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Jun 24 Why Follower Counts Don't Matter in Influencer Marketing

At Carusele, we've led the charge for data-driven influencer marketing that prioritizes authentic engagement over vanity metrics. Our latest data provides even more evidence that brands need to stop obsessing over influencers based on their follower counts.

Why? Because our new research shows what we’ve known intuitively for a while. There is no correlation between follower count and how many people see a post, even when you hand-select high-quality influencers.

Brands believe that high follower counts mean more exposure to a post, but that’s not accurate.

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For our latest findings, we analyzed 231 sponsored influencer posts run through Carusele across 37 different influencer accounts, each with at least 10,000 followers. These influencers were hand-selected and vetted by our team based on criteria like high-quality content, consistent engagement rates, brand alignment, and a professional approach, so they are all top-notch creators.

Even within this hand-curated group of top influencers, there was still essentially no correlation between the size of an influencer's following and the impressions generated by their sponsored posts.

We calculated each influencer's total followers on a platform and the impressions their posts generated on the same platform as a percentage. In an ideal world where all followers saw each post, you'd expect these percentages to cluster around 100%.

However, the data reveals a huge range in impression rates, varying from as low as 0.39% all the way up to 80.14%. Some influencers with a modest follower count in the tens of thousands achieved stellar impression rates of over 50%. Meanwhile, other influencers with millions of followers had paltry single-digit impression rates.

To quantify this further, we calculated the correlation coefficient between each influencer's total followers on a platform and the impressions their posts generated on the same platform.

A correlation coefficient measures the strength of correlation on a -1 to 1 scale, with 0 indicating no correlation whatsoever. A correlation coefficient of 1 indicates a perfect positive correlation, meaning that as one factor increases, so does the other. A correlation coefficient of -1 indicates a perfect negative correlation, meaning that as one factor increases, the other decreases.

If anything, my expectation was that there would be a negative correlation, meaning that influencers with large follower counts reached smaller percentages of these followers. But even that wasn’t accurate.

For this dataset of 231 influencer posts, the correlation coefficient was just 0.06 - indicating a virtually non-existent correlation between follower counts and impressions achieved. 

In other words, the number of impressions a post got had NOTHING to do with the follower count of the influencer.

This data confirms what industry insiders have long suspected - follower counts are extremely misleading for assessing an influencer's true capabilities. So, if follower counts are an unreliable metric, what should brands focus on instead when assessing influencer partners? We recommend the following tactics:

1) Use influencer marketing services like Carusele that recognize the variability of these metrics and have plans in place to optimize each campaign in real-time.

2) Use an agency that manually reviews influencers' content feeds to evaluate quality, assess audience demographics, and gauge real engagement levels.

3) Pay attention to quality engagement metrics, such as comments, shares, clicks, etc., in addition to impressions.

4) Align with influencers who have a professional approach, understand sponsorship disclosure rules, and share your brand's values.

The implications of this data are clear - brands need to adjust their influencer vetting processes away from an obsessive focus on finding influencers with large follower counts. Those "mega-influencers" grabbing headlines are often highly overrated and inefficient marketing partners and typically charge far more per post than smaller creators.

At Carusele, we've pioneered a more nuanced, data-driven approach to influencer discovery that cuts through vanity metrics like the follower count. By aligning brands with authentically engaging influencers who create quality sponsored content, we can generate strong ROI even with micro-influencers with modest follower bases.

The influencer marketing revolution was sparked by a recognition that tastemaker recommendations are a powerful marketing channel. However, as the industry matures, brands must evolve past chasing after the latest mega-influencer and start prioritizing authentic engagement, quality content, and optimization at every level.

If we can help your brand with influencer marketing, please use the form below to contact us.