Video Influencers: Weeding out the Good from the Bad

Snakes in the Grass

Advertising behemoth Unilever recently found themselves in a bit of trouble when they discovered that several of the digital media influencers they were working with weren’t so influential after all.

Many of the influencers the company had paid to promote their messages had been buying fake followers in order to seem more popular than they actually were.

[bctt tweet=”#InfluencerMarketing is more popular than ever but sometimes it can be hard to find the right influencer to tell your branded story. Read on for some tips on how to track down the perfect person.” username=”relevance”]

According to Reuters, Unilever spent 7.7 billion euros ($8.9 billion) on marketing last year. Of that, only “tens of millions” was spent on influencer marketing, but Unilever marketing chief Keith Weed predicts that will grow.

Unfortunately, as influencer marketing has gotten more lucrative, the practice of buying fake followers has gained traction amongst some shady influencers looking to make bank.

These fake influencers aren’t only misleading brands but they are costing them too. If the bulk of an influencers followers are bot accounts, it can be hard to get a good read on social media impressions or engagements and digital media ROI could suffer.

Doing some extra research to find successful influencers with authentic followings is well worth the effort to avoid getting scammed and it doesn’t have to be that difficult. These 5 influencer-matching tips can help you weed out the troublemakers from your crop of influencers.

Finding the Right Influencer

Go Niche

  • When you’re shopping around for influencers, it’s important to pick someone whose messages or interests align with yours. Relevancy is key here and it pays off to search for influencers within your niche before branching out to other industries, even if another niche has more notable influencers.


  • Let’s say you’re a game developer looking for a Youtuber to promote your new  zombie game. Instinctively, you probably wouldn’t search for makeup gurus or lifestyle vloggers. You would, and should, research gaming vloggers with active channels. You can even go more specific by picking a Youtuber who specializes in horror video game play-throughs.


  • This same strategy can be applied to virtually any industry, from content marketing to travel. There are thousands of niche industries out there and there are thousands of influencers who rule them.


  • This promotion between popular gaming Youtubers Dan and Phil and the mobile game Dragon City is the perfect alignment between influencer and company. The creative video also racked up over 600,000 views so it’s safe to say the campaign was a success.

Check Levels of Engagement

  • To avoid ending up in a situation like Unilever’s, it’s important to look at what kind of engagement an influencer gets. If their comments sections on Youtube, Twitter, and/or Facebook are full of meaningless, spammy activity, then chances are the person is a fraud.


  • It’s also important to pay attention to the balance between likes and comments. If an influencer’s post has 500+ likes and no comments, they might be a fraud.


  • It’s worth noting however that the quality of engagement is more important than the quantity of engagement. An influencer could easily pay for fifty bot accounts to comment on their posts but those comments typically don’t offer up anything substantial. If there is meaningful dialogue going on in the comment section of an influencer’s post, then that person is probably worth reaching out to.

Authenticity, Authenticity, Authenticity

  • Who are you more likely to trust: a Youtuber who churns out 80% sponsored, salesy or someone who tells original, thought-provoking, personal stories? Obviously, person number 2 is the one to trust.


  • Finding a Youtuber, blogger, podcaster, or any other content creator who is transparent and authentic with their audience usually means that they will promote your brand in an original way. 


  • Check out an influncer’s past videos, blog posts, and fan/follower interactions for evidence of creative storytelling, humor, personal stories, or anything that points to sincerity. This sponsored video between Youtuber and author Mamrie Hart and audiobook company Audible is a great example of an authentic influencer campaign.


  • Understanding where an influencer stands on a number of issues can be important because, for a time, that influencer will be in charge of representing your company or product.


  • When it comes to personal opinions, stances on social/political issues, or even profanity, it’s completely up to a brand to determine whether or not an influencer is right for them. However, it’s always good to check their stances on certain things anyway.


  • Targeting an influencer with similar values will also ensure that your content gets in front of faces that have similar opinions to you. If you’re a vegan food-seller, then you’ll probably want to pick a vegan or vegetarian influencer to promote your stuff.


  • This simplistically hilarious marketing campaign from 2015 between My Tales of Whiskey and actor, comedian, and woodworker Nick Offerman excels on several fronts.

  • Because Nick Offerman has built a persona of gruff, outdoorsy, manliness, he’s the person you’d most expect to agree to a marketing campaign where he sits and drinks whiskey alone and in silence in front of a crackling fire for 45 minutes.


  • Offerman’s values and interests, or at least the ones he’s presented to the world via his roles and acting performances, mesh well with the overall vibe of a whiskey company. That, and the weird humor combined with Offerman’s celebrity and broad appeal, make it a holiday influencer campaign worthy of merit.

Communication and Flexibility

  • Influencers are people and, like all people, they’ll appreciate clear, timely, and polite communication from your end. You need to know what you want to get out of an influencer marketing campaign before you pitch your idea to an influencer.


  • If you’re unorganized or unclear in your instructions, an influencer will pick up on that and look elsewhere for a partnership.


  • While you should always have a game-plan with long and short term goals laid out for your influencer, it’s important not to be too overbearing.


  • If you’ve done your research on an influencer and if you trust their style and creative flow, then you should be able to ease up on the reins and let them promote your brand in the best way they see fit. If you’re flexible with them, they’ll appreciate it and go the extra mile for your campaign.

Final Thoughts

Influencer marketing is definitely going to stick around for a while but, as it grows, we need to be more aware of who we trust with our branded messages.

Companies are spending thousands on influencer campaigns so digging into an influencer’s history, checking their engagement levels, and actually watching or reading their content instead of just looking at their numbers will save you from getting scammed.  

A healthy brand/influencer interaction can turn a one-off campaign into an on-going mutually beneficial promotional deal. On your end, more revenue and traffic is awesome and on their end, your money can help them pay the bills and expand their audience.

For more on how influencer marketing can benefit your business, check out these templates courtesy of Chad Pollitt and read this article by Shane Barker.