Influencer marketing is huge and it’s speeding toward a $5+ billion dollar industry. For businesses who recruit influencers as affiliates, this can certainly help to grow a customer base rapidly.

But the world is also becoming more and more transparent – something to keep in mind when deciding on your affiliate marketing approach. Some influencers accept money from businesses who use false tactics to prey on human emotions (e.g. fitness influencers who promote products and say, “Get a body like mine with this product”).

These tactics may work in the short term, but they’re not necessarily a wise investment. Authenticity matters, because customer confidence is crucial to the long-term success of any business.

In this post, we look at the pitfalls of the influencer industry and why it’s important to recruit influencer affiliates who are the real deal.

Not all influencers have authority

In our previous post about affiliate marketing and influencers, we discussed how trust comes from authority. Otherwise, why would customers take an influencer’s advice seriously?

But, where does authority come from and how do you identify it? There are plenty of influencers out there who can simply be bought, without having any particular knowledge or experience.

Lifestyle influencers often rise to prominence by documenting their day-to-day lives, and they can be great tastemakers. The taste itself can be seen as authority, and provides a certain value to followers.

However, some influencers lose credibility by promoting any new product that comes their way – or having little-to-no regard for their audience when it comes to choosing what to promote. They simply don’t curate their content enough to be a tastemaker, and also don’t have enough knowledge and experience to have industry authority.

If you’re going to have influencers as affiliates, it’s important to be sure you partner with someone who has at least one of these forms of authority.

Here are a few questions to ask when evaluating the authority of an influencer:

  • Does the influencer have a large enough following to make an impact? Many businesses look for social media influencer accounts with follower counts well into the thousands.
  • Does the influencer have a history of promoting a certain niche? If their content is less focused or all over the place, they might not really be as credible or effective, even if they have a large audience.
  • Does the influencer create actual content? Influencers who make tutorials, guides, or other educational content are more likely to have authority in their industries.
  • Is the person a lifestyle influencer? Some lifestyle influencers are effective tastemakers; others are strictly image-oriented, offer less substance, and promote anything and everything.

There’s plenty of spam in the influencer industry

Have you ever seen a seemingly out-of-place social media post that makes you feel like you’re being spammed when you’d otherwise see interesting content from that person? Like musicians promoting personal teeth whitening devices, B-list celebrities promoting random new products that are unrelated to their niche, or any other spammy stuff that just makes you want to cringe?

It’s about as attractive as getting a suspiciously friendly message from your high school classmate inviting you to join a multi-level marketing scheme. Am I right?

The truth is, there are plenty of wonderful influencers – but the influencer industry is also in no short supply of spam, irrelevant content, and clickbait. This is why it’s increasingly important to make sure the people you get on board as affiliates are legitimate and relevant to your niche.

Avoid influencers who:

  • don’t seem to have any specific theme or target audience
  • have a lot of followers that look like bots
  • are indiscriminate with their affiliate promotions

Look for influencers who:

  • have authentic-looking followers
  • promote only niche-specific products
  • post regular niche-specific content
  • have good engagement on their posts
  • are “blue check mark” verified, if possible

For more information on influencer engagement rates and ratios, check out this report by

Fake influencers damage brand reputations

At the end of the day, the trust your audience has for your brand is your most valuable asset. This trust drives your sales, growth, and brand reputation.

Fake influencers can do some damage, if given the chance. Beyond taking your time and resources, customers can identify them as fake, misleading, or spammy, and associate those things with your brand. Not cool.

As a general rule, if it looks to good to be true, it probably is! Even if an influencer has a lot of followers and a lot of engagement on their posts, it’s important to check to be sure that the engagement is authentic. While platforms like Instagram have cracked down on auto-likers, comment bots, and similar tools, spam accounts always seem to find a way around the rules.

Take note if the comments you see are particularly generic or low-effort, repetitive, or in some cases, completely irrelevant.

The good news?

Quality influencers can still make a big impact on your affiliate program! If you recruit niche-appropriate influencers that have authentic audiences and the authority to recommend your products, they can do wonders for your brand reach – and ultimately, your revenue!

Hopefully this post has given you some things to keep in mind when judging which influencers are the right match for your program, so you can take advantage of their potential, while avoiding the pitfalls.

Do you have experience with influencers as affiliates? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Mandy Jones

About the author: Mandy Jones is a product marketing specialist at Sandhills Development, a music maker, and digital product creator. A Minnesota native, she's a frequent traveler and animal lover with a passion for creative work and digital business. When she’s not writing blog posts and doing other marketing stuff for Easy Digital Downloads and AffiliateWP, she can often be found hanging out with other people’s pets.


  1. Hi Mandy, Thank you for sharing thoughts on how to attract influencers as affiliate marketers! For the past month, I am trying to do precisely this full time, and my efforts fail up so far. First of all, I bought AffiliateWP software and built an excellent Affiliate Program based on it. Then I subscribed to BuzzSumo and started digging for influencers in my niche (travel). After a month of continuous research and outreach, it turned out that influencers do not like Affiliate Programs at all. I exchanged emails with about twenty travel bloggers and influencers, mainly in the UK and Europe. All they want is an upfront payment for the services they offer: blog posts, social media posts, reviews, etc. And some of these “influencers” have below 2000 followers on Twitter. Now that I have invested more than three months of hard work, it turns out that probably affiliate programs are not the key to attract influencers. I hope I am wrong! I hope the US and Asia based influencers are different than their European colleagues. Now I am stuck and wonder what to do…

    1. Hey, Iliyan! Thanks for sharing your insights. It may be that influencers who brand themselves as such are more often into the pay-up-front model. However, there are plenty of people who function as influencers in general (rather, people who simply have influence) and might be more keen to join an affiliate program – YouTubers, for example!

      When it comes to travel, I think Instagram is a good place to look, perhaps more than Twitter, simply because it’s such a visual platform, with a ton of travel focus. Have you done much exploring there?

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