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Does large follower count matter in influencer marketing?

While brands often look for influencers with 10,000 Instagram or Twitter followers and more, it turns out it's not a follower count that really matters, but something totally different. So before you give influencers with a smaller audience a cold pass, here's what to consider!

Influencer marketing can be a dodgy game with empty metrics that don’t match expected promises or results for brands with no understanding of the core concepts that make it work or fail.

While oftentimes, brands look for influencers with 10,000 followers and more, it turns out it’s not a follower count – or even verified accounts – that really matters, but something totally different.

So before you give bloggers and influencers with a smaller audience than their sought-after counterparts with a bigger follower count a cold pass, here is what to consider.

Relevance & niche targeting

According to a recent article by, relevance and niche marketing should be among the main determining factors for brands hoping to get positive results from their influencer marketing journey.

In the article, Lauren Jung, co-founder of New York-based influencer marketing platform, The Shelfadvises marketers to apply what it refers to as demographic-matching, not vertical matching. 

For example, a deco brand doesn’t necessarily have to work with home & deco bloggers simply because they are operating in the same niche.

“A fashion blogger might be sharing a home tour, featuring decor from her favorite design company. Her readers are just as interested in styling up their homes as they are their outfits. The same rule applies here: you can work with bloggers outside of the decor space as long as they reach your demographic.”

Active followers vs wrong mass reach

As study have proven, consumers believe that the smaller the community, the bigger the influence. Since consumers put more trust in these communities, as a brand marker, you may want to focus more on engagement, than a mass reach to the wrong audience. 

Influencer marketing technology start-up, Humanz, proved this theory right when they recently released a YouTube video (below) showcasing a “new revolutionary product,” the Humanz Facefilter which promises to help find and verify influencers even outside of social media.

During the above mentioned exercise, several videos were shared by influencers across social media with #Humanz conversation trending on Twitter for a while, with people asking themselves “is this real?” – before trying it themselves.

The excersise was part of a campaign designed to draw attention to how fake claims can so easily be taken at face value, “and hence the importance of standardising expectations, definitions and standards in influencer marketing”, the company said. 

“Influencer marketing is in its gold-rush phase right now. For every person finding gold, there are also numerous vultures, bandits and fools getting lost in the desert.” explained Brett Solomon, Humanz’ global chief marketing officer.

He added: “While most people know about the obvious fraud happening, like influencers buying followers or engagements, there is another more insidious type spearheaded by many of the would-be experts in the space: bogus science, bogus data and bogus insights.”

The video, he further said, was released to help drive some conversations around the issue.

“With the rise of influencer marketing there has been a surge in platforms  and data providers all claiming to be the “leading solution” for influencer marketing needs. But most of them have different definitions or ways to count data for basic concepts like reach, impressions, engagement or fraud.”

Influencer makerting 101; Bigger doesn’t mean better

Influencer Lerato Sengadi, who was recently appointed general manager of Humanz South African, knows all too well the unrealistic value some brands place in larger following count.

“As an influencer, I often get approached by brands purely because of the number of followers I have. Yet, it’s probably the most irrelevant metric when it comes to influencer marketing,” Sengadi said.

“Take the example below: two influencers with the exact same number of followers but have vastly different real-and-active audience profiles, and content performance. Should they be worth the same?

“And should you not care about who these real and active followers  ACTUALLY are, rather than having that data lumped together with fake, passive or inactive ones?” Well, as we like to say, the proof is in the pudding!

*For the latest brand focused South African news and consumer insights from around the world, click here

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