Influencer Marketing:
Why Followers Don’
t Matter
Vivian Michaels

According to Linqia’s recent predictions, influencer marketing budgets are likely to double by the end of 2017. Just last year, 94% of marketers found influencer marketing to be highly effective, and by now, almost every serious brand seems to have jumped on the influencer marketing bandwagon. However, influencer marketing does come with its own set of challenges. For instance, measuring the ROI with influencer marketing is very difficult. In fact, 78% of marketers stated that they consider measuring ROI their top challenge for 2017. A common mistake brands make when predicting the success of their influencer marketing campaign and measuring a campaign’s ROI is by focusing on the number of followers an influencer has. To help you understand why more followers does not mean greater ROI, here are some facts about the state of influencer marketing of today.

Changes In The World of Digital Marketing

The landscape of digital marketing is shifting at a fast pace and making predictions has become rather difficult. But nevertheless, current statistics show that influencer marketing is taking the lead in 2017 and is likely to stay ahead. As shown in this Google Trends graph, the past two years has experienced an obvious shift from content marketing toward influencer marketing. There are several reasons why this is the case. First, there’s an obvious rise in the number of social media users which has more than doubled in the past decade. Then, there’s a rise in popularity of social media influencers, some of which are now even reaching celebrity status. And there’s also a change in customer awareness where more people trust third party sources more than they do brands, and which the internet made possible. As a result, the influencer marketing industry is evolving and brands are making use of this new situation.

78% of marketers stated that they consider measuring ROI their top challenge for 2017. Click to Tweet

What Marketing Experts Say

So, turning to influencer marketing to help advertise your brand is a key step in leading a successful business. But every marketing expert knows that a successful influencer marketing campaign involves more than just finding an influencer with a large following and telling them to talk about your product/service. Instead of focusing on followers, which is more often than not just a vanity metric, marketing experts like Neil Patel now suggest turning your focus on aspects like audience engagement, the type of community, customer fit, and outreach. In this way, your chances of leading a successful marketing campaign are much higher. But keep in mind that shifting your focus from quantity to quality in your marketing campaign does mean that you’ll have to put much effort in determining which influencer will work for you and how you’ll be conducting your business relationship.

Audience Engagement Is Key

We already know that the usual logic of more followers equals greater ROI does not seem to work with today’s influencer marketing. In fact, a survey carried out by influencer marketing platform Markerly found that the more followers an Instagram influencer has, the less engaged they were with their audience, which they measured through the number of likes per post as well as comments. What every brand aims to achieve through an influencer marketing campaign is to increase brand awareness and possibly result in a call to action. This simply won’t be possible if your influencer is not engaged with their audience and the actual influence they have may be minuscule. This may not be the case if you rely on micro-influencer marketing as your strategy.

The Number of Fake Followers As Another Problem

Another reason why follower count may not be a reliable metric tool is because studies show that 8% of Instagram accounts are spam bots and 30% of users are inactive. Buying followers and fake accounts is still a common occurrence in the world of social media which is understandable. This is especially true with Instagram which was saturated with fake accounts since its start in 2010 as explained in an article posted on Influencerdb. Social media influencers want to get ahead and since follower count is still an important metric tool, some may attempt to increase their follower count overnight by buying fake followers, all in the hopes of landing a deal with a brand. These influencers may see this as a stepping stone, as a large number of followers inevitably attracts organic followers. When you measure success with the number of likes, views, and comments, buying an audience seems like a logical step for many just trying their chance with digital marketing.

What You Can Do

If your goal is to reach a specific audience to increase brand awareness, and with that, your sales, then look for organic content and influencers closest to your brand message. Gone are the days when advertising was forced upon consumers who are thinking for themselves more than ever. Today’s consumers appreciate the organic content, real people, and honesty above all else. The audience you are trying to reach has chosen to follow a certain influencer because they like their content. Keep that in mind when turning to an influencer to sponsor your brand and allow room for creativity. Other than that, look for audience engagement and if a certain influencer has a community, rather than a following. Make sure that an influencer fits your image and that they have a decent number of organically acquired followers that does not necessarily have to be large.


Influencer marketing has become the next big thing in the past few years with the majority of today’s brands following this trend. This marketing strategy was found to now work better than content marketing and pop-up ads. Social media influencers are on the rise and so is their following. But the trends in digital marketing change at a fast pace and the same goes true for influencer marketing. The number of followers an influencer has is no longer considered a reliable metric and brands are turning their focus on audience engagement and customer fit among other aspects. Staying authentic when trying to sell a product or service is key to today’s marketing success, but it is made possible thanks to influencer marketing.

Vivian Michaels is huge tech enthusiast, who likes to write articles on evolving technology and internet marketing. He is a social media geek, a foodie and a complete binge watcher. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin