In the modern world of business, social media is a tool that simply cannot be ignored. It is an easy way to disperse information to people interested in your brand, allows you to easily interact with customers and prospects, and builds your brand image (if you’re managing your account correctly). A reoccurring question that businesses always approach us with is how to improve their digital presence—specifically, how to increase their followers and interactions on social media. Small business owners often hear about in-vogue tactics that they believe have the ability to significantly improve their presence with a minimal investment, such as promotions by social media influencers. However, in the ever-changing field of social media marketing, it is important to implement various tactics for growth, rather than relying on a perceived “magic bullet.”

I recently read an article titled “Confessions of an Instagram Influencer” that I felt really summed up much of the knowledge that I’ve learned about working with social media influencers through my own research and experience in the field. Essentially, it follows a digital marketer’s six-month trial to become a social media influencer, detailing some rather unethical practices that are occurring in this industry. He referenced bot software that he used and private engagement groups of other “social media influencers” that would work to boost each other’s followings. All of this led to him gaining 40,000 users over his test period, as well as 35 free meals during a month-long trip to New York in exchange for a mention on his faux-influencer account.

Typically, influencers utilize these underground tactics unbeknownst to the businesses that are offering them products or services in exchange for mentions. The issue is that there’s only so much data that businesses can gather about these influencers’ accounts. Influencers also know exactly what businesses are looking for: primarily, a large follower base with 5%+ engagement. This generally leads me to point our clients in one of two directions regarding implementing this strategy; either they do extremely thorough research into the influencer they are interested in working with, or they take the traditional growth route by building their own following based on quality content and interaction.

There are a variety of tools that allow businesses to do more thorough research into influencers, but one that I find especially useful is the website The site offers valuable follower information such as average daily followers, graphs that show their follower growth every six months, and future projections for the account. As Jonathan Jeffery suggests in his article, it is also important to analyze post engagement to determine how legitimate the engagement seems. Unfortunately, this is a task that businesses need to make a judgement call on, which requires some expertise in the field to be made correctly. Asking your prospective influencer for more detailed stats such as a breakdown of their followers and a screenshot of their analytics can also give businesses an insight in to the professionalism of the individual and the market segment that their followers consist of.

However, as we always preach to our clients, “content is king” and producing content that your customer finds valuable increases growth, interaction, and reach far better than these other tactics can, and does so with much less effort. Businesses also have the ability use similar tactics to those of social media influencers, with the added benefit of offering an actual product or service. The organic growth and interaction that they are already receiving from customers that have interest in their brand provides them with an additional market segment that will produce better results than those that influencers could ever hope for.