Why One Influencer With 2.6 Million Followers Couldn’t Sell More Than 40 T-Shirts


Meet Ari. She’s an Instagram influencer with 2.6 million followers. Last year, Ari decided to create her own clothing line. She hired professional photographers, models, and makeup artists. She even rented a photo studio.

The t-shirt manufacturer informed Ari that they must sell at least 36 shirts to break even. If her team couldn’t reach that mark, they’d have to stop working together. A bit offensive, no? After all… if just 1% of her following bought the merchandise, that’s still 26,000 purchases. She only needed .0013% of her followers to purchase something.

Ari was not able to break even.

She posted about her entrepreneurial experience on Instagram and tried to explain why things went South. Ironically, this post received over 35,000 likes.


Her story quickly went viral – but for the wrong reasons. People jumped at the opportunity to criticize influencers. However, this isn’t a sign that influencer marketing is collapsing – we believe it’s just misunderstood.

As your company explores influencer marketing strategies, we’d like to offer advice so that your team can avoid the same mistakes. So what factors contributed to Ari’s lack of sales?

First and foremost, were her followers even real? Yes, most were. There are a number of sites dedicated to understanding if your influencer’s followers are real or not. We implore you to scout these tools before cutting your checks, not after.

Here’s a breakdown of Ari’s followers:


There can be some shady stuff happening behind the scenes, but anyone with a large digital presence will have a certain number of fake followers. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bought. Perform your due diligence and check before connecting with these influencers.

Not everyone with a large following has the ability to influence that large following. You can look at engagement rates to better understand the details.

For companies looking to influence, brand fit and engagement are significantly more important than high follower counts.

Brand fit is defined as the extent to which your product is consistent with your brand image. In Ari’s case, the merchandise did not match her Instagram aesthetic. Why sell something neon or black to people who expressed interest in the account because of cute, flowery outfits? There wasn’t enough overlap.

Ari was also only 18 at the time. Most of her audience was underage. Kids don’t even have bank accounts to make purchases themselves. It was set up to fail from the beginning.

All the above points only consider Ari’s missteps. It’s arguably more important to recognize that the existing structure of selling via influencers is fundamentally flawed (or rather, it was flawed before our development team entered the equation).

What are we talking about? It is not in Instagram’s financial interest to promote posts that push users to leave their platform. The purpose of any social media algorithm is simple – keep users on your platform for longer periods of time. If Instagram’s leadership team can accomplish this, they can sell more ad space.

When influencers drive users to a different website, they directly oppose the platform’s financial interests.

Imagine you were in charge of increasing revenue at Youtube. Would you let the algorithm promote videos that encourage people to leave your page and visit different sites at that exact moment? Absolutely not. You lose ad money each time someone does that.

Enter AiBuy. Our patented technology offers users an opportunity to make purchases within the video. Shoppable Media lets consumers buy a product without ever leaving the page. In fact, we’re on a mission to entirely remove the phrase #LinkInBio from social media.

To evaluate your influencer marketing campaign, you should look at:

  1. Brand Fit: Does the influencer value the same things as my company? Does their content resonate with my consumers?
  2. Engagement Rate + Follower Demographics: Do their followers find them influential? Are their followers real? Are their followers in our target market?
  3. Ease of Use: How easy is it for my consumers to purchase from these influencers? What kind of link tracking and marketing technologies are they using?

As you analyze your influencer marketing campaign success (or lack thereof), just ask yourself – how am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?

Friction creates excuses to avoid buying a product. AiBuy makes that experience frictionless.


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