How to recognise influencers that you should be working with


Influencers have the power to make or break a business, most are very hard working and kind people, contrary to what you’ll often read about them online.

First of all, you should know I’ve worked with some amazing influencers.

On the flip side, I’ve also been duped into sending out product to both ‘influencers’ with a fake following and influencers that have accepted products in exchange for promotion and then stopped answering all email / phone communication.

I don’t want you to make the same mistakes as me, so this post is telling you what I’ve learnt over the years of working with influencers and what to avoid...

We’ve all been there as a business owner. An ‘influencer’ has emailed or sent us a DM offering a feature in exchange for product or payment. 

They tell you they have a huge reach and their followers will love your products.

When you head over to their Instagram page, you can clearly see they’ve got 20-70K followers, ok, so now you’re interested. 

To reach that many people it would cost you a small fortune in advertising, so it’s definitely worth the investment of product right? Wrong.

In fact, their number of followers tells you very little about their audience or whether they’re a ‘real’ influencer or not.

It’s quick and easy to buy followers. Some people do this to make themselves look like an influencer, to get free products and payments from businesses like yours. I know, because I’ve been fooled too.

Often, influencers with 1-5K are incredible for small businesses, I’ll explain why later on… But first, here are a few quick checks you can do, to find out if they’re the right influencer for you. This list will also help you source influencers yourself.

Check their engagement

Take a look at their last six posts on their Instagram grid. How many comments do they have on each post? Are there any conversations? Are they real comments?* 

*A fake comment is made by a robot (the same that follow and unfollow your account) it's usually something very vague like: ‘nice post’  or ‘👍’

On a real influencers account, you’d expect to see some conversations. They might not have hundreds of comments on every post but generally the more comments the better (my rule is, at least five genuine comments or conversations per post).

Number of followers

Ideally, they’d have more followers than you. To have a real influence on their audience, they need at least 1000 followers, anything under this is unlikely to get results for your brand. 

If they have over 20K and are offering to promote your business for just product, I’d question their intentions. A real influencer with this many followers can earn plenty of money from big brands for promotions. They’re very unlikely to offer to work for free - however they might agree, if you approach them.

Don’t even consider the number of likes on their post

Sadly, likes can be automated too. 

A lot of people binge like too - just scrolling down the page, liking everything and not even looking at the content (I know, because I do this too sometimes, it’s a terrible habit). 

If there are hundreds of likes and no comments, they’re very unlikely to be genuine. I wouldn’t even take number of likes on a post into consideration. It tells you nothing.

How many posts does their account have

An account with 20K followers and only 100 posts doesn’t sound very genuine to me. I’d expect to see at very least 100 posts per 1K followers.

Are they actually influencing anyone? 

If they’ve approached you, what results have they achieved for other brands? They should be able to tell you this, in fact, they should want to tell you. 

Having said that, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. An influencer with a small but loyal following may be just starting to monetise their blog or Instagram page.

How many ads are on their page?

No one likes to be sold to. If the influencer has several, obvious ads posted recently, I’d take that as a warning sign that they’re not genuinely influencing - they’re actually just advertising. 

You want to work with someone that's providing their audience with valuable content, that way your product is much more likely to be taken seriously.

Who are their audience?

Their audience is one of the most important things to look at. I’m not suggesting you trudge through their list of followers, instead, look at the accounts that are interacting with them. 

Read some of the comments and conversations.

Who are their posts aimed at? If it aligns with your target customer, you could be on to a winner. If not, it’s unlikely you’ll get any results from working with them - even if they have a very engaged audience.

In all honesty, most of the influencers that contact you won’t be right for you. You’ve heard the saying ‘if it’s too good to be true it probably is’, unfortunately this is usually the case.

There are lots of great, honest influencers that have a solid tribe of followers that listen to their recommendations. These are the people that will benefit your business. 

The influencers with lots of followers will be expensive, but don’t be put off if you’re a small business, some influencers love supporting independent brands and will often do an Instagram stories feature in exchange for product - which can be massively influential.

Also, don’t be put off by numbers, the greatest success story I had was when I approached an influencer with just over 1000 followers, but a very engaged audience. I made £500 from her promotions and recommendations. Not a huge amount, but enough to be very worthwhile. 

If you’re a small business with little to no influencer budget, I’d recommend you start small. Look for influencers with less than 10K following, that have an audience identical to the people you want to buy your products. These influencers are more likely to work with you and to benefit your business.

I should also add, I have never ‘gifted’ a product, hoping for promotion and I don't recommend it. I agree terms before I send anything out. I think this is fair for both influencers and brands - it avoids unrealistic expectations and disappointment.

Have you ever worked with influencers? What was your experience? If you'd like to know how to approach influencers let me know in the comments below.