Instagram Followers, Influence, Talent: Do Instagram Influencers Suck?

Stefanos Bournias

Stefanos Bournias is a content marketing consultant that specializes in SaaS businesses. He's worked with start-up founders, content managers, and inbound marketers to deliver quality content that increases brand awareness, traffic, and qualified leads.

The first time I actually grasped the power of influencer marketing was around the time I started experimenting with various marketing strategies for my ecommerce business. 

This was before influencers were legally obliged to disclose paid partnerships. Of all the strategies I was using; PPC, Facebook ads, Email Marketing and Content Marketing, I noticed influencer marketing was an extremely effective way to sell products, create social proof and build a brand.

I doubled-down on what was working and expanded my businesses influencer marketing campaigns. Initially, I was only working with micro-influencers, but in my expansion efforts, I started testing working with minor celebrities like models and actors on some popular Netflix shows. What I quickly noticed was my return on investment rapidly reached a point of diminishing returns. 

More and more, I’m hearing that businesses feel like their Instagram marketing campaigns are blowing their marketing budgets and “pissing their money up a wall.”

From the individual perspective, I’m increasingly hearing that people aren’t being hired for jobs or projects because they’re being judged by their follower count.

Instagram’s rise to arguably one of the most influential platforms and the inherent influencer has impacted culture, business, careers and our day to day lives at a scale that no one could have predicted. And as it’s reign continues to grow, it seems like the hype isn’t going to die out anytime soon.

Do we need to revise the idea of influence and the quantification of talent in this social media era dominated by Instagram?

The birth of the Instagram influencer

Instagram has given birth to a new breed of influencer. For the youngest millennials born just before this millennium, Influencers have virtually become synonymous with Instagram. 

In many ways, influencer marketing has become its own meme; washed-out, parodied and played-out. 

A quick google search for “influencers are” turns up with some pretty hilarious autofill suggestions. 

Jeez Google, you’re harsh. Obviously, I don’t agree with the statements made, but I don’t entirely disagree with some of the points either. 

Instagram followers don’t equate to influence

In such an over-saturated space, who exactly are Instagram influencers influencing?

Influencers influence their following, audience and the general public to take action. In selling terms, this means moving people to buy a product. 

At it’s core, influencer marketing is a solid idea. And to a large extent, it works. But on the Interweb, a good idea can become a convoluted, intangible mess way too fast. 

Influencer marketing only works if its authentic. People who would never use a brands products are suddenly promoting them, with a hashtag disclaiming they were paid to do so.

Find out how to check any Instagram account for Fake followers and likes

Consumer’s aren’t as dumb as they used to be. They’re catching on to the fact that influencers posts are just paid advertisements. 

They’re already bombarded with ads. They don’t want to scroll through more paid partnerships of fit people posing with products in exotic locations, but at the same time they continue to scroll away at the screen. 

So what does influence look like moving forwards? 

Increasingly, the trend is moving towards micro and nano-influencers (are you ready for pico-influencers)?

Micro-influencing has emerged as a much more effective way to sell products when considering both cost and impact. 


Because it’s authentic. It’s about working with creatives and inspiring people in the scene; local heroes who actually love the brands they work with and the products they create.

Collaborate for authentic content and real business growth

For influencer marketing to be effective, businesses need to work with influencers that make sense for their brand. Your brand sells expensive yoga products? Cool, but don’t work with the party animal girl whose every other post is a party fuelled booze binge just because she has 49k followers. What about the yoga trainer who might not have nearly as many followers?

When you find people that make sense to your overall brand, think of your engagement with them as a collaboration. Not as a sponsorship for another commercial post. Work with them to make solid content that people will enjoy; that connects constructively to your brand. The focus should always be on creating content and collaborating to support creatives, rather than paying for more and more advertisements. 

Besides that, do your due diligence. Audit accounts to see if they actually have engagement from real people. The black market for followers and likes at cheap prices coupled with the real rewards and opportunities that these metrics can provide has pushed people towards buying the illusion of popularity, success and influence. But these metrics are inherently flawed and fundamentally soulless. Clicks. Views. Likes. Shares. Who cares? They’re all vanity metrics. 

Apart from producing good content that creates influence through positive associations, make sure your campaigns are actually creating a solid ROI for your business.

Your marketing should be based on metrics that actually provide real value to your business; Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue & Referrals. If you don’t have these as your KPI’s, your campaigns are a complete waste of your time. 

The truth is, influencers don’t totally suck. And influencer marketing isn’t going to die out anytime soon. But the people who are building a personal brand without any actual substance and the businesses capitalizing on these people to push products in posts that have become advertisements will die out because it’s fake. It’s a joke. It’s cancer. 

Google is harsh, but then again, so is the truth.

You may find Part Two of the article by clicking on this link:

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