What Brands Look For In Influencers in 2021
During the last few years, influencer marketing has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. All
types of brands are turning to influencers to promote their products on social media. Even
startups can effectively collaborate with influencers.
But how do brands select the influencers they want to work with? There’s no one right choice for
all brands; influencer selection depends on the business’ goal, target audience and campaign
However, there are some key elements that brands look for in influencers, and understanding
them is crucial if you want to work on either side of the influencer marketing field.
The number of followers is one of the first things people generally notice about a profile. But
follower count isn’t always the most important thing for brands when it comes to influencer
marketing. In fact, many brands now choose to work with micro influencers, who have under
50K followers but higher engagement rates than top influencers.
Follower count determines two important factors about an influencer’s profile: their reach, and
their price. Reach is the amount of people who will potentially see the influencer’s content.
When it comes to price, generally speaking, the higher the follower count, the more the
influencer will charge for their services.
For example, if you collaborate with a nano influencer (who has 1-5K followers), you might be
able to pay them in free products alone. But if you want to work with someone like Kylie Jenner,
get ready to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars per publication.
Follower growth over time
Equally important to follower count is follower growth. Maybe an instagram influencer has 100K
followers now, but how did they get to that position? Organic growth is slow and steady. It
doesn’t happen overnight, but followers are more likely to stick around, as their original reason
for following was because they liked the influencer’s content.
On the other hand, sudden growth in follower count might not last as long. If you see spikes in
growth, it could be due to one of a few things. The influencer may have gone viral or hosted a
giveaway, both of which account for bumps in followers. Or, when no logical reason presents
itself, the influencer may have purchased followers.
Engagement rate measures the level of interaction between an influencer and their followers.
Engagement can be calculated by adding up all the interactions on a post (likes, comments,
shares, etc.), dividing that sum by the number of followers, and then multiplying by 100. Take an
average of the engagement across a sample of posts to see the influencer’s general
This metric is important because it gives you a sense of how connected an influencer is with
their audience. The more interested followers are in an influencer’s content, the more likely they
are to interact with it.
Why does this matter for brands? When followers are generally engaged with an influencer’s
profile and content, there’s a better chance they’ll become engaged with content referencing
your brand or its products.
As I said above, there’s no right influencer for all brands. Finding the right fit depends on a
brand’s goals, budget and location, and target audience.
In order to make sure an influencer’s audience meets their target audience, brands look at
audience demographics like age, gender, country, language and interests. This may seem
unnecessary, but don’t just assume that if an influencer matches your target audience, that their
followers will too.
Imagine a small French clothing brand that doesn’t yet have the capacity to ship their products
outside of France. They want to find influencers to promote sales of their new line, but don’t
check into audience demographics. So too late do they find out that more of the audience is
located in Canada, Belgium and Côte dIvoire than in France. They may get some branding
benefits in those countries, but what use is that if the people there can’t purchase products?
In addition to checking into audience demographics, brands look at audience quality, or
authenticity, to verify that an influencer hasn’t purchased their followers. It’s easy to buy bots to
bulk up your follower count, and brands don’t want to waste their money marketing to them.
When analyzing an influencer’s audience, brands look for some behaviors that are typically
found in bots, like:
● Lack of a profile picture
● Usernames made up of random strings of characters
● Biographies and comments that sound unnatural, irrelevant or inappropriate
● Little to no content, or content of a highly advertorial nature
In addition to browsing directly on social media, brands also use AI-powered software for
authenticity analyses. So while buying fake followers is easy, it’s also pretty easy to detect
Style, voice and values
Finally, brands look at the overall profile to get a sense of the influencer’s personality. While it’s
important to evaluate metrics, not everything can be captured in data.
Brands want to see if an influencer’s voice is capable of spreading their message. Does their
style complement the brand’s aesthetic? For example, if a brand produces modern, minimalist
home decor, they’ll want to find an influencer with a similar vibe.
Further, in 2021, brand accountability is more important than ever on social media. If brands
collaborate with influencers who don’t uphold their values, they risk being called out by
audiences who aren’t so easily tricked.
For instance, if a slow fashion brand claims a commitment to sustainability and ethical
production, they may not want to work with influencers who show off a constant rotation of new
clothes from fast fashion stores.
While healthy performance metrics are a priority across industries and companies, there’s no
“one size fits all” solution for influencer marketing. The right influencer also aligns with the
brand, its style, mission and values.