So, here’s the thing, marketers put a lot of effort into reaching out to “influencers” on social media. The idea, of course, is that people who have a lot of followers can spread messages and content farther than those without a lot of followers. Makes sense. But it’s wrong.

pinterest influencers
From the book “Grouped” by Paul Adams

The challenge is that getting influencers on-board with a campaign can be hard, expensive, or both. Also, the results might not justify the work, expense, or both. Several research studies indicate the existence of a “million follower fallacy.” Popularity does not equal influence.

The Myth of the “Influentials”

While it may seem obvious that spending time reaching out and engaging folks like Joy Cho, who has 13M+ followers on Pinterest, is a worthwhile pursuit, the real ROI might be lower than you think.

Influencer marketing Pinterest
The most popular person on Pinterest.

In fact, according to research by Paul Adams (Ex-Facebook, Google):

Most studies have found little correlation between highly connected people and large degrees of influence. Even when there are influential people and specific situations where they can wield great influence over many others, finding them is so expensive that it becomes a poor investment compared to available strategies.

Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point was a good read about how a select few people can take an idea mainstream, but it’s less science, and more science fiction.

Here’s Who Has Real Influence

If the most followed, most popular folks don’t make sense to work with, then who does? Well, for every Joy Cho, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of other folks who already love your brand, and would be happy to tell their world about you if given the chance.

Let’s call these folks “Brand Advocates,” because they’re on your side. How do you know that? Well, one of Piqora’s dashboards for Pinterest surfaces the people who’ve pinned the most from your website (it can be sorted by any time slice). In the example screenshot below, there are at least 8 people who pinned more than 10 times from a well-known apparel brand over the last 14 days. Take a second to think about that, some of these folks found a dozen or more images on this brand’s website that they wanted to save, remember, and maybe buy later.

Think about the reach and impressions from your brand advocates – real people with real influence over their friends. 50 pins from an advocate that reaches 500 followers hits those followers 50 times, creating 25,000 impressions. Much better than one pin from a user with 25,000 followers. That means much higher chance of brand discovery and the awareness that comes with repetition

Pinterest influencer marketing
Here are folks worth reaching out to for this brand.

The takeaway for marketers is that influencers DO matter on Pinterest, they just might be different people than you’d think. And unless you’re a huge brand like Target, building a campaign around already enthusiastic brand advocates will likely deliver better results than sending more emails to the million follower club.