different angle, so reviewing their previous posts can help to give a good indicator what kind of content they would produce for your brand. The overall aesthetic that they put out there needs to line up well with your brand personality, as well as look great.
You’ll also need to keep in mind the level of audio and visual quality of their posts, the consistency of their content, and whether their content is their own, or taken from stock collections or other users. Ideally, you want to be working with someone who is creating the best content they possibly can. Leaning too much on other people’s content can mean a lack of care and creativity for their own personal brand.
Aside from the visual aspects of content, you also need to make sure that their brand voice matches up with your own. If you usually lead tongue-in-cheek campaigns smattered with sassiness, then pairing with a “say it as it is” influencer might not be the best fit.
Having your influencer speak in a similar tone to your own brand helps to make sure that your brand identity doesn't get too lost in their posts, and keeps you at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Now, this next point might seem super obvious once I say it, but it’s worth saying. Make sure that the influencer and your brand go well together. Don’t ask a healthy living yogi to promote your calorific pizzas, and don’t ask a 14 year old influencer to promote anti-aging. It just won’t work.
Find yourself an influencer who matches your creative style, your brand voice, and shares similar ideals and interests to your existing audience. This is the kind of winning formula you need to follow to see top level results.
Getting down to the details
There are always a few things to consider that are just as essential, but less fun, than those we already mentioned. But, the devil is in the details, and skipping over these could lead to serious campaign failure.
Has this influencer had any bad press before? What kind of brands have they partnered with in the past? Are they known for airing very strong political views that go against your brand?
These are just some of the questions you need to consider when looking into an influencer’s reputation. You need to be very sure that this partnership will help, and not hurt your brand. And working with an influencer who has a bad history online could really affect that.
You can’t be overlooking costs when setting up and running a marketing campaign, and it’s no different with influencer marketing either. Prices vary wildly from influencer to influencer, so you’ll really need to do some digging to get the best value.
Of course, you will need to bear in mind that the bigger the influencer, the bigger the price tag. But, just like with paid social ads or PPC - the more people your advert reaches, the more it costs you. You’ll need to set clear budget limitations before setting out on your influencer hunt, and decide where the ROI will be for you.
ROI with influencer marketing campaigns can be a tricky subject. We find that most campaigns are best for long-term brand awareness. Showing your product to more people, and getting in their minds. Then continuing to re-target your other social media ads and email campaigns to support it. If used correctly within a solid marketing strategy, it can bring great results. But they won’t usually be instantaneous.
Potential for future partnerships
You’ll also need to consider what possibilities there are for future partnerships with your chosen influencer. Take a look at their existing feeds and see if they’ve worked with the same brand more than once in the past. If they have - this could be a good indicator that they are open to more long-term partnerships.
But why is long term better?
As we mentioned earlier, the kind of ROI that influencer marketing brings in is a slow-burn, long-term investment. If you have an ongoing partnership with an influencer, they can be your brand advocate on social media. They will keep giving you new, original content you can share, they will keep singing your praises, and they will keep building up more and more backlinks to your site.
If you hear about something enough times, you’re going to check it out. Having a long term partnership with an influencer will help more people see your brand name, and remember your brand name. Ultimately, this would lead to a higher level of brand recognition, and a jump in your sales figures.
Influencer selection in action
We know that’s a lot of information to take in. But, we also know that it is all necessary for choosing the perfect influencer for your brand. So, let’s put our words into action. Here is an example of an influencer marketing campaign, and which influencer would work best for them.
*All brands/ influencers have been created for illustrative purposes only
Target Audience: 16-25 year old women, beauty lovers, animal lovers
Brand message: Cruelty-free makeup that brings out the beauty in you
Our example brand is called BeautyLove, who create cruelty-free, vegan makeup that they want to promote to their target audience of young women. They are a fairly new company and don’t have a huge budget to invest in their influencer marketing right now, but are looking for genuine brand advocates that they can work with in the long term.
Right now, they are choosing between the following three influencers:
Platform: Instagram + YouTube
Followers: 16.5k + 5k
Engagement rate: 3.2%
BritneyBeauty is a beauty vlogger on YouTube who also has a good following on Instagram. She regularly talks about products that she loves, both as paid ads and just because she loves them. She has a pet dog called Bruno who she also regularly features in her posts and videos.
She has partnered with other beauty brands in the past, some of which are known to test on animals, but she also claims to be an “animal lover” in her bio.
Her audience is mostly young girls between the ages of 14-22 who love beauty, fashion and lifestyle content.
Engagement rate: 2.5%
VeganStyle is run by three different women, all of whom promote vegan friendly fashion and beauty products regularly. They are very opinionated against cruelty to animals, and have mentioned it several times in previous posts.
Their account is around a 50/50 split of beauty and fashion, and they have worked with a wide range of brands before, none of which seem to be long term.
Their audience is mainly women aged between 19-30 who are interested in fashion, beauty, and animal welfare.
Engagement rate: 11%
xx_Love&MakeUp_xx is a micro-influencer who only posts about cruelty-free makeup. She has only worked with two brands in the past, but both posts got very good engagement. She is very passionate about animal rights and claims that she never uses products that have been tested on animals.
Her account is small, but has a very high engagement rate for the size of her following. Her audience is very loyal and interested in her content. Her growth has been steady over time, so it does not appear that she has bought any of her followers.
Her audience is mainly women between the ages of 14-25 who love makeup and animals.
So, who should they choose?
All of the three influencers above could benefit this brand in different ways. Influencer one could give them more evergreen content on her YouTube channel, as well as Instagram posts, but her previous partnerships with some brands may prove problematic. Influencer Two can share their content to more people, but a smaller percentage may be interested in it thanks to their more diverse following. Influencer Three is perfectly in the brand’s niche, but has a much smaller following than the others, which will limit her reach.
None of these influencers would be a bad choice. And, used together, could create a really solid strategy for the brand. But, if they had to choose just one, we would probably recommend Influencer One, depending on how strongly the brand feels about her previous partnerships. There will almost always be some kind of compromise to be made when finding the perfect brand advocate, and this is just one example.
Which influencer would you choose?
Tell us in the comments!
As you can see, finding the perfect influencer is no easy task. But, it can be done! If you do the right research, and the right planning, your campaign can be a roaring success. And remember, using a platform like The Shelf gives you easy access to a lot of data, including an in-depth search function to help make finding your marketing true love a piece of cake!