7 Ways to Differentiate Influencers from Inflaters

Kimberly Surico |
 03/05/19 |
4 min read
7 Ways to Differentiate Influencers from Inflaters

Influencer collaboration offers incredible marketing potential for brands – and incredible earning potential for influencers! As a result, wannabe brand influencers eagerly aspire to emulate what these niche pros offer, and they’ve become expert at it – expert inflaters, that is. And your brand needs to steer clear of these imposters, or suffer the consequences!

What are Inflaters, Anyway?

Inflaters are influencers who are not actually influential. Not only that, they’re not good for your brand overall. And unfortunately, they play the part very well, and make a living fooling brands into believing them. It’s not entirely malicious, as they’ve typically fooled themselves into believing their numbers game matters, but it doesn’t (more on that in a just a bit).

The sum of it being: It’s difficult to tell the difference between influencers and inflaters . . . unless you’ve been trained to spot them. Consider this your ‘Inflaters 101,’ with some criteria that will make you go “hmmm” the next time you’re on the hunt for influencers to level up the conversation around your brand.

They approach you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as influencers often need to market themselves to find clients, and who can fault them for that? But who else are they approaching and why are they approaching you? Are they influential in your category? Look closely at who they are (big picture) and, explore what they’re talking about on social. Is a large portion of their conversation relevant? It should be.

Are they @mentioning random brands and offering their services? Many inflaters hit a certain follower threshold and expect large brand endorsements to follow, even though their social feed lacks any sort of focus. Avoid them.

Their numbers are too good to be true. Speaking of that large following they have – how does that followers to following ratio look? Also, how long have they been active online? If they’re followed by 100k (on any platform) and have 16 posts or have been using that account for less than a year, you can be sure the followers have been purchased and are meaningless, unless they’re famous, which is easy to sort out!

They’re very aware of their influence and they flaunt it. Most real influencers aren’t always talking about how influential they are – they don’t have to. Those aspiring to be influential have lots to say about why they’re the best, though they have little to back it up. They brag about being asked to be brand ambassadors for a variety of places, seemingly unaware that paying for that opportunity does not an influencer make!

Caveat: some “real” influencers do share ways to tell the difference between real and fake influence, and others do reference their ability to motivate consumer movement as part of their business model. Those folks do understand and have influence, but it may be a bit too flashy for what you have in mind, and may turn off your target consumers. You need to really understand your audience to make this distinction.

Another note: Unware influencers are the opposite – and the best. They offer a level of authenticity that’s hard to find. You need to read all about them

Their social stream is full of @mentions, tagging other users. This is a good thing . . . till it’s not. They’re having conversations and are actively engaged with their audience – but who are the other users? If they’re fellow influencers in your category, that’s a bonus. And if they’re regular consumers interested in topics that relate to your brand, that’s amazing as well.

But all @mentions are not created equal. And you need to be aware of the other topics this potential inflater may be talking about. S/he may have a large following because they’re controversial in some way – a way your brand would not want to touch – and those wonderful @mentions could be the stuff of a PR nightmare waiting to happen.

They post a lot, but aren’t seeing much interaction. This isn’t just about likes and shares, it’s more important to monitor comments and how those interactions look. Are they having meaningful conversations with real people? Are they posting lots and seeing little to no activity on their posts? They’re inflaters, stay away!

Their interactions are spammy and irrelevant. Some have upped the ante and employed bots to reply to their posts, so they appear active and engaging, but really aren’t. This is why it’s so crucial to not only spot check comment data here and there, but to actively monitor it as you progress. Faking a few posts is entirely possible – faking a whole profile is, actually – but analyzing what is being said and by whom? A solid social analysis tool will sort out the truth of the matter pretty immediately.

They’re not connected to other influencers. This is a good vetting tool. Do they know other influencers? Do they go to the same events and talk about things there and online that your target audience is super interested in? Even better. Make them a part of your brand’s life and have them include you in conversations! Inflaters attempt conversations with other influencers, but are largely ignored as the hangers-on they are. Watch carefully for that. It’s not influencers being mean girls (usually), it’s annoyance at fake influence potentially tainting the good thing they have going, and making them all look bad.

Or You Can Do It The Easy Way

You can easily avoid inflaters when using Netbase, by creating a topic on your category of interest and using that identify social influencers talking about it. If suspected inflaters comes up in your list, you’ll know they’re, in fact, relevant to your audience/purposes. And even if they don’t, by performing the search, you’ll have a list of other influencers handy to explore – which is something you should be doing regularly anyway.

And then you can segment them to meet needs for a variety of niche campaigns within your category – an influencer for every season! They’re always in fashion, you know – relevant influencers. Reach out and we’ll show you what genuine influence looks like and the many measurable ways they help convince and convert new consumers.

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