An Open Letter To PRs & Brands Working With “Influencers”

brands working with influencers

Hi, how’s it going?

I hear you have a campaign coming up and you need to find some influencers online to help spread the word. Good plan – nowadays people are choosing blogs and Instagram over magazines and Youtube over TV. I think you’ve made a smart choice.

I’ve got some advice for you though.

When you’re putting together your outreach plan, you might want to look beyond those impressive follower numbers. Trust me on this.

Remember before the power of digital marketing and the level of data you can get if you try? Remember when you gauged the success of print campaign by total publications readership. Hell, you might still do that because how else are you going to monitor it?

I have a few ideas –  but I’m not hear to talk print.

I’m here to tell you that when you’re scouting Instagram, Twitter and Youtube accounts to narrow down who you want to approach to take part in your campaign, you’re going to want to take your time.


Because it’s easier than you think to buy influence. Followers and likes can be bought as easily as a new handbag. In fact, in some cases it’s even easier. It’s instant.

One minute your “influencer” has 1k followers, the next they have 100k. Some might be craftier and grow their accounts with a little more tact but they’re still trying to fool you.

Old school PRs might not seen an issue with this – it’s still more eyeballs on your content, right? Wrong. The vast majority of these paid-for followers are fake accounts. There’s no one behind them. They’re just a bot. A bot can’t buy your product.

So why are people spending money on buying fake followers and likes?

We’ve answered that already. They want to fool you. They want the glory of being involved in your campaign (especially where money and freebies are involved), so they bulk up their accounts to look like your ideal target for outreach.

Some of them are even smart enough to be creating good content. After all, they need to keep up the facade. Look closely again though – as content can be stolen from more legitimate sources as well.

What can you do about it? Well, I have a few ideas on this one.

Be selective. Don’t go straight for the accounts with the most followers.

Be deductive. Use tools such as Social Blade to see how the influencer’s following has changed over time. Massive spikes in following (and unfollowing)? You probably have yourself a faker.

Be inclusive. Look at “smaller” influencers, who have a legitimate following and have engagement on their posts that is reflective of their following. Don’t just look for likes though, look for comments. Read a few of the comments and see if they appear to be authentic.

I know it’s scary. It’s a minefield trying to find the right influencer that targets your demographic, and it’d be a lot easier to just look at the number of followers and assume success. But you’re only letting yourself down. You’re only wasting time and money.

And you don’t want that, do you?

Three cheers to all the genuine influencers who have brought this issue to light lately – hopefully the fake ones will lose their power and realise that buying influence is a waste of time. But I genuinely believe the PRs and brands are the key to pushing back on the fakery – they need to get smart and do their research!



  1. April 18, 2017 / 11:19 pm

    SO well said! I only found out about this whole bots business on Instagram a couple of days ago. Jeez, some people are such underhanded gits.

    • Cat
      April 19, 2017 / 10:33 am

      To me it’s completely the same as buying followers/engagements and it’s just cheating. But I still put it on the PRs to be more savvy because “influencers” won’t stop doing it no matter how much people try to call them out on it.

  2. April 19, 2017 / 3:46 pm

    Well said! So much fake-ness going on at the moment, it drives me mad. Sure, I COULD buy followers and have 10k or more. But I’d rather grow my following slowly, naturally, and have genuine engagement!

    • Cat
      April 28, 2017 / 11:52 pm

      Exactly – at least some of us have common sense!

  3. April 27, 2017 / 9:41 pm

    Fake followers drive me crazy! Ugh so silly why people would PAY to up their count. I have experience from the PR side, but instead of influence I was interested in the domain authority value of bloggers sites and getting link backs. The world is digital is funny isn’t it!

    • Cat
      April 28, 2017 / 11:52 pm

      DA is a good measure from an SEO perspective but doesn’t really factor in good engagement. But then again, not man have PR’s have the time to do the research!

  4. June 21, 2017 / 5:50 pm

    An amazing article i must say! I feel many bloggers get pressurised into buying followers when they see brands and PRs are looking for a certain number of followers. Having said that many brands and PRs are now turning to micro influencers such as you and I. So here’s some good news.

    • Cat
      June 21, 2017 / 8:01 pm

      Thank you! Yea, buying followers has unfortunately become a norm amongst so-called “influencers”. Really disappointing. The savvy brands are great.

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