How to Vet an Influencer

Lela Barker

When invitations to collaborate with social media influencers fly into your inbox, it’s often an uphill battle to determine whether working with influencers is worth it. Influencer campaigns are an opportunity to expand brand awareness, drive sales, and build credibility. But ill-designed influencer collaborations have the potential to fall flat and burn money faster than you can blink. So how do you vet an influencer?

There are simple actions you can take to ensure that the influencers you’re collaborating with are on the “up and up.” A brilliant campaign launched by the wrong influencer won’t hit the mark, so you’ll need to choose your partners mindfully to ensure a healthy return on investment. This guide will jumpstart your ability to vet the social media tastemakers you’re thinking of partnering with.

Strategies for vetting an influencer…

The influencer market has grown quickly to become a key advertising strategy for many consumer brands.

Check their engagement rates. High engagement rates signal that an influencer’s audience is paying attention and taking action on their content, making this a key metric that warrants attention. A simple formula to follow…

Engagement = (Likes + Comments) / Followers x 100

You can skip the math by using Social Blade to check the engagement rate of any influencer you’re considering for a project. Look for a minimum engagement rate of 1.5-2%. Engagement rates of 3-6% are considered excellent, and anything with an engagement rate of 10%+ enjoys “viral” status.

Analyze the following they’ve cultivated. Scroll through their list of followers and selectively peek at a few accounts. Where do their followers live? Do they have profile pictures? Do these appear to be active, authentic Instagram accounts? If the following seems to be heavily polluted by bots, then it’s wise to steer clear. If everything looks good, dig a bit deeper. Using a random sampling of their followers, ask yourself if these people look like your ideal customers. Assess their age, gender, region, and approximate income.

Review content themes and posting patterns. Are they posting about things that would be of interest to the audience you’re cultivating? Is there philosophical alignment between their audience and the kinds of people you want to work with? Would an ad for your product be well-placed among this content spread? How consistently does the influencer post?

Influencer marketing has become even more important during this pandemic for direct-to-consumer brands.

Browse past ads. Look for hashtags denoting a post is an “ad” or “sponsored” or anything that looks like an obvious product placement. Take an analytical look at the post: How would you rate the quality of the image? How do you feel about the content, tone, and length of the caption? About how the compensated ad is (or isn’t) disclosed? Does this appear to be a “one and done” post or an ongoing collaboration? How organically does it fit amongst the influencer’s other content? What level of engagement did the post elicit?

Think critically about the interactions you’ve had with the influencer. Zoom out and look at the big picture. How promptly have they responded? How professional have their interactions been? Have you ever felt pressured into closing a deal with them? What’s your gut telling you about the personal aspect of working with this person?

What to Ask an Influencer…

Request a media kit. This bundle of information traditionally includes a bio, a thumbnail sketch of their audience demographics, a rate sheet, testimonials, and key stats about the influencer’s reach and engagement. Look for data about:

  • Monthly site visitors
  • Size of their email list
  • Average open + click rates for emails
  • Size of their Instagram following
  • Engagement rate on Instagram
  • Average IG Story views

You can cross-check much of this information using a couple of free tools. Ubersuggest will verify the number of monthly site visitors, and SocialBlade will do the math for you on those engagement rates while offering an overall grade to reflect the influencer’s authenticity and engagement.

Lisa Fennessy of This Organic Girl recommends requesting a media kit for the influencers you're hoping to work with.

Ask for statistics from a recent campaign. An experienced influencer should be able to supply information about past collaborations and their final results readily. Keeping the information provided by the influencer in mind, scroll back through their feed to spot the campaign. How well was it executed? Does the provided data about engagement rates track with what you see in the publicly available information? Have the influencer and brand continued to work together?

Word-of-mouth marketing is huge, and social media influencers play a key role in building a brand's credibility.

Ready to start working with influencers?

For the month of October, my mastermind members are taking action to develop influencer relationships. We’re exploring the best ways to connect with social media tastemakers, how to properly vet an influencer, how to set measurable goals for influencer campaigns, and how much to pay an influencer. It’s especially juicy stuff, and I’d be honored to save a seat for you!

Each month in the Think Tank we tackle a new strategy each month, and I create detailed curriculum developed exclusively for my membership to bring them up to speed. We huddle around that curriculum all month long in our private Facebook community, we launch member challenges to help you put those strategies into action, and we welcome a special Expert Guest each month, giving members the opportunity to meet seasoned professionals while picking up juicy morsels of wisdom.

I’m excited to welcome Lisa Fennessy of This Organic Girl into the Think Tank as this month’s Expert Guest. With a major in Journalism and a minor in PR from Northeastern University, Lisa writes reviews and helps create demand for clean, organic, and nontoxic goods. Over the past three years, she’s worked alongside over 100 brands as an ambassador, affiliate, and influencer helping these brands generate an excess of $1,000,000 in revenue.

Want to ask Lisa your burning questions about working with influencers? There’s still time to join us in October. Grab your seat– you can cancel at any time. I’ll see you inside!

About the Author

Lela Barker

Lela Barker hails from the deep-and-dirty south (ATL, represent!), where she spends her days helping makers and product designers navigate the pitfalls of product pricing, brand development, and wholesale strategy. She launched her apothecary brand in 2003 and bootstrapped the hell out of that little business to cultivate a portfolio of 1500+ stockists worldwide, generating $12million in revenue and establishing successful distributorships in the Middle East, EU, Scandinavia, and South Korea. Lela is the keeper of a well-worn passport and the maker of the finest lemon meringue pie you’ve ever put in your mouth.

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