How not to get stung by influencers

During a recent marketing consultation with a lovely woman who had recently created her own clothing line it hit me square in the face that we aren't told much about influencer collabs other than 'check the level of engagement'. For this woman, let's call her Tabitha, this was a definite side hustle/ passion project. She had a well-paid successful job and was busy raising her two kids, so even with a doting husband this was never going to be something she wanted to take full-time. 

We spoke about her business and what she’d done to market it. She freely admitted that this was her first dabble in the online marketing world and shiny object syndrome is hard to shake. The thing that really ticked me off was that she had done all of the right things and came across a woman in a women’s Facebook group who was an ‘influencer’ and was actively seeking products from people in return for posts.

What a great opportunity Tabitha thought! The added trust from being in a mutual business group was very encouraging especially for her first collaboration. However, things were not all as they seemed. After sending of several of her beautiful products off to this influencer she got crickets. No thank you. No posts. And no increase in sales. She left it for a few more weeks and then realised that there had been a few posts about her products but she’d seen zero increase in sales.

As we were talking on the phone, I jumped on to this influencers Instagram account. All looked great from a glance – she had BEAUTIFUL photos that looked like they were straight from a catalogue, the products were displayed well and she had over 20 thousand followers. Tick, tick, tick! So what went wrong?

1)    For a following of 20 thousand, she was only getting around 50 likes on each post. She was doing all the right things – using thirty hashtags and making sure her photos were gorgeous. So what does this tell us? She purchased followers. People talk about engagement, and I agree that it’s important. But having only 50 likes a post when it’s a high quality post almost guarantees most of her followers are bought. For 20 thousand followers with high quality posts I’d be expecting at least 1000 likes. If I had to guess, I’d say only around 1000 of her followers were real, the rest paid.

2)    She didn’t have a clear contract with the number of posts required and within what timeframe. This is so important to have in writing, even if you’re not paying them on top of providing them with a free product. Something else to watch out for is people posting your photo, leaving it up for a week and then deleting it from their feed. Make sure it’s in the contract that the post stays for a minimum of 6 months.

3)    She didn’t negotiate a clickable link to her website in the influencers profile when her posts went live. Not all influencers will agree to this but if they are small and have an engaged following I do recommend you include this as part of the contract.

4)    Everything looked TOO perfect. The niche she is in means that the reality of every day life is that things aren’t perfect. She later collaborated with another influencer who had a much smaller following of just over 3 thousand. This influencer showed the realities of day to day life, posted several great photos of Tabitha’s product and this resulted in a very profitable collaboration.


Moral of the story is check out the likes and comments, get a great contract in place and only work with people who speak to your target audience and the whole vibe of your business.


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