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Influencer selection: The obvious choice is not always the best

September 17, 2018

“It’s finally here: a campaign celebrating the launch of your new fashion brand. You’ve spent what feels like an eternity working on it, and you’re excited to partner with the right influencers who match your energy. Which influencer should select? A fashion influencer, obviously. Right? Well, the obvious is not always the best and here’s why.

At R-Squared Digital, we recently completed a local campaign for a well-known international female fashion brand; we were given a budget and we were tasked with creating the strategy, and compiling a list of influencers after vetting and selection. The brand, however, specified that they would prefer to include one influencer they had found (using a well-known influencer marketing platform) and they wanted her to be an integral part of the campaign. On paper, she ticked all the boxes. A South African fashion model on Instagram (which is a very visual platform), with a high interest in fashion, who was expected to speak to the brand’s target audience, “South African women with fashion as their primary category of interest”.

After a deeper analysis using our in-house best-in-class technology, we discovered that 86% of her audience was male and that only 13% of her audience was in South Africa. In fact, the majority of her audience consisted of American men. This meant that only 1.82% of the influencers’ audience was the actual target audience of the campaign, “South African women”.

“We have the capacity to analyse the audiences’ key interests (and not just the key interests of the influencer).”

On deeper analysis, we discovered that her audience is predominantly interested in travel and photography (as she’s an avid traveller who posts a lot of personal photography content). Therefore, 97.18% of the brand’s budget would have been wasted on the wrong target audience; that percentage is when considering the “South African women” audience. The percentage would have been far worse if we had included the audience categories of interest. This in turn would have ensured the campaign produced a very disappointing ROI.

Influencer marketing requires having a detailed insight of the audience demographics and key interests, and not basing your campaign on the influencer’s categories of interest and bio. This could mean combining static databases and platform searches with dynamic databases and real-time data that provides the right insight and analytics. As demonstrated in the fashion example, the obvious choice is not always the best for your campaign.

“The importance of the influencer lies in being relatable to the brand and delivering authentic relevant content that resonates with the brand and their audience.”

However, this is not sufficient on its own and having a clear understanding of the audience’s demographics and key interests is vital. That’s why it is of the utmost importance to ensure that the influencer’s audience interests and demographics match the target interests of the brand, more so than the influencer’s interests themselves.

Influencer selection, through the use of influencer platforms, is very much a Tinder-like service. Brands sign up and the influencer signs up. Brands will search based on various filters till they get a shortlist of possible matches. They then go through each option and decide whether they’re a fit or not. If the brand believes the influencer is a good fit, they approach them with a brief. The influencer either accepts or rejects this brief and if they accept then happy days, they’ve got a match and off they go to tackle the campaign, great success!

Like many Tinder dates, the results may be fantastic and exactly as expected and at other times the results may be terrible and tragically different from what was promoted. By matching not only the influencer’s profile, but also the audience interests and demographics, with a dedicated influencer marketing strategy, it is likely that the brand will produce far better results, while mitigating brand equity risk at all times.

Influencer marketing platforms with static databases like these are limited to the number of influencers who have actually signed up to the platform. If brands cannot find the right influencer on the platform, where else will they look? It is likely that the database owner will always try push their influencers in the database because they want the business; meaning they are biased toward the influencer, not the brand and the campaign. In my opinion, this creates a conflict of interest, as the brand is the client.

In reality, each campaign will aim to target a different vertical or at least different segments within the same vertical – it’s unlikely that the perfect influencer for each and every campaign and vertical can be found using one static database. Unfortunately, even if the database is extensive, it will still be limited to only those that have signed up. This means that the same influencers will continuously be suggested to the brand and its competitors no matter the campaign specifics. Furthermore, the influencers’ data, audience details and interests are often lagged, based on perception or on the influencer’s interests, not on real-time information.

It’s also important to select influencers with consideration given to the engagement rate, and not only reach, because analysing reach without engagement rate is empty.

“In a brand’s campaign, reach should not be the only metric considered and should be carefully aligned with the engagement rate of influencers.”

Influencer vetting includes looking for all conflicts of interests across platforms, identifying what can backfire on the brand and auditing the engagement rate per influencer benchmark and the vertical. This undoubtedly the first critical step to successful influencer selection. Selection should be undertaken by experienced influencer marketing strategists and campaign managers highly skilled and specialised in influencer marketing, who have the right tools at their disposal.

Influencer Marketing agencies that offer the possibility to source influencers at all time, based on real-time data, after establishing a dedicated influencer strategy should be preferred. On the other hand, an influencer database has its limitations but could be powerful if used by an experienced influencer strategist.

In upcoming articles, my colleagues and I will demonstrate how a kickass influencer marketing campaign should be run, in a series of four articles. You’ve already seen what Influencer Marketing is all about in the first article of the series. You’ve also learnt about the importance of having a dedicated influencer marketing strategy and in this article, you’ve learnt about the importance of effectively matching the influencer’s audience with your target audience.

You can look forward to learning about how to manage your influencer relationship in order to protect and increase your brand equity, and finally, what’s required when your influencer marketing campaign is live. These articles (and more) will be released weekly. If you’re dying to know more now and you’d like expert assistance with creating and managing your influencer marketing campaigns, you can contact us on

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