Why bigger isn’t always better when it comes to influencer marketing

influencer marketing

Q-83 founder and managing director Anthony Richardson. Source: Supplied.

It seems influencer marketing has been having a rough time of late. With influencer fraud, ‘fake followers’ and monetised marriage proposals dominating the headlines, is the influencer marketing bubble about to burst?

The truth is, influencer marketing is nothing new. It’s existed in the form of celebrity endorsements and athlete sponsorships for decades.

Now, with social media, there’s an opportunity to get just as many eyes on our product as we see in traditional forms of advertising like television and print. And because everyone has a smartphone, there’s no reason why your average Joe can’t start to make money from their reach. 

The reason ‘influencer marketing’ worked so well in television, print and digital is because marketers can make informed business decisions through key insights that link directly to ROI such as reach, readership, viewability and circulation. When it comes to social media platforms like Instagram, we’re often left in the dark as these stats can be a little more difficult to get a hold of. 

Because follower size and (once upon a time) likes are the only pieces of public information available to most of us, they have naturally become the traded metric, and now with all this talk of fake followers, pods and like farms, it’s clear this is a flawed way of assessing an influencer’s value.

For influencer marketing to thrive on platforms like Instagram, marketers need to treat influencers the same way they do on other traditional forms of advertising, where there is an expectation that they see relevant and accurate data to help them make huge spending decisions.

One way to get credible data is directly from the influencer through free, independent platforms where influencers opt-in to share in-depth, real-time insights on their audience demographics and reach.

Just like traditional forms of advertising where these metrics are ‘business-as-usual’ and transparently shared with brands to help them make decisions, influencers should be no different. When evaluating an influencer, think,  if they aren’t willing to share that information with you, are they really worth the investment?

Bigger isn’t always better

For a while now, we’ve been led to believe the more followers an influencer has, the more people will see their content, and therefore, the more value they bring to a brand.


There are two issues with this.

The first is that just like a billboard, it’s important to know how many 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 an audience, rather an audience is those that see their content.

It’s common to see influencers with 138,000 followers only reach 38,000 users, and influencers with only 9,000 followers reach over 89,000 users. My bet is one of them is getting paid a lot more than the other, while reaching far fewer users.

The second issue is that influencers should be chosen for their audience first.

If you’re a local coffee shop in Surry Hills, and an influencer with a relatively small following is a coffee lover who lives in Surry Hills, chances are their followers might also be coffee lovers in Surry Hills. That’s a great match.

On the other hand, if you’re an Australian bikini brand and you’re advertising through a supermodel (who looks great in your product) with more than 1,000,000 male followers based out of Brazil, I’m not sure how many bikinis you are likely to sell. 

Influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere.

The fact is though, that if influencers aren’t able (or willing) to transparently share their metrics with brands, then it’s going to become increasingly difficult to forecast an ROI and justify spending large budgets.

Instagram is one of the largest influencer marketing platforms right now, but if marketers can’t get their hands on credible data, they will be forced to move on to other platforms where they can. 

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