You wouldn’t hire an employee on a whim without a recruitment, selection or induction process. When selecting an influencer to represent your entire brand why don't firms follow the same rigor? 


When selecting the perfect employee to join your firm you generally go through a process of:

  • Analysis - Identifying how this role works towards achieving the organisation’s business objectives
  • Recruitment - Looking for suitable candidates within the salary band you have benchmarked against the industry standard
  • Selection - Whittling down a long list of possibles to a short-list of potential candidates to interview
  • Induction - Making the new recruit feel at home quickly. Embedding them into the work culture so that they can start contributing their value right away
  • Performance review - Checking back within three months to make sure the new appointment is working on the right track and hitting agreed business milestones

You and the new employee will sign a contract covering:

  • Your firm's expectations from the employee
  • How job performance is going to be measured
  • A clear description of the role for job candidates
  • How much salary they’re going to earn

You pick the best candidate based on a set of written criteria which include skill set, attitude, corporate fit, and salary expectation. The contract forms an essential reference tool in issues of employee/employer dispute.

Before you issue that contract you will do background checks. You’ll gather references; check qualifications. You undertake digital due diligence. You look through their LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. You check that nothing potentially damaging sticks out. You do all of this because:

  • You want to know you’re hiring who you think you’re hiring; not a bluffer or a veneer of someone else
  • The new appointment is doing a job of work
  • You want to pay the going rate (but no higher)
  • You expect the working relationship to be long and mutually rewarding
  • You want to have recourse in the event that hiring the, seemingly perfect, candidate doesn't go according to plan

Why don't brands treat selecting an influencer like recruiting an employee?

So, when it comes to working with influencers, why do brands so often just wing it? Why don't they follow the same thorough, practiced and measured process for selecting the perfect influencer as they do for choosing employees?

There is a stack of business articles bemoaning the cost and lack of return on investment from undertaking influencer marketing campaigns.

Digiday’s article Confessions of a social media exec on influencer marketing: 'We threw too much money at them' has become a seminal text in the argument of influencer marketing as waste. The diatribe has notched up 14,000 social media shares and acquired hundreds of backlinks.

selecting the perfect influencer

One quote from the article written anonymously runs: "we’ll often find someone [an influencer] we like and we’ll throw it into a database with keywords. But usually, it’s a CEO or CMO or whoever saying, 'Oh, my kid likes this guy.' At this major car brand I worked for, we paid $300,000 for a few photographs because the CEO’s kid liked someone."

Other stories marking the perils of influencer marketing point out the quantities of fake followers by some wanna-be influencers. Erik Sherman, writing in Inc., the US masthead focused on growing companies, ran a story titled The influencer you use may be ripping you off.

The story ridicules influencer marketing by highlighting Lena Katz who took a picture of a potato, set up accounts for the potato on Instagram and Twitter and bought 10,000 followers.

There are plenty of other tales. I have written before about the ‘reach myth’ of influencer marketing. In that article I talk about a Sydney marketing company which set up a fake catering company online to prove a point. With the help of buying some fake followers, some fake reviews, a WordPress website and a Twitter account the fake company ended up winning awards and was feted by social media ‘influencers’ before the owner revealed it as a hoax.

These influencer marketing negative stories all demonstrate one point. And, that point is the basis of all contract law: Caveat emptor "let the buyer beware.”

You wouldn’t hire an account executive on a whim without a recruitment, selection or induction process. Without putting performance and conduct expectations to them in writing. Why then would you hire someone to represent your entire brand - or your client’s brand - without following a rigorous process, too?


Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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