4 Deadly Social Influencer Marketing Traps And How To Avoid Them

Finding a social media influencer takes more than being impressed by their follower rate. So what else should you take into consideration?

Adebisi Adewusi
January 25 2018

According to the 2017 State of Influencer Marketing Report, 86% of marketers use social media influencers to help them create authentic, branded content and drive engagement and traffic to their websites or landing pages. While not always the case, many influencers depend on their massive following to support their projects. Think Youtube’s PewDiePie who has an astonishing following of over 58 million subscribers and Instagram’s Huda Kattan with 23 million subscribers. Marketers who implemented an Influencer Marketing program in 2016 received $11.69 on average in Earned Media Value for every $1.00 of program spend, which is a 4.4% increase over 2015’s EMV average of $11.20.

So influencer marketing is really great, the problem is that the social media influencer marketing space is filled with mouse traps. To save your brand from harm we’re digging into four deadly influencer marketing traps to avoid.

#1 The Catfish

With some social media influencers charging as high as $18,000 per post, everybody wants to be an influencer. And not a challenging process towards ‘stardom.’  In August, influencer marketing agency Mediakix, revealed it had conducted an investigation that lured four brands into deals with fake Instagram accounts, populated with stock photography and followed by users bought for $3-$8 per 1,000. The brands offered the fake influencers money, free products or both.

To avoid fake influencers scams here are few things to look out for:

  • A sudden sprout in followers: Building a strong followership takes time and effort. If you see an unexplainable increase in the number of followers an influencer has, something is definitely wrong.
  • Quality of followers: If an influencer is followed by inactive users, lack a profile picture or have spammy usernames, you can safely assume that these followers are fake.
  • Low engagement levels: Social media metrics such as likes, shares, comments, retweets, e.t.c show the level of interaction. Avoid influencers with an engagement rate of less than 10% per post.
  • Comments: Fake influencers buy comments. Look out for irrelevant or broad comments such as ‘OMG!,’ ‘cool!,’ ‘awesome post,’ or ‘nice!’ More often than not, these one-liners are not made by real people but rather bots. Real people drop personalized comments, spark conversations with other users, tag users, and sometimes call out influencers.
  • New Account: Real influencers have likely had their social media account for years. Watch out for accounts that are new, post irregularly and have a massive following.

#2 Don’t Fall In Love With Big Influencers

Kylie Jenner may be highly influential if she recommended a pair of jeans to her audience, but she’d have little influence over markets such as retirement homes/services. Look for micro influencers within your niche. Micro-influencers are not traditional social media celebrities, but individuals who are truly knowledgeable, passionate, authentic, and trusted sources when it comes to recommendations for what to buy in a specific market. This set of influencers has 1,000 to 100,000 followers and often have higher engagement and influence over their communities compared to those with a mass following. In fact, campaigns driven by micro influencers are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than those of their influential counterparts. 82% of consumers are likely to follow a recommendation made by a micro influencer because they feel connected to them and their content. How do you find micro influencers?

Head to your social media accounts and look for people who have interesting profiles, between 1,000 and 100,000 followers and regularly post content within a niche. You can also use relevant hashtags to search for micro influencers who aren’t following your brand, but are talking about products or services similar to yours. If you’re looking for influencers to promote organic food on Instagram, use #organicfood instead of #food. This will narrow your search and help you find the exact influencers you need to boost your engagement. If you don’t have time for the legwork, there are third party tools that allow you to search and connect with influencers. Buzzsumo is a great tool for finding key influencers in any location and niche. Don’t waste all your marketing budget on wooing big influencers, romance the micro influencers who have a true interest in your brand.

#3 Watch Out For Non Disclosures

Lord & Taylor’s “Paisley Dress” campaign is a clear example of what influencers can do for your brand. The campaign involved 50 fashionistas who posted pictures of the dress on Instagram. The posts reached 11.4 million individual Instagram users and led to 328,000 engagements. While the campaign was a huge success, there was one problem. The influencers did not disclose that they were paid thousands of dollars each to post a photo of themselves wearing it on Instagram or other social media sites.

This oversight broke the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC)  influencer marketing guidelines, which led them to take legal action against the retail company. Below are several important FTC guidelines to note:

  • Ensure influencers disclose sponsorship as close to the beginning of the content as possible.
  • Sponsored social media posts should include clear disclosures such as “#sponsored,” “#paid,” or “#ad” before any links leading back a brand’s landing page. #thanks, #collab, #sp, #spon, or #ambassador will get you into a undesired situation.
  • In a blog post, the disclosure statement must come before the affiliate link and above the “fold” or “scroll.”
  • On image-only platforms, disclosure should be over the picture in a clear font that contrasts sharply with the background.
  • For videos and audio content, there must be either an audible verbal disclosure at the start or a written disclosure on a clearly legible title card at the beginning of the video.
  • Make sure influencers don’t use tiny fonts or pale colors to disguise sponsorship disclosure.

To be on the same page with the FTC, read through their guidelines thoroughly and make sure the influencers you work with “clearly and conspicuously” disclose the business relationships behind social media posts.

#4 Creating Content Yourself

Insisting on total control is an ineffective social media marketing strategy. Influencers know their audience the best and will be able to use their unique point of view to help create authentic content. Therefore, instead of pushing them aside, you should collaborate with them and create the type of content that consumers actually want, ultimately increasing trust and engagement for your brand. That’s why fashion brand Dorothy Perkins worked with fashion and lifestyle blogger Laura Noltemeyer (also known as @designdschungel) to form their content strategy for three exclusive collections launched in 2017. The campaign managed to drive the sales of 56,000 items from the collection – an enormous 63% increase in sales for Dorothy Perkins. Don’t force your content on influencers, work with them to create authentic and creative content consumers will love.


The rise of social media influencer marketing provides many opportunities and as many mouse traps. Use these tips as a guide to help you navigate this world, boost your brand reach, and increase your earnings.


Adebisi Adewusi

Adebisi Adewusi is a freelance B2B writer and a Huffington Post Contributor. When she’s not creating compelling content for businesses, you’ll find her capturing moments with her Nikon d600.

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