4 Ways to Find Truly Relevant Influencers for Your Marketing Campaigns

Guest post by Lauren Jung of The Shelf.

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This is a guest post by Lauren Jung, co-founder of influencer marketing company The Shelf.

Influencers have very quickly realized that popularity is considered extremely valuable to brands and PR agencies when they’re choosing who to work with. Due to this popularity-based system, some influencers have taken unethical measures to get their follower counts up. The act of buying fake followers is making it even harder for brands and PRs to suss out real popularity. What’s more, if you’re simply using a popularity-based system to find the best bloggers for your campaigns, you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle. Popularity does not necessarily equate to influence. It really just depends on the brand and the influencer at hand.

So, if straight up follower counts aren’t the most accurate judge of influence, what really is?

Ahead I’m offering four tips to suss out the right influencers for any brand campaign.

1. Get creative (and strategic) with your targeting

In the blogosphere, we’re seeing a huge trend toward lifestyle bloggers that focus on more widespread topics, and exert influence over so many different types of people. This versatility in content opens the doors to so many brand collaboration opportunities. Take HP, for example. As a tech company, you’d expect them to engage tech influencers to review their product and really get the word out. The only problem is that tech blogs are so saturated with competitive products, so HP wouldn’t really stand out. And, in all honesty, these sites are primarily attracting tech junkies that analyze these products all day long, with no intention of purchasing.

In many cases, especially this one, it doesn’t hurt to get a little creative (and strategic) with your targeting. So, HP did just that. They vetted up-and-coming pop star, Meghan Trainor for a #BendTheRules campaign and used her influential fanbase to produce a documentary during her tour. Social media influencers were also vetted to capture behind the scenes and share the campaign with their followers. The influencers involved in the campaign used the X360 to create content for their fans, with their own spin on it, thus positioning it as an incredibly creative tool.

HP also worked with fashion influencers to showcase how helpful their products are for blogging. One blogger, Hollyhoque, shows her readers how helpful the HP laptop is, and suddenly the perception of the brand alters from geeky to cool in minutes. Not bad for an influencer marketing campaign, right?

So, while you might have tunnel vision when it comes to who influences your customers, just remember that it’s all about the characteristics that define your audience, not what you’re selling.

2. Be open-minded when it comes to follower counts

So, I prefaced this post by advising you not to pay too much attention to popularity when choosing your influencers. And while I meant it wholeheartedly, there’s one important catch: having a following is still very important. If there’s no audience to reach, then you might be barking up the wrong tree (or influencer, in this case). What I DO recommend though is being more open to follower counts and how that may vary across social channels and influencers.

Through my own experience, I’ve noticed that the majority of bloggers only focus on one or two social networks, while letting the rest fall to the wayside. It’s extremely tiresome to keep up with six social networks, on top of a successful blog, when those efforts could be better spent focusing on one or two networks that bring in the most bang for their (or their sponsor’s) buck. What’s more, many bloggers specialize and are highly influential on one particular channel, and this is where you’ll most want to utilize them.

I’ve also found that Instagram has the most attention from influencers in the fashion, beauty, and lifestyle space, followed by Facebook. Some influencers are putting a ton of effort into Pinterest, and Twitter is just lagging behind in this space. Of course, for each industry, the importance of various social networks will vary widely. Case in point: Twitter is like gold for anyone in the marketing space.

And back to my point about popularity versus influence. You might have a follower threshold you want to meet and while a certain blogger might really fit the bill, perhaps her audience size isn’t quite up to the standards you’ve set. My advice is to be open-minded AND do some digging before moving on to the next blogger. Pay attention to engagement. Her follower count might not be high but her engagement could be through the roof, which could lead to conversion that is also through the roof.

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3. Detect the fake stuff

Since vanity metrics are becoming a predominant problem, you need to learn how to weed out the fake stuff, so you can concentrate on the good stuff. While Instagram did crack down on this months ago, people are still going hard with the fake-follower purchasing. There are various ways to buy your way to popularity, and while I don’t want to put too much focus into this, you should be aware of the tactics out there. They include buying fake followers, social media engagement, (quality) blog comments, YouTube views, and even traffic.

It’s usually pretty easy to detect fake followers. Simply head on over to the influencer’s account and scroll through their followers. If you see blocks of odd profiles, there could be some suspicious behavior going on. Default egg profiles on Twitter or only a few photos added on Instagram could be signs as well.

It’s important to note that everyone will have some fake followers. It’s unavoidable. What you want to steer clear from is like 50-60 percent fake followers. That’s a pretty good indication that something shady is going on!

As far as fake engagement goes on social media, if you see odd comments from people in other languages, or just super low quality and irrelevant comments, this is often a bad sign. But, as I mentioned, the bigger an influencer gets, the more they’ll attract some of the fake stuff too. It just shouldn’t be their main ‘audience’.

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When you’re scanning the influencer’s blog posts (and I hope you do), look through their comments. So, instead of just noticing on the preview page that they have 15 comments and giving the influencer a thumbs up, actually scan through those comments. If the comments are spammy and irrelevant across their posts, you’ll want to take this into serious consideration. And while some blogger’s might go to the trouble of buying fake and high quality blog comments, use your best judgement when it comes to the influencer at hand. It’s usually pretty easy to tell if they have a good reputation in the industry or not.

4. Look for repeat business

Scan through an influencer’s blog posts and take note of any brand partnerships. You’ll want to pay special attention to how these campaigns performed. Look at share counts, engagement, and general sentiment from the readers toward the campaign. If they’re ready to buy in droves, it’s a pretty good sign of a successful campaign.

Next, once you’ve scanned through various partnership posts, take note of any repeat business. If a blogger has worked with a specific brand more than once, you know you’ve found the real deal. That’s because the brand obviously saw results from the campaign and is continuing the relationship to reap more rewards (aka sales). After analyzing the results of their campaigns, they’ve decided there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel, so they are double-dipping, so to speak.

Of course, this is all only relevant if the sponsors have similar products to yours…and similar demographics. But, once again, finding a relevant influencer from the get-go should be of utmost importance.

So, there you have it! My four tips on sussing out the right influencers for your campaigns. Would you add any tips to the list? I’d love to hear what you think and discuss further in the comments!