It’s all the rage now. A social media influencer has the ability to gain massive recognition for your brand and more importantly, grow your sales. Think of it as Oprah’s Favorite Things for the 21st century. But remember, there are downsides to social media influencers that you need to consider before you jump in the deep end and hire one.

What is a Social Media Influencer and Why Do I Need One?

A social media influencer is a person who promotes your brand to his or her followers. For this article, we will call our social media influencer, Leah.

Leah has 15,000 followers on Instagram and she posts all the time. She loves talking about the fabulous trips she’s on and the new products she uses on these trips. Leah posts pictures from exotic places and shows off the crazy foods she’s eating.

To you, Leah may sound like just another person that’s putting her life on display for the world to see, but to Leah’s 15,000-plus followers it’s like a reality TV show just for them. Leah is their friend. She lets them see inside her hotel room, join her for dinner, and she shares her happiest and saddest moments with them. Leah also shares the new products she’s trying and tells her followers why she likes those products.

Asking Leah to support and publicize a product is asking her to make a recommendation to her 15,000 friends. Think about what happens when a friend makes a recommendation to you. You may not buy the product, but you remember the name and you possibly look it up online. By employing Leah as a social media influencer, you’re making your name known to her 15,000 friends.

What You Should Think About Before Hiring Someone

While the idea of someone talking about your product to 15,000 close “friends” sounds great, you need to consider a few things before you go out and grab one.

Will Your Product Be Helped by a Social Media Influencer?

Before you even go out and look for a social media influencer, ask yourself if it will help you and your brand? If I’m a company that sells pest control services in the San Francisco Bay Area, then I’m probably not going to need a social media influencer. I have a very limited area of coverage and I have a very specialized service. I cannot bring my pest control services to someone in Denver and there’s really no other way to profit from a customer in Denver.

A company that’s limited to a small service area and cannot sell to a larger market really won’t get much benefit out of most social media influencers.

Pick the Right One

You also need to remember that a social media influencer has specialties. Leah, for example, is a traveler. She visits exotic places and eats exotic foods. That’s perfect if I’m a luggage company and I want to ask her to take my really cool rolling suitcase on her next trip. It’s not cool if I’m a video game company. Leah’s followers aren’t my ideal customers and so hiring Leah is me trying to influence the wrong people.

When you’re searching for a social media influencer, you want someone whose followers are your ideal customers. A guy who plays PC video games is most naturally going to team up with a video game company or a computer company looking to tap into the gamer market.

Our friend Leah will team up with luggage companies and hotels and restaurants. Maybe she’ll make a contract with a clothing company so that she has the ideal outfits for her trip to Tahiti.

Pick a social media influencer that fits your brand and do not settle for one if she only fits part way. This needs to be a perfect match.

The Face of Your Brand

The last thing you need to remember is that, for better or for worse, the person you select as a social media influencer is a representation of your company. Do not hire someone if you do not like and respect them. Do not hire someone if you disagree with some of the items they post on their Instagram feed.

Social media influencers have received the followers they have because of who they are. Leah might be too frivolous for your taste; she might be flighty, but she is who her followers want her to be. If that does not represent the ideals of your brand, then do not hire that social media influencer.

Remember that once you start using that person, what they say, what they do and most importantly what they post reflects on you.

Written by Erika Towne