When 2 Million Instagram Followers Have No ROI

Influencer marketing is huge right now. Every time you scroll through your Instagram feed, you’ll see posts from people with a wide range of followers landing sponsorship deals. What people see are sponsored posts, what people don’t see is the large amount of work it takes to get land deals, sell products, and earn enough revenue to compensate someone for time spent.

People spend hours crafting posts and perfecting their account. They jump for joy when they see their follower count climb. More followers means more money, right?

Well, not necessarily.

Recently, an 18 year-old Instagram influencer with approximately 2.6 million followers had a deal with a clothing line. Part of the deal was that she had to sell at least 36 pieces to fully launch the line.

Thirty-six pieces of clothing. That’s less than a family reunion t-shirt order, people. 

It didn’t happen.

How? How does 2.6 million people NOT equate to sales? 

Don’t rely vanity metrics

While she has 2.6 million Instagram followers, clearly these followers were not engaged with her content. She couldn’t get 0.00001385% of her followers to care enough about what she posts to buy a t-shirt.

A t-shirt.

People assume that the more followers you have, the more influential you are. Well, clearly that is not true.

Micro-influencers (people with less than 10K followers) actually generate 7x more engagement than macro-influencers. Engagement actually decreases as follower count increases. While influencer marketing continues to evolve, vanity metrics like follower and like counts become less and less indicative of securing a return on investment (ROI) for time spent.

Simply put, just because someone has a large follower count does not mean that they are earning enough income to justify their time spent creating the content. While the influencer may spend 6+ hours/day on social media, and even more time creating posts, it may not actually equate to any revenue.

Cultivate a lean list

Don’t get me wrong here, social media is a powerful way to amplify your mission, passion, and brand, and connect with your audience. But it shouldn’t be the only way you do this.

A solid follower count is helpful, but what if only a small percentage of them care about what you stand for or do… what’s the point? Why spend hours a day staring at your phone, snapping photos, editing them, writing copy, and engaging in comments, if people don’t care enough to support you?

Whether you have 200 or 20,000 followers, what matters is that these people care about what you have to say and do, and care enough to the point where they value your content and time so much that you truly influence them in an authentic way.

What’s more valuable?

200 people who trust you, eat up every single post, engage with your content, care about your niche, go to your website, want to learn about what you care about, value your expertise, and will buy what you create and recommend?


200,000 people who are entertained by your posts, like and comments?

If you spend 6 hours/day on social, scraping for more followers, but it doesn’t compensate you in any way, you’re spending over 40 hours/week working but not earning any income. While you may have a high follower count, that doesn’t mean you’re seeing ROI.  

The only finite resource we all have is time. If you invest your time, it should create return.

To generate ROI of all of the time spent engaging on social media, ensure your follower list is lean. While you can’t dictate everyone who follow you, what you can do is ensure that what you post is valuable to your target audience.

This means staying on topic and keeping it valuable. So if you’re a vascular access nurse sharing tips on starting IV’s, you focus on promoting content relevant to that topic, not endless reviews of scrubs or photos of every meal you consume. Or if you want to encourage nurses to be healthier, find encouraging and helpful information to share rather than posting photos of yourself over and over again with cliche captions, your opinion on the latest headlines, or all about the new addition to your family. 

There is a balance between authentically sharing what’s going on in your life, and flooding your social platforms with so much personal information that it dilutes the content for your target audience. People want to learn who you genuinely are, but if you’re trying to build a brand and business, you’ve got to provide relevant information to your target audience.

Invest your time wisely: expand past social

Social media is a helpful tool to promote a brand, mission, and passion, but it’s not the entire toolbox. The tendency is to want to connect and engage with your audience directly, which is very positive, but not the only place to focus your time and attention. While it’s easy to connect with social and generate buzz, it requires a significant amount of consistent dedicated effort. You must be on your phone A LOT to continually stay engaged. It becomes intrusive and exhausting quickly. 

Also, social media can change in an instant. While it’s your account, it’s someone else’s website. Algorithms change without notice, and the relevancy of your entire account can get flipped upside down. LittleThings is the prime example. It was a publishing company optimized specifically for Facebook. One algorithm change and the company lost 75% of its organic content and had to close. Approximately 100 people were suddenly out of a job.

While they made their own content, it was optimized for someone else’s website (Facebook). Facebook (and Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) can do whatever they want for their site. They have no obligation to you whatsoever and can make any change they want. They can even shut your account down. It’s their site, their call.

The follower count you have isn’t really yours. It’s theirs.

If they decide to close today, you have instantly lost your audience. 

How do you avoid this? Establish your own website, create and publish valuable content there, and maintain your own email list.

Your email list enables you to connect with your audience without relying on a third party platform (like a social media site). You own every piece of content you post and have full control over how it is posted.

Learn more

If you’ve always wanted to create a site and expand pass a social following to build your platform, join us September 27, 2019 in Las Vegas as we discuss blogging, social media, online branding, and email marketing!

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