Question: I have a feeling so many content creators have fake followers because their views are low as well as their comments and likes, but smaller brands may not know this and think, wow, so many followers. What do you think about this? How big of an advantage is it?
The only way to determine if someone has bought followers is to look at certain patterns and indicators. Anyone who claims there's another way is being dishonest. For instance, low likes and view counts may suggest a fake following. However, it's also possible that an account went viral years ago and accumulated many followers who are no longer active. Many influencers have been in the business for over a decade, and their following was built up over that time. However, a lot of the followers they gained ten years ago no longer engage with their content. This can make it seem like they bought their followers, but in reality, they just have a disengaged following.
Follower health is more important than real or fake followers.
And that's why we talk about follower health, not real versus fake followers. It's important to talk about it that way because, again, it's a big thing to accuse someone of buying followers. You're essentially accusing them of fraud, right? Because if you're buying followers to increase your follower count, which means that you can charge more money from brands, that means that you are defrauding and stealing from those brands. That's a big deal. It's something that if we knew an influencer was doing, we would obviously never work with them. But follower health is important.
15% is probably on the low end of what Instagram should be getting; into the mid-twenties or thirties is good. Anything above 30 is excellent. So, if you receive reach numbers back from an influencer that you want to work with and it's 5%, it doesn't matter if they bought that following or not. That following is not healthy, and I would suggest not working with that person. View counts and likes are a good way to determine that if you can't get them. Many influencers who came up doing stills and captions are now being forced to do video, and maybe their audience doesn't like video, and maybe they don't like videos. So, there are many reasons that those posts could not be doing well other than buying followers. But absolutely make sure that the money you are investing is going towards as many people as is humanly possible.
Seeing that content. For brands out there, if there's one big hack that everyone should be doing, it's focusing on reach numbers and trying to find influencers that are a good brand fit, that you are excited about, who have the highest reach numbers possible. You can save so much money that way. Now, how big of an advantage is it? I think in the short term, like any form of cheating, buying followers can help you and take opportunities away from influencers who are doing things more honestly. In the long term, it comes out right. Ultimately, if I went and bought 50,000 followers or a hundred thousand followers, let's say right now I have 130,000 followers, I could probably fool brands for a little while and I could probably use it to get stays at hotels and do some other things, but ultimately those relationships wouldn't continue because the performance would be so bad they would never come back.
People would start to question it and it wouldn't work. You can't hack your way to success. It's hard to cheat your way into sustainable success. As an influencer, I wouldn't worry too much about whether the people you're competing with are buying followers or not, because in the end, I do think it will come out. Those people who have an engaged, healthy audience will ultimately be more successful long-term.
Question 2: How do we best negotiate for rates?
Q: When a chosen influencer comes back to you with a rate that's too high, do you always negotiate for from there?
I think a fear of influencers is asking for too much and getting turned down and ignored, rather than receiving a counteroffer. That's a great question. I think, generally, in a negotiation, it is unlikely that when you put a number out, the other party is just going to walk away and disengage.
That being said, while it's important to believe in your worth and throw out a number that feels healthy and exciting for you, it's also important to be realistic. If your number is completely detached from reality, you risk looking unprofessional and doing yourself a disservice. For example, if you're looking for an apartment in New York where the average rent is $4,300, and you offer $200 for a new construction studio that's listed for $4,000, the landlord will likely come back with a counteroffer of $4,500. By making such an offer, you risk looking uninformed. As an influencer, it's important to know your market rate and negotiate within that range. If you want to negotiate for a higher rate, you can aim for the higher end of that range, but throwing out completely unrealistic numbers does not benefit anyone.
You know, if you have 10,000 followers and a brand reaches out to you, and you say it's going to be $10,000 for a post when you know it should be a couple of hundred dollars, yeah, I'm going to think that this person doesn't really know what they're talking about. And I don't know if I want to do business with somebody who is completely uninformed. Offering the high end of the market is okay for both influencers and brands. Offering the low end of the market is also okay. It's a negotiation. However, taking advantage of influencers, low-balling them, and trying to capitalize on their lack of education to take advantage of them is not okay. So it goes both ways. We make offers that we think are fair, and sometimes we have room to negotiate, and sometimes we don't.
We feel that it's fairer for us to go with a rate that we believe is the market rate, rather than asking influencers, because sometimes people undervalue themselves.
Question 3: When is it time for a creative audit aside from posts that aren't performing?
Q: When is it time to spruce up your feed? What's the right time to shift aesthetics or try and weave in niche content?
I think we have to remember that this is your feed, your account, and your little slice of the internet. If you wake up tomorrow and realize that all you've done for the last five years is beauty content and say, "I am so sick of makeup, I never want to do another one of these. I just want to talk about horses," do it right. Ultimately, what matters is that you're passionate about it, that you care about it, and that you're excited about it.
I think that when you start to feel like your content is stale and you want to switch it up, it's time for a creative audit. Publishing and creating content can start to feel like a drag. Maybe it's time to take a step back. It can sneak up on you that you've been doing this for 10 years. Not only do you do it every day, but then you go on vacation and work even harder because you're trying to document everything. You end up with all this amazing content because you're in Tuscany for a week and you want to crush it and do everything perfectly, right? You may realize that you've been creating and publishing content every day for 10 years, five years, or even a year.
You know, it's okay to take a break. If you come back from that break and you still don't feel excited about it, ask yourself what you are excited about, you know? And if your audience doesn't connect with it, ultimately, it's not sustainable. You can't hack or cheat your way into a sustainable career, and you won't be able to have a sustainable career if it's something you're not passionate about. Eventually, it will break you, and it won't work. Your audience will realize that you've kind of fallen out of love with it. It will get pulled away from you one way or another. So I think that's why you have to protect your passion and make sure that you continue to love what you're doing. You continue to be engaged with your audience. Not only are you doing this for their education, to help them, and to create this community, but it should also be something that you really enjoy. Without that, there's not much chance of finding success.