What makes someone an influencer? If you’re like most people, a high follower count on social media was probably one of the first things to come into your head. But, while follower count is definitely an important factor in defining influencers, we shouldn’t just take that number at face value. It’s equally important to see how the influencer arrived at that number.
One of the ways we can do this is with some help from artificial intelligence. So let’s look at what place AI has in influencer marketing, as well as why the follower growth metric is so important.
AI in influencer marketing
To be successful in influencer marketing, it’s critical to find influencers who align with your brand and who can help you reach your campaign objectives. This means carefully analyzing influencer profiles and their performance-driven metrics before reaching out for collaborations.
There are various methods for analyzing profiles. You can do it manually, recording data from social media and analyzing it on your own. You could also hire an influencer marketing agency, which in exchange for a hefty fee will find and analyze influencers for you. Another option is to subscribe to an influencer marketing platform, which is a type of AI-powered software that lets you search for and analyze influencer profiles.
Follower growth and why its important
Follower growth is the metric used to look at how influencers grow their audiences. Growth can be organic or inorganic; organic growth means that influencers attract followers with their content, while inorganic growth would be new followers who come to the profile for some other reason.
Organic growth takes time. Influencers don’t get thousands of followers overnight. They have to commit to creating quality content, managing their social community, promoting themselves to new niches, and getting the attention of brands for collaboration deals.
Inorganic growth generally happens faster, as a certain event usually triggers it. Here are a few examples of what we mean when we say inorganic growth:
- A giveaway that requires participants to follow the influencer
- A viral moment on or off social media that makes the influencer famous
- A purchase of fake followers
Not all of these types of inorganic growth are necessarily bad. For example, giveaways are a good way to get a boost in flowers, but that bump may only be temporary. After all, those new accounts followed the influencer for the chance to win free stuff, not necessarily because they fell in love with their content. And once the giveaway ends, if influencers don’t give those new followers a reason to stick around, why should they?
What can AI show us
Artificial intelligence can help us determine if an influencer’s growth is organic or inorganic by tracking influencers’ audience growth and plotting it out visually. If we look at growth visualized, organic growth should look like a gentle hill, without sharp peaks and falls.
Let’s take two Instagram influencers as examples and compare their follower growth metrics.
The above chart shows the growth for fashion influencer Sierra Schultzzie (@schultzzie), and the climb seen here suggests that her growth is organic. We can see she has been steadily gaining followers since around November 2018.
Now, let’s look at the second example…
This is the growth metric for another fashion influencer, Sharron Townsend (@sharrontownsendofficial), and it looks quite different from Sierra’s chart. Here, we see a sharp increase in followers starting around April 13, 2020, which then began to level off during the summer months.
Now, this could be a sign of bought followers, but we have to do our due diligence first to see if our hypothesis is correct. If you Google Sharron Townsend, you’ll see that he was a contestant on the dating game show Too Hot To Handle, which debuted on Netflix on April 17, 2020. Without giving away any spoilers, a bit of research justifies Sharron’s unusual growth pattern.
Had you seen the game show, you may have already known who Sharron was and why his growth visualization looks the way it does. But if you hadn’t, it just took a few minutes to find the meaning in the data. The AI helps us out a lot, but at the end of the day, you still need to apply that human touch to your analysis.
Now, in the absence of any type of TV show debut, viral moment, bestseller release or any other logical explanation for spikes in follower growth, beware! That may truly be a sign of fake followers, which influencers can purchase in batches and which actually end up hurting their overall profile performance.
When selecting influencers for your marketing campaigns, remember to look beyond follower count. Dig a bit deeper to see how an influencer got their number of followers. And analysis doesn’t stop with follower growth; there are several other metrics you should consider, too. If you’d like to learn more about how to find and analyze influencers, check out this influencer marketing guide, which walks you through campaigns from start to finish.