I’m talking about influencers, here people. They’re a growing part of today’s ever-evolving media landscape, and yet many people struggle to grasp what an influencer even is and how to measure their influence. The definitions get even more blurry when you introduce the concept of micro-influencers and macro-influencers.
The core concept is simple enough. An influencer is someone who wields influence over a select group or groups of publics, which is fancy PR jargon for different audiences listen to and are actively engaged with what an influencer says and does. For example, Kayla Itsines, is an international, fitness personality with a growing following that’s comprised primarily of millennial women. These women, who run the gamut from young college students to working professionals and mothers in their thirties, follow Itsines on Instagram and use her online and mobile app-based exercise and nutrition programs to reach their health goals. Therefore, if you’re rolling out an influencer campaign for the latest new OREO flavor, Itsines is probably not the right influencer for you.
To develop a successful influencer-based campaign, you have to identify who your brand’s core audiences are and which influencers have a real hold and influence on those target audiences. The second part of the equation is often the hardest question to answer. How do you truly measure influence? Often, you’ll see an influencer point to their website statistics and social media following, but those numbers can be deceiving, particularly because of the phenomenon of “buying followers.” The idea is what it sounds like, brands and bloggers can now pay to inflate the number of page likes or followers they have on social media. In doing so, they hope to increase their own perceived level of influence which will lead to added visibility and discovery by publicists, brands and regular social media users.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to make sure that the contacts you’re evaluating for a client are as influential as they say they are and a wealth of free tools you can harness to help you along the way.
Check their site’s UMV’s
Some bloggers will inflate the viewership rates on their sites in their media kits or “About Me” sections. If you don’t already subscribe to Cision’s media database, use tools like SimilarWeb and SEMRush to see how a blogger’s website traffic stacks up. These websites can paint a pretty clear picture of the kind of traffic a blog may receive. SEMRush in particular is one of my favorite tools on the internet, because of the amount of information it provides on every site. If you’re still unsure based on the information you find on these websites, don’t feel afraid to reach out to the blogger. Make sure you explain that you’re looking for influencers to pay to promote your client’s goods/services and then ask if they could screenshot and share their recent viewer statistics and any demographic information they have with you.
Evaluate their engagement rates
Take a look at a blogger or influencers social media channels. In particular, take a look at the total number of followers they have and then see what sort of “likes” and “comments” they get in reply to each post. It’s important to keep two things in mind when calculating and then evaluating the engagement rate for a user. First, the larger social media following a user has, generally the lower the average engagement rate will be. Secondly, each social media platform has a different baseline for an average level of engagement.
Quintly, a social media analytics tool used by major brands like T-Mobile and Warner Brothers, evaluated more than 150,000 Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles back in June 2015. Below is a chart that outlines some of the key findings from their social media benchmarking study. You can use this information to establish a baseline for whether or not an influencer has a standard or high level of engagement with their followers.
Utilize free tools to assess if their followers could be “spam” accounts
If you go to Social Blade, you can enter in an influencer’s YouTube, Twitter or Instagram handle and then you’ll be given a report with a grade on their engagement as well as a line chart tracking the growth and/or decline of their following.
The general rule is that if the line graph gradually trends upwards, with no large spikes, you’re looking at someone who has organically grown their following. See example below.
However, if you get a line graph that looks more like the one below, you seriously need to consider whether or not it’s worth paying or providing free services/product to the influencer you’ve identified. Just as huge peaks can be a tell-tale sign that a person purchased their followers, a huge downward trend can also signify that the social media platform just did a cleanse of its spam and fake accounts.
Keep in mind that similar to your client’s own website, an influencer’s following may see spikes in traffic when they get a national media hit or become a trending story. If there is a particular uptick that seems out of character or especially severe, do your research and see if maybe this increase occurred following a heightened media buzz about that influencer.