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How to Vet Influencers and Audit Them for Authenticity
Vetting influencers is a crucial process in today's crowded creator space. We explain step-by-step how brands can audit influencers more efficiently.
Knowing how to vet influencers is a totally underrated skill for brands.
Consider how massive the current creator talent pool is. Given that the influencer space has boomed into a $21.1 billion industry, that’s kind of an understatement.
The good news? There’s no shortage of influencers out there to promote your brand’s products.
The challenge? Finding the right creators can be tricky when there are so many to choose from. Working with authentic and enthusiastic influencers means better content and campaign results.
Having matched 500+ brands to thousands of creators, we know all about how to vet influencers! Below we share our firsthand tips to help you find relevant creators faster.
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How to Vet Influencers Step-by-Step
Before getting into the nitty-gritty, we need to recap the value of influencer vetting.
Because brands should prioritize partnerships with real people putting real effort into their content.
Here’s a snapshot of why putting potential influencers under the microscope matters:
- Thoughtful influencer vetting encourages greater engagement and campaign ROI. This is the big one. Vetted creators have engaged and legitimate followers. This means your target audience will see your products presented in a meaningful way. On-brand content serves as social proof and makes it easier to run your creator content as ads. All of the above boosts your overall campaign performance and ROI.
- Vetting helps brands avoid needless headaches. When you find an experienced creator who “gets” your brand, your life becomes so much easier. For example, vetted influencers require less back-and-forth with creative instructions. Irrelevant or unvetted “influencers” can cause a whole slew of problems. This includes ghosting or posting low-effort or inappropriate content. Not to mention potential influencer fraud.
- The creators you hire are an extension of your brand. People that make your products look like a million bucks make you look better by association. On the flip side, low-effort content doesn't do your brand's reputation any favors. Remember: authenticity is key to seeing legitimate results from influencer marketing.
With that out of the way, let’s dig into the specific steps of how to vet influencers!
Conducting an Account-Level Influencer Audit
Let’s say you have a handful of potential creators that you’re ready to audit. Maybe you found them yourself or through an influencer platform.
Or maybe a potential influencer has reached out to you and you’re not sure if they’re legit.
Anything you can do to save time when researching influencers is a plus. Understanding what your brand’s ideal influencer looks like can help you do exactly that.
Spoilers: you don’t need to do a deep dive into every potential influencer you find! Creators should pass the vibe check before you look at the “fine print” of their profiles.
Details like engagement rate and audience quality obviously matter. Thing is, there’s no shortage of creators out there. That means that brands can afford to be picky.
You’d be surprised at how quickly you can disqualify bad-fit influencers. Likewise, you can spot potential matches based on a few specific details. Granted you know what to look for.
Here’s a rundown of how to conduct a cursory influencer audit in a matter of seconds.
Profile Picture and Social Bio(s)
- Is their profile picture clear? Does it match the content on the account’s feed?
- Does their bio contain creator-specific details? Is it personable?
- Does their bio make sense? Does it feel written by a human?
- Is there a collab email, business contact or influencer landing page link?
Most of what you need to tell if an influencer is legitimate is front-and-center on their profile.
For starters, is their profile picture actually of them? Some fake accounts will use stock photos or imitate real creators. Here’s a tip: conduct a Google reverse image search if you’re skeptical.
Bios are also a prime place to assess an influencer’s personality and authenticity. For example, do they say where they’re from? Do they refer to themselves as a creator?
Having a business email address or landing page (Beacons, Linktree) is a great sign. These details signal that the creator has worked with brands or is open to collabs.
Follower-to-Following Ratios (and Follower Count)
- Does the account have more followers than people following it?
- Does the influencer meet your minimum follower threshold?
- What's the account's follower-to-following ratio?
An account’s follower-to-following ratio reflects the size of a creator’s audience. For example, a creator with a 5:1 ratio has 5,000+ followers and follows 1,000 accounts. Authentic influencers have more followers than accounts they’re following. That’s what makes them influential!
Followers are an important metric for vetting influencers. That said, there is some nuance to these numbers. Keep the following in mind:
- Authentic influencers typically have follower-to-following ratios of 3:1 or greater. This is not a hard rule, though. A ratio less than this does not mean that the person isn’t a real creator by default. For example, some micro-influencers with only a few hundred followers might have closer to a 2:1 ratio.
- Be wary of accounts with 1:1 follower-to-following ratios. This ratio does not automatically mean that someone is a fake influencer. However, this ratio can highlight accounts with low-quality followers. For example, fake influencers on Instagram use bots to inflate their follower counts. An “influencer” with 10,000 followers that follows 10,000 accounts is a red flag.
- Bigger does not always mean better when it comes to an influencer’s follower count. Not by a long shot. There are countless brands crushing it with micro-influencers right now. Creator accounts with a few thousand followers are super valuable to brands. These influencers maintain their authenticity and high engagement because they’re “smaller.” Focus on content and quality versus follower count alone.
- At a glance, does the account’s content reflect that of your ideal influencer?
- Does the influencer post the types of content you want (ex: videos, static images)?
- Does their feed look well-edited and curated for quality?
In short, do they pass the vibe check? Do you like what you see at a glance?
Not everything related to how to vet influencers is a numbers game! Again, the creators you partner with should reflect your brand and its audience. If their posts reflect what you’re looking for, you're on the right track.
Conducting a Content-Level Influencer Audit
Let’s say your potential influencers “look the part” based on your 30-second audit.
Nice! Now it’s time to dig deeper. An account-level audit can help you weed out fake influencers and poor matches. That said, there's only so much you can learn at a glance.
Want to know whether an influencer is truly authentic? Peek their published content! Below are the make-or-break details to watch for.
Using influencer engagement rates to vet content creators is pretty standard these days.
There is no “magic number” when it comes to an influencer’s ratio of followers to interactions. That said, a 3.5% to 6% engagement rate is solid for most creators depending on their follower count.
Engagement rates are an objective metric for measuring performance. This can be a huge time-saver to disqualify creators that don’t have the reach your brand needs.
But much like follower count, these numbers need context.
After all, social algorithms can be fickle. This applies to both TikTok and Instagram. It’s not uncommon to see a creator earn dozens (or hundreds!) of comments on one post but only a handful on the next. Some videos earn 100,000 loops while others earn 5,000.
That said, a creator with 80,000 followers getting 50 interactions on most posts is a red flag.
We recommend looking at a sample size of multiple posts for an average or median engagement rate. Simply scroll through their feed. Then, compare their view counts, comments, “Likes” and shares to their follower counts. Looking at multiple posts means you aren’t judging them based on outliers (good or bad).
This speaks to the importance of using an influencer platform with a vetted network. For example, we hold our own creators to high standards when it comes to engagement. We expect our creators to hit specific interaction thresholds that go beyond engagement rate. Specifically, 200 minimum views via Instagram Reels and 2,000 minimum views on TikTok. Our creators are also vetted to ensure honest, authentic content that earns meaningful engagement.
The best influencers put legitimate thought and creativity into their content.
Thoughtful captions can tell a compelling story and promote a product in a way that’s personable. Captions should feel specific to the influencers’ voices, not copy-and-pasted or sales-y.
Below are two examples of great creator captions. Notice how the creators both live in rainy areas and weave that personal detail into their posts. Small details such as emojis and informal language make their posts feel authentic.
Comment sections are a major indicator of a creator’s authenticity. This is what we’re talking about when we say “meaningful” engagement.
Are the creators earning thoughtful comments that make sense? Or is every post filled with one-word responses (“WOW” or “COOL!”) or emoji spam? Low-effort comments are a red flag for fake followers and bots.
It should be noted that some spam comments are to be expected on all accounts — spammers are gonna spam. A few spam comments or followers don’t necessarily mean that a creator is buying followers or engagement. Dozens or hundreds of spam comments are a different story.
Also, authentic influencers respond to comments and take the time to interact with their followers. Here’s an example of a TikTok creator answering questions about a product she promoted.
No huge surprises here. Dedicated influencers post content regularly rather than at random.
Like the other metrics we’ve discussed, there is no “right” posting frequency. Expect most creators to post at least a couple of times per week. This means their account is active and they want to be approached by brands.
4 Questions to Ask Influencers Who Reach Out to Your Brand
So, now you know how to vet influencers when browsing their profiles.
But let’s say you have incoming queries from creators that want to partner with you.
Or maybe you’re interested in a creator but have a few reservations or something feels "off."
Below are a few questions to ask prospective influencers you’re in talks with. These questions are useful during influencer outreach and inbound queries alike.
1. “What Brands Have You Worked With in the Past?”
Asking a creator about their past collabs can clue you in on their industry experience. If someone has worked with brands in the past, it’s a good sign that they’re legitimate. Bonus points if they’ve worked with brands similar to your own.
2. “What Types of Content Do You Specialize In?”
This question lets you know if a prospective creator can make the content you need them to.
For example, some creators specialize in specific aesthetics or industries. There’s a big difference between an Instagram lifestyle blogger and a TikTok UGC creator making beauty videos. Also, some creators primarily produce photos while others focus on short-form videos.
3. “Who is Your Target Audience?”
This seems like a simple question but it’s a crucial one. Ideally, the answer shouldn’t be “everyone.” Specialized influencers have specific audiences rather than one-size-fits-all followers.
We'll say it again: influencers you partner with should reflect your own audience. This applies to demographics, values and challenges your target customers share.
4. “Are You Willing to Sign a Contract?”
Presenting an influencer agreement sets the tone for your relationship. Having an established contract ensures that everyone is on the same page, too. You’re more likely to get ghosted if you stick to handshake agreements. Someone willing to sign a contract is serious about working together.
The Biggest Mistakes Brands Make When Vetting Influencers
Vetting and researching influencers might seem pretty straightforward.
But as illustrated by the steps above, finding legitimate influencers doesn’t happen by accident.
There are a few common ways that brands drop the ball when auditing influencers. To wrap things up, here are some pitfalls to avoid.
- Their vetting process is inconsistent. You need to know exactly what you want before you start browsing creator profiles. We recommend setting criteria for details like follower count, engagement rate, creator type, or aesthetics. This will save you serious time and help you focus on vetting relevant creators.
- They expect way too much out of potential influencers. As we said, there are more creators for brands to partner with than ever before. While you can definitely be picky, searching for the “perfect” creator can be a time-sink. Don’t be too rigid when it comes to requirements. This is especially true if you’re vetting creators via DMs. Chances are they’ll be happy to answer quick questions. That said, don’t expect paragraph-long replies or a resume from them.
- They put too much stock into (so-called) influencer vetting tools. Some brands use influencer marketing tools like engagement rate calculators to vet creators. Thing is, many of these tools rely on inaccurate data or simply aren’t up-to-date. Many so-called "influencer auditors" aren't built to detect fake followers. At the end of the day, nothing replaces actually reviewing creators by hand. That’s all the more reason to work with creators from a vetted network (like Statusphere).
How to Streamline the Influencer Vetting Process
Remember: not every creator is going to be a fit for your brand. And that’s okay!
Chances are there are thousands of relevant creators that’d love to have your product in their hands. Not to mention tens of thousands of their followers eager to see that product in action.
Having a defined vetting process helps you earn the best branded content possible.
But we get it: brands are super busy and vetting takes time.
Rather than rush the process, consider how a turn-key influencer marketing platform like Statusphere can help.
Since we work with a vetted creator network that is regularly reviewed for engagement and quality, our brands don’t have to stress about what-ifs. In fact, we accept less than 10% of creators that apply.
We only match brands with creators who actively want to promote your products. Our platform handles the heavy lifting of matchmaking, fulfillment and performance tracking, too. We offer a streamlined solution for running micro-influencer marketing campaigns.
Want to learn more about how our platform works? Get in touch with one of our consumer-to-consumer marketing specialists to see how we can get more creators posting about your brand ASAP.