Most “Influencers” are Broadcasters — Not Influencers

Being interesting doesn’t equal being influential.

Just because someone has a lot of followers on Instagram doesn’t automatically mean they have any influence over their audience. It’s possible to be a fun person to follow, without having any authority whatsoever. In fact, this is the rule, not the exception.

I’ve consulted businesses who have worked with so called influencers, been kind one myself, and helped people with large audiences get deals with brands, so I’ve seen this from every side. It’s clear to me that most people, including myself, don’t have significant influence over masses of people.

People with a big following simply have the ability to broadcast a message to a large audience. That’s not nothing, but don’t mistake it for influence.

Broadcasting Does Have Value

Some products sell themselves — the only thing you need to do is to be seen by your target audience.

Say you sell a working jetpack for $500. You don’t need authority figures convincing people how awesome a jetpack is. The only thing you need to do is to get the attention of people. Your product does the rest.

When you have something that’s easy to sell to a cold audience, people with large Instagram followings are great to work with. Show them numbers from past collaborations or Facebook campaigns, to convince them that your product sells like hot cakes. Strike up a fair commission deal and build yourself a small army of broadcasters.

No need to worry about how influential these people are.

When Actual Influence is Needed

You benefit best from working with truly influential people, when you have a great product with a lot of competition.

If you sell iPhone cases, for example, which has become a commodity, you need to persuade people that your case is better than the others. This is where actual influencers are great. They have the trust of their audience, and a record of recommending awesome products in the past.

Just remember that true influencers don’t sell out for shitty products, because they know that it doesn’t take much to break the hard earned trust with their audience. You need something good for any kind of influencer marketing to work.

How to Separate Influencers from Broadcasters

True influencers are still as valuable as ever. It’s just difficult to distinguish between influencer and broadcaster, because they can look quite similar. A broadcaster might have an authentic and active following, but still lack influence.

The key things to ask about, when negotiating an influencer deal, are sales numbers. That’s the only way to estimate how much influence someone has. Even then you have to account for the differences in your product and how good it fits the audience. Maybe the last product they sold actually sold itself — like a jetpack.

For that reason, I tend to prefer influencer (or broadcaster) deals almost fully commission based, on whichever side I’m on. There’s a case to be made that brand awareness deserves a small base pay, but otherwise commission keeps things fair.

Start out small and aim to build mutually beneficial, long-term relationships. You’ll quickly learn if someone is an influencer or a broadcaster. Both types can be useful, as long as you understand the difference.