Influencer marketing has stirred up a lot of debate over the last few years. This is partly because of the ad and data transparency issues that have arisen, and partly because we have had to come to terms with the fact that just about anyone can make a living from documenting their life and advertising products on their social channels. Despite this, it still makes sense.Until now, brands and agencies have assessed an influencer’s potential value by the number of followers they have and the engagement they receive. Some marketers have gone the extra step to use third-party platforms to take a closer look at an influencer’s audience location, gender and age demographics to better match the talent with their target market. The only issue with this is where the data was sourced and how accurate it is when compared to the influencer’s source data that comes directly from Instagram. 

Don’t choose influencers for their follower size 

‘Follower size’ is a metric that is used to loosely assess the reach an influencer has. It is a gross number that is usually very inaccurate when compared to an account’s ‘true reach’ which is the average number of actual views a piece of content will receive. Due to a number of factors, including the algorithm, dormant and fake accounts, not all of an influencer’s followers will actually see their content. The ones who do, are considered to be their true reach; the true number of people to actually see a piece of content posted on their channel. This new way of assessing an influencer’s value allows marketers to make informed decisions and accurately predict campaign KPIs. Just like a billboard, it’s important to know how many different people will actually see your content and of those that have the chance to see it, how many choose to act. The number of followers someone has is not their audience. Those that see it are. It’s common to see influencers with 138K followers only reach 38K users, and conversely, influencers with only 9K followers who are regularly featured on the Instagram Explore page due to their relevance and consistency, actually reach over 89K users – my bet is that one of them is getting paid a lot more than the other while reaching far fewer consumers. 

Can you trust the data you’re receiving?

Getting accurate data can be tricky so you need to know where to look. In August last year, Instagram made changes to its API and many third-party platforms lost access to influencer data. In order to keep their business afloat, these platforms have largely resorted to other far less ethical (or legal) ways of getting it. A common example is through ‘AI’ or ‘machine learning’ which uses a series of algorithms and facial/image recognition on public information such as a profile photo to make an assumption about an influencer’s audience and authenticity. These assumptions have been found to be largely inaccurate. The only way to get accurate data is directly from the influencer themselves. I believe that advertisers have the right to this data and the right to ask the influencers they are engaging with to authenticate it. I also believe that the right to accurate data should be free and this is precisely why I created Q-83; a free and independent platform where influencers opt-in to share in-depth, real-time insights on their audience demographics and reach, directly from their social accounts.

Trust in the credibility and transparency

In order for influencer marketing to thrive and move to an above the line channel, marketers and financial controllers need to be able to trust in the credibility and transparency of the metrics they’re using to justify spending decisions and increased budgets. Every influencer has an audience that can be valuable to a brand. Proving how valuable they are can only be done by sharing accurate, transparent and credible data that can be measured. And every influencer, platform and agency dealing in these metrics have a responsibility to uphold these standards. When evaluating an influencer, agency or platform think: if they aren’t willing to share this information or its origins with you, is it an opportunity missed or a bullet dodged?
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