Influencer marketing has grown rapidly, increasing at an estimated 50% year after year according to Influencer Marketing Hub (2020). This facet of social media marketing relies on endorsements from “influencers,” commonly through Instagram and YouTube, to promote products and services.

Social media has given essentially anyone the power to amass large followings through sharing content. So-called influencers may be people just like you and me who have built their following online by sharing their personal stories and giving advice. Their audiences enjoy engaging with them because they are highly relatable and often seen as role models. Because many influencers are just like us, they can have more credibility than a celebrity who lives far outside the means of most people.

Influencer Marketing Hub also reports companies that worked with influencers in 2019 saw an average ROI of $5.78 for every $1 spent. The potential for successful business partnerships is promising, but how do you know which influencer to work with? First, it’s important to understand which red flags signal that an “influencer” actually has very little influence.

Their Follower/Following Ratio is Skewed

Many people try to gain followers on Instagram by simply following other accounts with the hopes they will follow back. However, not everyone who is followed by a random account will follow it back. This untargeted, spray-and-pray approach results in a skewed following/follower ratio where the influencer is following far more accounts than follow them back. This is a sign social users aren’t proactively seeking out their content.

Engagement is Painfully Low

Engagement rate is important to note when choosing an influencer because it directly correlates with who sees your products and how likely they would be to buy them. According to social media management tool Later, a good engagement rate is typically between 2-3% and 4-6% is excellent.

An influencer with thousands of followers and very few likes and comments is suspicious. If their followers aren’t engaged with their content, the reality is that they don’t have much influence and they won’t be able to help you. There’s a solid chance they paid for followers, participated in engagement pods or used other shady tactics to artificially boost followers.

Engagement is Suspiciously High

Fabricated influencers also purchase traffic to increase follower counts. Subscription-based services send bots, or fake accounts, to the influencer’s account to follow, like and even share their posts. Scrolling through some of the comments on the influencer’s posts can easily expose this tactic. When comments are comprised of repeated emojis or unrelated references, it’s most likely they are fake comments posted by a bot controlling many fake accounts.

Negative Comments Expose Their True Colors

Everyone is happy when they receive positive feedback, but the negative feedback exposes the influencer’s true colors and connection with their followers. Criticism is inevitable when in the public eye, so when the heat is turned up, does this influencer blow up or approach controversy with composure? The answer to that question should help determine if you want to associate your brand with that influencer.

They Seem Uninformed About the Products they Promote

Effective influencers are authentic. They speak from experience with promoted products and give honest recommendations to their followers. By giving their honest opinions, they build trust and credibility with their audience, which ultimately drives sales for brands that engage with them. That’s why it is especially concerning when an influencer appears unfamiliar with the products they promote. Not only are they hurting their credibility among their followers, but they are also failing the business that trusted them with their marketing dollars.

We know choosing an influencer can be challenging. If you’re overwhelmed and need help, learn more about our social media marketing services.