Why Follower Count is a Vanity Metric

April 11, 2023

A few things to know about a social media follower count: 


  • The more followers a creator or brand has, typically the less conversion or engagement they have by percentage. 


  • The more popular someone becomes on social media, the more they become like a celebrity and less like a ‘creator.’ This commoditization can lead to less relatable content, and less engagement. 


  • It probably doesn’t need to be said, but, ‘follower’ numbers are often augmented with fake followers and bots. 


I’ll tell you a short story:


In 2015, I worked for a fashion-tech company that was putting blue-tooth technology and other wearable tech into luxury leather handbags. This was even before other brands like Rebecca Minkoff had launched their wearable-tech handbags, so it was very early (and even now, wearable tech still has not caught on in the fashion industry). As part of our launch, we rolled out an influencer marketing campaign with 20 influencers across Canada and the U.S. At the lowest end of the follower count spectrum, the smallest creator we worked with had ~5k followers, and at the highest end, the biggest creator had ~1M followers. We paid each creator accordingly, meaning that the biggest creator earned around $20,000 US for posting their bag a few times, and the smallest creator received the bag as a gift. The bigger creator's posts were inauthentic, as you might expect. From a follower's perspective, it was clear she was only holding the bag for the ad, which very likely had something to do with the results; she had a conversion rate of 0%. It was only the creators at the bottom end of the spectrum, 5k-10k followers, that had any conversion for our brand. The big names did nothing for us, meaning that their followers were not high-intent, nor were they very engaged with their content. 


We see this same thing today, frequently. I think we’re coming to an end of measuring success by number of followers, because brands who pay creators are realizing that awareness doesn’t justify the marketing spend if there’s no conversion. 


Smaller creators are coming to the forefront of influencer marketing, with brands recognizing their ability to genuinely influence their followers. But even here, it can be challenging to get paid content in front of followers at the right time – or at all, if the algorithm doesn’t feature the content. 


At Repose, we prioritize conversion over everything else. The question that we’re seeking to answer is: how do we help brands and creators deliver conversion? And the answer is simple: connect with your audience in a meaningful way. This means focusing on your highest intent followers, who are easily filtered into a club via membership, and devote attention and resources to them. Offer special perks to your club members, like first access and behind-the-scenes looks that no other platform gets, and they will feel connected. This sounds overwhelmingly simple, but connection really does lead to conversion. 


- Olivia Lovenmark, co-founder & CEO