Instagram Influencer Red Flags

Want to be an Instagram Influencer?   Avoid sending red flags.

Over the past few years, I have hired and managed over 200 Instagram influencers for a variety of campaigns and to represent brands as ambassadors.  In the process of selecting the over 200 influencers, I’ve considered, viewed applications, and looked at thousands of potential influencers, from mega influencers with over 1 million followers, to local micro influencers with under 10k followers.  When working with clients to consider influencers, there has consistently been red flags that have causes my clients and myself to immediately remove the influencer from consideration.

Influencer Red Flags:

Low Engagement Rate from Users – Limited Reach:

If an influencer has a low engagement rate for the amount of followers they have, it is a big red flag. First, the obvious, we worry that their followers may have been purchased or acquired through some type of contest or spam.  We have systems we use that can quickly identify the fake engagement.  You’d be surprised how much of it there is.  Beyond that, there are plenty of accounts with all legitimate followers and engagement that get too low of an engagement rate to consider for influencer campaigns. This happens for a variety of reasons, from doing things to get shadow-banned, to inconsistent content or content that does not appeal to their audience, to a variety of other reasons.  Right now (it changes as the Instagram Algorithm changes), a basic guideline we follow is:

  • 10k+ Followers
    • Occasionally we consider smaller, but in general we say come back to us when you’re over 10k. This is for a few reasons. First, their audience is too small to adequately determine if that audience is compatibly with a clients target audience.  Second, persons potential influence is too small for most campaigns.  Last, if they want to be an influencer and have been trying to grow their audience for more than a year, while number of followers is not the most important thing, if they’ve not grown to over 10k it is an indication that people aren’t that interested in the account.
  • 2.0%+ Like Ratio
    • This means that we want to see the number likes their posts get to be at least 2.0% of the number of total followers they have.  If they have 10,000 followers, we can to see at least 200 likes. That is a low bar to reach, and most influencers I have worked with are around 3-4%, but anything under 1% is a red flag.
  • 10%+ Reach Ratio
    • This means that we want to see the overall reach of their posts to be greater than 10% of their overall follower number.  If they have 10,000 followers, we want to see their average post reach over 1,000 people.  This, again, is a low bar to reach.
  • 5+%+ IG Story View Ratio
    • If IG Stories are part of the campaign, we look for people who have at least 5% of their audience viewing each IG Story.  If they have 10,000 followers, we want to see at least 500 people viewing each Instagram Story.  If a person using IG Stories a few times per week, this is a low bar to reach.

If an account is over all of the above listed metrics (and it is all real engagement from real users), we’ll start to consider them as an influencer for our campaigns.


Recording Video While Driving – Inappropriate Behavior in Posts: 

Posting IG Stories or SnapChat Snaps while driving is a dangerous and a bad look.  If we see an influencer posting a video of themselves that they took while driving, we remove them from our database.  Brands don’t want to associate with it, and it displays a general lack of responsibility that can reasonably be inferred will also be an issue in their work.  The same goes for other inappropriate behavior, such as drinking alcohol in a car, a photo in which the middle finger or any other vulgar gesture is displayed or any content that would poorly reflect on a brand associated with that influencer and that could cause controversy.  Occasionally, we’ll find an influencer that would be great aside from one inappropriate post on their profile, but we don’t take the chance. We could ask them to delete it, but it is more the decision process to post such content that is the red flag.


They Don’t Engage

With mega influencers, we aren’t as picky with this, but with micro influencers (anyone under 100k followers), if we see that they aren’t replying to comments, direct messages, or even taking the time to click like on comments, we won’t hire them.  We’re looking for real people that can connect with their audience.  Though clicking like on a comment may seem insignificant, it does strengthen the connection with the follower and often makes the follower feel like there is a relationship with that person.  When someone does not engage, it is an indication that they don’t value or know their audience, that they don’t value relationships, and that they won’t do the little things that can make the big difference in ensuring the success of an influencer campaign.


Improperly Formatted Photos – Low Quality Posts

We see this often.  Influencers that will post a quote card in which the size format is not compatible with Instagram and some of the text is cropped out.  This is sloppy and shows us someone that is not concerned with quality.  Right or wrong, when people see a brand post improperly formatted photos or posts with errors, they associate that low quality with the likely low quality of the brand.  We can’t risk that with an influencer.  If we see a post like this on the profile of a potential influencer, we remove them from consideration


Spam Content – Content that Violated the Terms of Service of Instagram/Facebook

If a potential influencer has spam content or content that violates the terms of services of Facebook (Instagram), we can’t chance associating with them.  One thing we look for in this is someone who consistently spam tags, that is that they tag 5+ accounts in their photos despite none of those being tagged actually being in the photo or mentioned in the post.  We also look for people that have run contests or giveaways via Instagram that don’t follow the rules of such contests as listed in the terms of service. In most cases, the Instagram influencer that uses such spam tactics or violates the terms of service is simply not aware of the TOS and Instagram has yet to crack down on their account.  These accounts are too high risk for a brand to associate with, and its a good indication that the person lacks in integrity.

The above mentioned red flags are things that we can identify within a few minutes, or sometimes a few seconds, of reviewing an account.  It does not mean the the person is bad or does not have the ability to influence, but it does mean that it is an account that I can’t risk representing any of my clients, and that my clients would not risk representing their brand.

If you’re looking to become an influencer and make a living or part of your living off of it, all of these red flags are simple to avoid. Take the time to review your account and make sure you’re positioned as well as you can be to best represent brands.

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