Do Instagram influencers really exist?

For months now, my newsfeed has been flooded with debates about who is/isn’t an influencer, how to become an influencer and exactly how many followers/comments defines an influencer. I’m bringing another point to the table – do they ACTUALLY exist?

As defined by the Cambridge dictionary, an influencer is “a person or group that has the ability to influence the behaviour or judgement of others: The influencer is the individual whose effect on the purchase decision is in some way significant or authoritative.”

This essentially means that an influencer is someone who’s opinion has a direct effect on how you purchase their products. An influencer may have 500 followers, or 500,000 – the main point is that it doesn’t matter how many followers they have. It comes down to genuine engagement, their audience, the purpose of their IG/blog and whether the brand and influencer are a suitable match.

When was the last time someone that you followed on social media posted a clear #ad and you saw it on your feed and decided you wanted that product? Try and really think. For me, it’s perhaps happened once or twice in my entire lifetime from a couple of beauty bloggers that I adore and love their work.

Here’s an easy hint if someone is influential to you – if you check in with their Instagram or blog daily to see what they’re up to, they’re an influencer. Most people describe it as “catching up with an old friend”, and they genuinely care about what that person has been eating, applying and using in their day to day life. Importantly, you trust these people and their opinions,  and you trust them enough to believe that they’d work with brands that they actually use themselves.

These days, I tend to follow people on IG that create gorgeous content. They’re practically stylists, able to organise beautiful flatlays and capture the perfect angle at random coffee shops. They’re masters of turning yellow light to white, and know exactly when the perfect time of the day is to shoot. Their work is undeniably beautiful, but these people are not influencers, but content creators.  Their captions may contain just one emoji or a random sentence relating to the photo, but their words are not those of an influencer.

Celebrities are influential, and are true influencers. Anything and everything they post about will often sell out in seconds, even if it’s not a true fit for their brand – e.g. the Kardashians & Jenners are able to make any product sell out thanks to their intense fan base across the world. We can’t all be celebrities, but we can be influential with the right tools, voice and style.

The trick with the modern-day influencer is to realise that they do exist, you just need to work with influencers that are in your niche and share the same target demographics that you do. This may seem like a difficult task to do, but with the below information you should be able to pick who you should/shouldn’t work with:

Instagram Business Analytics

Always ask for screenshots of an influencer’s analytics, that will show the gender, age and location of their audience. If you’re trying to work with an influencer that either doesn’t have an IG business account or refuses to share their IG analytics, stop now. There’s a specific reason why they’re refusing to show you, and if you’re willing to invest in a project with them, then they should be willing to share their audience with you. If you look at nearly any bikini model’s Instagram, their numbers are possibly the most skewed. Sure, they may have 600,000 followers, but how many of those are women, that are in your demographic that you want to sell to?


 Numbers Aren’t Everything

Something really, really important to remember is that numbers aren’t everything on Instagram – in fact, they’re pretty confusing for brands that want to work with influencers. It used to seem simple – the more followers someone has, the more influential they are …right? Totally wrong. In an era where people can buy followers as easily as they can buy milk at the grocery store, how many followers someone has shouldn’t be the most important deciding factor. I prefer working with micro-influencers, which are people that may only have between 1000 – 20,000 followers at the absolute most. They’re the people whose content is often more curated, well-thought out and have developed a highly-engaged audience. Studies have shown that as soon as an Instagram goes past 10,000, engagement drops. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just how the pesky Instagram algorithm works.


Are you the right fit for them?

Ask for previous ad posts that they’ve done, and look at the engagement different campaigns have received. What products did they advertise and how did these posts do? Just because an influencer says you’d be a great fit for their brand doesn’t mean you should go ahead instantly. If you’re investing money into this influencer, have a big think about them like any other investment or purchase. You’ve determined that you’ve got similar demographics, now to work out if their style is on brand for you. If they’re extremely minimalist and you LOVE colour and you’re all about encouraging people to be loud and bright, do you think they’d be happy to shoot the ad in a way that encompasses both of your styles? Give clear, concise direction for any influencer and work together to create beautiful content.

True influencers do exist, and when you find the right one you’ll be surprised, delighted and most of all thankful that you’ve taken the time to do your research. Whether it’s a local mum who has a fan base of 1000 other mums who appreciate her insights into what is making motherhood easier, or the relatable teenager going through puberty whose 50,000 followers listen to her advice about what acne cream she uses, these true influencers will make an incredible impact for your business.