Choosing Influencers for Your Brand Isn't About the Numbers

confusion-311388_640One time, I worked for this very popular sports brand. They were absolutely EVERYWHERE. From provocative full spread ads in every sports magazine, to sky-high cardboard cut outs in every GNC. My job was to create their first social media strategy, and I did. Within a month, organic engagement soared, and teens who dreamed of being world famous bodybuilders were including us in thousands of online conversations. Success.

Then, I was informed that we were bringing a celebrity influencer on board who had TONS of followers on Facebook and Twitter. According to the C-suite, this was the icing on the cake to the strategy I already began implementing for them. ALL of this celebrity's fans would migrate to our social channels, and, within a few months, we would have over a million followers.

As buzz generated around the office about what we do with our sudden onset of ONE MILLION fans, I started to research this celebrity's social community. My first hint that he was not necessarily the greatest influencer for us to use, was that he was getting LESS likes on his social content with over a thousand times more fans on Facebook. (Note: This was before Facebook's crazy algorithm changes, when fan pages actually saw a TON of organic engagement.) My second hint was that hardly any of his followers even bothered to RT his content. I brought it to the C-suite's attention that I thought this celebrity bought his fans, and therefore, they would not migrate to our networks, and would probably not even engage with our content that included said celebrity. I was basically told I was crazy, and that we were going forward as planned with the partnership.

I had to be up at 6AM the day of the launch, to corral the loads of expected engagement. Let me tell you, from 6AM on, I was in crisis control. NOT ONLY were the fans bought by this celebrity (learned at a later date), they HATED our brand. Tons of fans slammed the celebrity on both his social channels, and ours, for being a sell-out because he already represented so many other brands. Not only that, our fans actually liked our brand because we didn't have a celebrity endorsement, and were viewed as the likeable underdog.

I spent nearly four months putting out fires, and, even after four months, we were still seeing 'sell-out' conversations trickle in, bashing the celebrity AND our brand. Ouch.

Lesson learned? RESEARCH your influencers before you form a partnership. Don't just look at their numbers. Here are some tips to verifying you have a solid influencer:

1. Look at how many fans they have compared to how many engagements they have. If they have one million Twitter followers, but an average of 10 RT's per Tweet, they most likely bought their followers. You can also take a look at their followers, and if you see mostly eggs instead of profile pics, chances are they are bought followers.

2. Watch how they interact online. Do they engage with their followers? Are they active on their accounts? You want to make sure you have an influencer that keeps the conversation going with you, and is a true partner in the online conversations.

3. Make sure they have not represented your competitors, and that they are not a leech that represents any brand that will give them something for free.

4. Make sure your influencer genuinely aligns with your brand. Don't force a relationship, or chances are their followers won't want to follow your brand anyways.

Remember --> Numbers DO NOT equal influence, conversations do.

- Marji J. Sherman

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