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What do brands look for when selecting an influencer?

by | Oct 21, 2021 | Best Practice, ,

Selecting the right influencer with the right audience for a campaign is essential for achieving success. The process of influencer identification is a lot more streamlined now than it used to be. Gone are the days of manual desk research, trawling through social media feeds and copying lists of names and handles into an excel document. Brands are now able, with the help of influencer platforms, to generate a list of thousands of influencers on a particular topic at the click of a button. The challenge today is not so much about influencer identification, but more around curating those long influencer lists into a targeted and manageable number of influencers for a campaign.

In this blog we will answer the questions:

  • What do brands look for when selecting an influencer?
  • What metrics do brands use to help them decide whether to pick one influencer over another?
  • How can you get started with building meaningful relationships?

What type of influencer do brands look for?

Influencers come in all shapes and sizes, and the type of influencer a brand picks often depends on what results they are looking for. We have categorized influencers into 6 key personas:

If a brand is just looking to spread their message as far and wide as possible then they will probably pick a Social Media Amplifier. An Industry Practitioner would be a good fit if the brand wants someone with hands-on experience of working in the field, and who can provide practical examples. If they want someone whose voice is well respected in the industry to stamp their authority on a piece of content, then they would most likely select an Industry Key Opinion Leader (KOL).

Global Social Lead at IBM, Ryan Bares expands on this process:

“When evaluating an influencer, there are few things I look for (in no specific order):

  • Are they a creator or an amplifier. I tend to favor the creators because they’re a thought leader and open to sharing their unique point of view.
  • What brands have they worked with over the past three months. Working with competitor brands doesn’t disqualify an influencer, but I do want to make sure our content isn’t lost in a feed of sponsored content.
  • Their engagement on original content and who is engaging with that content. While it’s great that an influencer has a large social reach, if their audience engagement isn’t who we’re trying to target, that reach is meaningless.
  • Brand safety. We applaud influencers who share about their personal lives in addition to thought leadership content; however, if we’re going to enter into a partnership, we want to ensure the non-sponsored content isn’t polarizing or unsafe to be associated with the brand.”

Values, Culture and Identity

The influencer a brand selects will help them shape their brand reputation, so brands will be looking to make sure the influencer is aligned with their core values, culture and identity.

Divya Handa – Sr. Director of Marketing EMEA at Ping Identity offers this insight into her process for evaluating whether her brand’s values are aligned with an influencer’s:

“A brand is a special entity and a powerful being as it represents an organization’s values, culture and emotions. When selecting an influencer, it’s critical to find someone who complements the organization’s values and culture, can become an extension of the brand’s tone of voice and yet bring their own authentic identity to the mix. The influencer should also have their own voice and brand, can engage and inspire and be the building block to reaching new audiences and users. “

Onalytica considerations when selecting an influencer

What metrics do brands look at when ranking influencer lists?

Influencer lists can be ranked using various metrics such as reach (audience size), resonance (engagement) or relevance (how many times they have posted on a topic). The key metric we use at Onalytica to rank lists is Topical Authority. This metric calculates how much engagement an influencer is driving on particular topic, but also how much they are being referenced by others in relation to that topic.

“There are several things I prioritize over all else”, explains Joel Morris, Senior Customer Success Manager at Onalytica

“Topical authority is one of the most important metrics to think about, because a core objective for any influencer collaboration will be to make sure that the content an influencer creates resonates with their audience. What we mean by topical authority is not just the overall average engagement an influencer receives on their posts, but more importantly on the content involving the thought leadership topics in question. This is more important than the number of followers an influencer has. Of course, potential impressions are vital for brand awareness and engagement campaigns, however you’d much rather be speaking to 100 business decision makers within your target market, over and above 50,000 less relevant profiles.

The other most important factor to think about is the influencer’s persona. What we mean by this is that all influencers will be strong at different activities, and the key is to be able to decipher which influencer suits each activity. Not only is this functionality available within the Onalytica platform, but the more Influencer Marketing Programs we run, the more anecdotal evidence we have that an influencer produces great results for certain activities.”

Building relationships

When selecting an influencer, brands should only consider people they are looking to build long-term relationships with. It can take a long time to build that relationship, so they may need someone to help them make those introductions at the beginning.

Sal Viveros – Head of Global Corporate Communications at Ivanti, expands on the process he went through to establish long term relationships with the key thought leaders in his space:

“The Onalytica platform was great at helping to identify the universe of influencers by topic area. Once the universe was identified, we researched the top 10 influencers to see which ones would be the best fit for the brand. They needed to be subject matter experts, that had positive content, and were well respected in their field. Because these people are in such high demand, Onalytica was able to help with introductions, making the process easy.”

Through our experience of helping brands run thousands of influencer campaigns over the past 10+ years, and conducting interviews with hundreds of influencers, Onalytica are perfectly poised to assist brands when it comes to introducing brands and influencers.


If you are interested in learning more about how we can help you, click here to schedule a call.

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