Have you been thinking of hiring an Instagram influencer to promote your optical business? You’re not alone. The use of influencers is on the rise. But in order to get your money’s worth, you can’t just find an influencer, you need to carefully vet them. Just checking their follower count is not enough!
What is an influencer?
It’s someone who isn’t exactly famous, but has an impressive number of followers. Their photos are well-lit and professional, they’re doing fabulous things in fabulous places, and they strike a balance between perfection and relatability. Their captions often sport the hashtags #ad and #sponsored, because companies and businesses pay them to promote products and services. They may be well-known within a niche, like fitness, gaming, beauty, or eyewear.
Forbes estimates that the influencer market will hit $2 billion this year. And RetailDive found that 70% of millennials have a strong preference for recommendations from non-celebrity blogger peers.
Find an influencer with real influence
A recommendation from a credible influencer with a trusted voice can be absolute gold for your business. Hallmarks of a good influencer include a large following, in the tens or hundreds of thousands, or even the low millions. They engage regularly with that audience, commenting and liking often, and getting tons of engagement in return. They post often, usually daily.
But there’s a dirty little secret you should know. For every legit influencer, there are a thousand pretenders, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Some are attracted to the idea of getting rich quick by posting pictures of themselves. Others take a shortcut from the daily slog of engaging with people online, and simply buy followers to look popular. They don’t have the time, patience, or know-how to build a community, but they want the rewards. It’s this frivolous, “pretend job” image that gives influencers a bad name and makes them a target for late-night comics.
But don’t laugh! An influencer that your audience believes in and finds appealing can direct a lot of eyeballs toward your business.
The question is, how can you find an influencer who is really influential, and has the audience that you’d like to reach?
Here are the steps I use to find the right influencers for my clients. You can do it, too – it just requires some homework.
Step 1: Start with hashtags
Using Instagram’s search function, find 5-10 hashtags that make sense for your audience. If you’re a local business, start with your city name (like #scottsdale). If that hashtag has more than 1 million posts, look for variants (#scottsdaleaz, #scottsdalearizona, #absolutelyscottsdale). Also try narrowing down to your neighborhood (#northscottsdale). As you type into the search bar, Instagram will show a list of related hashtags, so be sure to browse that.
Avoid hashtags that are too broad, especially if you’re a local practice or optical shop. You want an influencer who’s going to come to your shop, interact with you, and make custom content. A hashtag like #eyewear (4.3M posts) will bring you top posts from frame brands, your competitors, practices in other cities or countries, influencers who aren’t local to you, and even online eyeglass stores. None of these are useful for promoting a local business.
Now that you have a list of relevant hashtags, look at the top 9 posts for each one. A really influential post should be in the thousands of likes, or at least the high hundreds. It should also have dozens of comments, which are an even better measure of true engagement than likes.
Put the authors of these top posts on your list.
Step 2: Narrow your influencer list
Look at each influencer. Do they fit the bill for you? Are they the right age (i.e., old enough to manage their own eyecare), in the right location, have the right attitude? Do they wear glasses or sunglasses? If you want more kids and families in your practice, pick an influencer who’s a mom or dad. If your shop’s brand is luxury, pick a high-end fashion blogger. If you’re trying to attract a population of nearby tech workers, look for a hot nerd. Get the picture? You want to show that the kind of person who gets their eyeglasses from you is someone your target audience wants to be.
Whittle your list down accordingly. But don’t strike someone from your list if their follower number is only 1K-5K. Those are called “microinfluencers,” and 10 of them can be more effective than one influencer. They also cost less!
Step 3: Weed out the fakers
A sad fact of modern life is that many people buy followers. The follower number is a vanity metric that, if artificially inflated, makes people look more important and influential than they are. And those who have bought followers are not going to help you one bit to spread the word about your business. The followers they purchased are “dead accounts,” dummy profiles with little to no activity that are churned out by the thousands, usually overseas. Here’s an example of a “click farm” in China, where 10,000 phones have been automated to like and follow 24×7:
Buying likes and followers is incredibly cheap. Click farms are usually located in developing countries, use child labor, and pay their workers pennies. Using click farms is not just social media fraud that undermines trust in social platforms, it’s a terrible thing to support.
An influencer with a high number of dead accounts following them is basically sending your message to a rack of robot phones like this. What you want is a trusted voice who speaks influentially to exactly the audience you want to bring into your business.
Now, everyone has some fake accounts following them – even you. But an influencer who buys followers has them in large numbers. Fake accounts might actually be the majority of their followers.
So how can you tell if an influencer has bought their followers? There are a few methods.
Use SocialBlade to find unexplained follower spikes
SocialBlade will show you, for free, the last 14 days of follower/following/media activity for any Instagram account (or 30 days on the SocialBlade phone app).
A normal pattern for an account who doesn’t buy followers is a slow and steady rise over time.
A user who buys followers will show a sudden, abnormal burst of hundreds or thousands of followers added in one day. If this miracle can’t be explained by actual account activity – they had no posts that day, they didn’t do a bunch of following themselves, and they weren’t in the news for sleeping with a Kardashian’s boyfriend
– then they likely bought those followers.
Now, a spike of about 250 new followers doesn’t seem like much. But if someone buys 250 followers a week for a year, suddenly they have 13,000 followers – and a saleable position as an influencer.
If you ignore the bought followers and look at the normal activity for this user, they’re really at -23 followers for this two-week period – so their influence is actually flat or declining slightly.
If you see unusual spikes like this in a user’s profile, take them off your influencer list.
Use HypeAuditor to assess their audience
An audience assessment will not only reveal suspicious account activity, it will tell you whether the audience they have is the audience you want.
For instance, if you’re an eyecare practice in New Jersey, you probably want to target women 35 and up, and both genders 45 and up, in your state. (Women tend to be the health managers of their families, so targeting a mom brings you sales for her, her spouse, and any kids. Presbyopes spend more on their glasses and aren’t well-serviced by online stores.) Given that, the following HypeAudit report on an influencer would be pretty disappointing:
Is this account from someone in Turkey? Nope, it’s a US account, and the user posts in English. But they likely buy followers from someone in Turkey – and apparently Nigeria, Yemen, and Azerbaijan. This is all you can conclude if they have high followings there, but no natural connection to any of these countries.
You can also see the primary language spoken by their audience. If you’re marketing in English, and only 34% of their audience would understand the message, then this influencer is not a match.
HypeAuditor also tells you what you should pay per post for an audited influencer, based on market prices. This gives you leg up in negotiations.
HypeAuditor is free to analyze one user, and $99 to analyze the next 10. Save $100 in your price negotiations and it’s paid for itself!
UPDATE: Use my code PEGGY43 and get 3 HypeAuditor credits for free.
If an influencer’s audience looks bought, or just isn’t what you’re trying to target, take them off your list.
Detect real engagement with FakeCheck
FakeCheck very smartly compares an account’s likes and comments numbers to others of their size to detect real engagement. See, you can buy followers, and you can even buy post likes, but you can’t really buy comments for your own posts. So any comments are likely coming from real users.
With this account, comments only appear 29% as often as is common for an account of their size. So you should drop your engagement expectations by about 70%.
Small variations of 5-15% from normal are likely not a sign of anything fishy. But 70% off? Something’s not right. Take this influencer off your list.
I found some great influencers! What’s next?
Okay, now you’ve weeded out the fakers and found accounts local to your business that have real influence. How do you enlist them as influencers? And how can you make sure they do what you ask them to do?
Read about that in my next blog post, where I show you what’s next after you find an influencer: how to reach out to them, what to ask for, how to get it in writing, and what you can expect to pay.
Want help to find an influencer and run an influencer campaign? Contact us.
Got questions? Ask me in the comments!
Peggy is the founder of The Social Eye, a social media agency for optical businesses. She led social media efforts at ZEISS Vision US for 4 years, and prior to that created digital marketing for the tech and music industries. She has far too many pairs of eyeglasses, but can always find room for one more.