influencer marketing vetting

Influencer Vetting: A Data-Driven and Human-Centered Approach

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There are over 500,000+ active influencers on Instagram alone. These social media influencers are responsible for over 4 million sponsored posts in 2019. With such a high volume of content creators, you would expect the influencer selection process to be a breeze. But, it happens to be the complete opposite. The massive amount of influencers on social media platforms makes it harder to zone into those few creators that bring true value to your brand. In fact, 61% of marketers consider finding relevant influencers to be difficult. 

Selecting influencers focusing on vanity metrics, such as follower count, is not enough.  Other crucial factors such as values, tone, type of content posted, and audience sentiment shouldn’t be ignored. Think of influencers as brand ambassadors. When partnering with them they immediately become a reflection of your brand. By not ensuring that the influencer is the right fit, brands can be at risk of losing their audience’s trust and ultimately their business. 

Influencer vetting is a make-or-break element to every influencer collaboration. But when influencer marketing is good, it’s really good. Data shows that for each dollar spent on influencer marketing, brands can expect a return of $18. The influencer marketing industry is expected to be valued at $15 million by 2022.

We can’t say it enough – It is crucial to ensure you have the right influencers before your campaigns take off.

We talked to our Director of Account Management, Maggie Reznikoff, about her experience selecting the best influencers for each client. Like everything we do, a human approach mixed with data-driven insights it’s at the core of our influencer selection process.

Thinking about brand/influencer/consumer alignment, what process does Open Influence use to hone in on the correct influencer, as there are countless to choose from? How do you determine whether an influencer is right for a brand and its audience? 

Our account managers spend a lot of time upfront with the clients, honing in on all of the specifics around the influencer archetype, audience makeup, content aesthetic, posting habits, restrictions, etc. Having those conversations is critical for us to go out and source according to brand goals and guidelines. Unless an influencer brings something incredible to the program, we will not put anyone in front of the client unless they check all of the boxes. We use a combination of data (audience analytics, post/channel performance) and our trained eye and expertise to determine whether an influencer is fit to not only meet the brand’s goals from a performance perspective but to also serve as a storyteller for the brand’s message. 

One of our key differentiators is we do all of the upfront vetting, outreach, and negotiations prior to ever presenting any influencers to the client for review and approval. That means we’ll never let the client fall in love with someone we cannot get for them — i.e. folks who are unavailable, out of budget range, or entering into a competitive partnership. Once we present the client with a large list of pre-vetted options, they’re able to pick their favorites and we can move right into contracting. 

Studies have shown that consumers want brands, and public personalities from celebrities to influencers to stand for something and have a purpose, are the brands you work with cognizant of this expectation? Has it created additional hurdles? 

It’s hit or miss. We’ve worked across the spectrum from brands who specifically want influencers who have taken a stand from a social justice or political perspective, to brands who want to steer clear of any potentially “polarizing” opinions. The latter definitely comes with hurdles as these days, it’s difficult to find feeds where no opinions on social or political matters have been expressed. It also takes away from the authenticity we aim to achieve and narrows the pool of options down significantly. For brands that avoid influencers with an opinion, we often have to host discussions with them about what they will lose as a result. It’s really important for brands to remember that just like us, influencers are human beings. Human beings who make mistakes, have opinions, stand up, and fight for what they believe in. That, in itself, is the value of working with them! 

How much of a background check is done on an influencer before the agreements are signed? Political affiliations, stances on social issues, LGBTQ+ rights, BLM etc. 

We only look closely at political affiliation and stances on social issues when working with a brand that has concerns in these areas. Almost all brands will avoid influencers who post content that is violent, triggering, or vulgar, which is easy for us to catch during the vetting process and something to look out for. Beyond that, we pay close attention to the restrictions that our clients share with us upfront (which tend to range from general things like risque content, alcohol or drugs, competitors, all the way to strong political or religious content). The best thing a brand can do is strike a balance between their everyday consumers’ needs and what is realistic when it comes to social media. Setting outright inappropriate content aside, the more restrictions that are in place, the smaller the net we will be able to cast when sourcing for a campaign. 

When selecting Influencers to work with, how much weight in the decision does metrics play? Does ‘gut feeling’ have any relevance anymore? 

Metrics play a large role. We rarely make decisions based on data alone, but it serves as the final check. We look at a variety of data points to ensure that influencers will not only perform at or above industry standard, but also that they will perform against specific client goals. For example, if we have a client whose KPI is website traffic, we will look closely at the influencers’ Instagram Story impressions and swipe-up rates to ensure their audience is engaged and consistently swiping up on their stories. So, “gut feeling” is where we start, but by the time an influencer is presented to the client, we’ve shifted from gut feeling to an informed, well-vetted and data-driven recommendation. 

With more eyes on social media and influencers than ever before (in particular during COVID lockdown), what have been the biggest lessons you learned in working with influencers partnering with brands?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that just like brands are slowly learning to navigate this pandemic, so is every individual around the globe. This includes influencer marketing. I’ve learned that empathy is needed now more than ever. Asking a busy mom to send in revised content on a 48-hour turnaround isn’t as simple as it sounded pre-Covid. She’s home with her kids, juggling remote learning, snack time, and the occasional meltdown. To make space for changes we’re all struggling with in our own way, we’ve added many layers of sensitivity to our process. We do so to not only be great partners to the creators, but to also protect the brand and ensure the influencers who share their message walk away from the campaign with a lasting impression that they were heard and their needs were acknowledged. 

On the flip side, I’ve also learned that brands need influencers to share their message with a heightened sense of urgency than before. With everyone home, glued to their screens more than in previous years, it’s crucial that brands find a way to reach their consumers on a human level (see: Creating a brand that is human). No one has the headspace for contrived advertisements – they need support, they need resources, and they want to know that the brands they buy into are there for them. Influencers are a great vehicle to deliver that message, as they’ve built trust among their community and are able to tell the brand’s story in their own voice. 

At the root of everything I’ve learned is one thing: empathy wins. 

In your opinion, do you think filters and aspirational content will continue to be the norm, or is the empathetic, more raw content we are seeing the way forward? 

It depends on the use case, platform, and audience, but authenticity is winning. For social media users, I see filters and aspirational content continuing to be sought after as they offer a bit of an escape from reality. Whether that’s healthy or not has been a hot button topic in the media for years, and many argue that it’s damaging to the self-image of users, especially young adults. We’ve also seen a noticeable surge in the demand for relatable, raw, and empathetic content. You can see this on a platform like TikTok, where virality is often a result of something we can all relate to — like crying in the car after a hard day or admitting that you haven’t worn jeans in weeks. This shift can also be seen on platforms like Instagram, where, following the increased spotlight on the Black Lives Matter Movement, people turned to the platform to share their own experiences, resources, or even host unfiltered IG Live discussions. 

So, there will always be a part of social media that feels like a highlight reel. However, the voices and content that is resonating in a much larger way highlights REAL. 


Let us do the work – Open Influence is your trusted influencer marketing agency when it comes to crafting the best roster for your brand. To learn more, contact us