The influencer marketing industry moves a lot of money. So many brands are setting out to find influencers to promote them on social media that the industry has more than doubled in market value in the last two years, reaching $13.8B this year.
Now, if you’re a brand just starting out in influencer marketing, you might be wondering how more experienced brands choose who to collaborate with. And if you’re a freelance content creator, you might want more insight into who exactly brands consider an influencer.
This article will walk you through what brands look for in influencers.
To be considered an influencer, you need to have followers. However, you don’t need to have millions of followers for brands to notice you.
With just a few thousand followers, you can start collaborating with brands, as long as those followers are authentic and engaged with your content.
In influencer marketing, we can organize influencers into tiers. For example, Instagram influencers fall into the following segments:
Follower count is one factor that determines how much brands will be willing to pay you. If you’re a mega influencer, you can expect large fees per post. But if you’re a nano influencer, you might only get paid in free products, at least for the time being.
Brands also look at follower growth, not just how many followers you have at any given moment. When we track growth over time, we get a sense of whether or not the influencer has gained their followers organically or not.
Organic growth happens because users come across an influencer’s profile, like their content, and follow them. This type of growth is usually very slow, albeit stable. If you plot it out visually, it will look like a gentle mountain.
Now, if you’re an influencer, you might know that you can buy fake followers. This is a quick fix for getting more followers. However, brands can see through this tactic.
Growth like this appears to be organic. It is slow, but steadily increases over time.
If we examine growth over time and see sudden spikes in growth, it shows us what could be bought batches of fake followers. So think twice before buying fake followers, as it could end up hurting your influencer marketing credibility in the long run.
Engagement rate indicates the interaction between an influencer and their audience. If people like their content, they’re more likely to engage with it through likes, comments, and other interactions.
Why does this metric matter to brands? Think of it this way. Would you rather speak to a large group of people, some of who care about your topic, but many who don’t? Or would you prefer to speak to a smaller group who’s more focused on and interested in what you have to say?
Engagement rate is like that. Brands want to get their products in front of the right people. And when an influencer is well-connected with their audience, brands can leverage that relationship to also engage with the followers.
In 2021, and for the last few years, engagement rate has been equally as, if not more important than pure follower count for brands looking to connect with influencers.
Remember what we mentioned about fake followers? Well, influencer fraud is a top concern for brands, so they’re always on the lookout for it. No one wants to waste their marketing budget on audiences that contain high percentages of bots.
Brands want authentic audiences, and they have methods to determine if an influencer meets this requirement or not. For example, some brands subscribe to influencer marketing platforms, which offer search-engine capabilities and immediate analytics for influencer profiles.
An authenticity analysis by an influencer marketing platform. In this example, the influencer has a very low portion of suspicious followers.
Among engagement rate and other metrics, an IM platform will estimate the authenticity of an influencer’s audience.
Brands want influencers who hit the sweet spot between posting too little and posting too much. If you post less than once a week, it could send a signal to brands that you’re not committed enough to your profile to handle a collaboration with them.
However, if you post many times a week, it’s too much. You risk burning out your followers. Also, the more often you post, the less visibility a brand will have on your profile.
Brands are looking for quality content, although that doesn’t mean your content has to be retouched to perfection. People crave relatability when it comes to influencers, so many brands have turned to nano and micro influencers, who come across as “real people” and not celebrities.
That being said, if a brand is going to ask you to review its products, and potentially pay you to do so, it needs to see that you know how to produce content. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to be engaging for followers and align with the brand’s mission.
The lesson here for influencers is to stay true to you and be consistent. Don’t try to make your profile a catch-all for various types of brands. It’s better to dig into the niche you’re passionate about, as that’s where your authenticity and creativity will best shine through.
Similar to the last point, brands want influencers with a clear aesthetic style. But this doesn’t have to be the stereotypical “influencer style” we tend to see around social media these days.
Find your unique style, and work it into your content to give your profile consistency. Brands will look for influencers whose style complements their own.
Micro influencer @serenaaide regularly posts colorful makeup looks. Her bold and bright style complements that of brand @nyxcosmetics.
Keep in mind that your aesthetic style isn’t just how you look or the way you edit your photos. Depending on the media, it goes beyond that. For example, with Youtube influencers, style also incorporates the lighting and cuts they use, as well as the music they choose and the way that they speak.
Finally, brands will look for influencers who uphold the same values as they do. If a brand creates eco-conscious slow fashion, they’re not going to collaborate with an influencer who is constantly posting new looks from fast fashion shops. When brands and influencers share values, it’s another way to make the collaboration come across as genuine.
If you’re a brand trying out influencer marketing for the first time, this list should give you an idea of what to look out for when you set out to find influencers. If you’re an influencer, you can use this insight to work on making your profile more attractive to brands.
And whichever side of the market you fall on, remember that the key to successful collaborations is creating an authentic partnership that engages followers.