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Myth busting: Influencers & Competitions

If you've been running a business for more than two seconds (or are simply just a human living on planet earth, hehe!), you've probably come across with an influencer posting about a product, or offering some kind of collaboration or partnership with another brand to their audience.

So, what's the deal? Are these partnerships a good idea? Do their thousands of followers convert into actual sales? Let's chat:


Have you watched Fake Famous on Showmax? You should. It's a documentary out of Los Angeles that shows just how easy it is to buy follower bots and “fake” how famous you are on Instagram. It brings to light a very important message - that the influencer you might be about to partner up with could just have thousands of fake robotic followers which (surprise surprise) are NOT going to be buying your product.

If an influencer has been boosting their numbers with bots, they simply do not have any meaningful influence over a real human audience.

The right collaborations have their time and place. Partnering with a particular influencer is just as much about the vetting process as it is about the kind of audience you want to engage with. As a lifestyle family photography brand we have partnered up with mom influencers for years, and have had a lot of success with these key collabs. Mom influencers tend to have a lot of moms as followers, and moms are our ideal target market for family shoots. It’s a win win.

But even there, we’re careful with who we partner up with.

"Having no actual influence over a real audience, these fake influencers deliver no real results. In fact, they can set your campaign back several steps by damaging your brand reputation and draining your marketing budget. So if you want to avoid being a victim of influencer fraud, you need to learn how to spot fake influencers." - Sprout Social

Here’s a quick test we run to determine how authentic an influencer's audience really is, and if we really want to work with them:

  1. How many followers do they have?

  2. Of that amount, are about 6-10% engaging regularly with their posts? (This may sound like a small amount, but it is the average, and shows that their followers are probably real)

  3. Is the engagement on their posts real? (You can usually spot a post that has paid-for engagement - bots tend to leave comments with one or two generic words, and a few emojis).

  4. How many views are they getting on their videos?

  5. Is their audience in the same locale that my business serves?

  6. Are they posting regularly?

  7. Does their messaging align with mine?

If you (like us) run a small- to medium-sized business, you want to be cautious with your marketing spend - and yes, giving services or products away for free counts as a marketing spend too.

If a luxury swimwear brand with 50k followers approaches you asking for a free shoot, a free service or some kind of partnership, you have to wonder - are those 50k followers going to be able to serve me in the same way that they serve the swimwear brand? Majority of them are probably there purely to buy swimwear. Maybe it’s an international brand, and a lot of those followers aren’t even located in my city. And, truth be told, a fair amount of those followers are probably just men wanting to see pics of chicks in bikinis (insert massive eye roll here). If you’re a skincare brand, partnering up with a local beauty influencer MAKES SENSE. If you sell pet food, partnering up with a local pet photographer MAKES SENSE. But in all cases, make sure that you are being very specific about what each party gets out of the partnership. “I’ll tag you in a few posts” definitely leaves you in a very grey area. Here are some examples of trades we’ve done in the past, to give you a better idea of what we mean:

  • Influencer will receive a family shoot valued at R3000.

  • In return, influencer will post 1 x behind the scenes IG video on the day, 3 x IG feed posts, 1 x IG story (with 5-10 slides) featuring the final images from the shoot.

  • All of the above posts are to tag our business and to credit our team in the caption. Our business location is to be tagged as well.

Be specific, and get it in writing. Influencers are running a business too, and this is most definitely a business deal between the two of you.


While I have your attention, let’s chat about competitions.

The amount of time, resources and actual monetary value that you give away during a competition should ideally be equal to the value that you will receive in return. Ending up with a few hundred extra followers may sound like a great trade-off, but if those followers aren’t actually going to BUY from you, then you’ve given away your product or service for nothing.

And while we’re being real - very often, the majority of people entering a give away are doing it BECAUSE THEY WANT SOMETHING FOR FREE, which immediately excludes them from the category of likely-to-buy-from-you.

"According to an analysis, accounts with 2000 to 5000 followers averaged an engagement rate of 6%. This number gradually drops as the follower count increases. And influencers with over 1 million followers have an average engagement rate of 1.5%". - Sprout Social

As a modern society, we have become OBSESSED with those numbers on our Instagram profiles. But, ironically, the stats show that the higher those numbers, the smaller the engagement. We're chasing our own tails, and could probably do with taking a deep breath and cutting ourselves some slack.

At the end of the day, switching our focus from pursuing those big numbers to actually creating engaging content, serving our target market, and showing up regularly online can make a much bigger difference to your bottom line than any collab or competition.

Lead with your heart, not with your ego.


Robyn Davie Creative Studio is a brand with nearly a decade of experience in lifestyle photography and custom photo book creation. During 2020 they diversified into graphic and digital design, and have been happily creating branding for businesses around the world since then.

In 2021, the team launched Fynn Studio - a natural light studio space in Johannesburg, available for rent by photographers, creatives and clients.

The team has won multiple awards for their photography, and proudly partnered up with the iStore in 2020. Innovation is at the forefront of everything they do.


All photos and designs in this post were created by the Robyn Davie Creative Studio team.

All photos, designs and content are copyrighted to Robyn Davie Creative Studio.




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