I’ve been spending a fair bit of time recently to conduct blogger outreach for a few clients who are looking to engage with high profile ‘social’ bloggers in their campaigns. One of the challenges faced by a lot of Outreach Managers is to prove the value of each blogger’s we’ve chosen to work with. Here are the some basic factors and metrics we look at as the first step to filter through the long list of prospective blog partners returned from either manual search, or through using prospecting tools such as BuzzStream:

Relevance of the blog to your client’s brand

Website design/ layout

Sites Analytics include unique monthly visitors, montly page views, average time on site

SEO factors: Google PageRank, Domain Authority & number of backlinks

Email database and Click Through Rate

Social presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram and any other relevant channels

Social engagement is one of the strongest signs to tell whether certain bloggers influence his/her niche. In light of some reports that came out recently, nearly 30% of Justin Bieber’s twitter followers might be fake as well as 30% of Barack Obama’s, one question that was brought by my clients is whether there is a way to prove that a blogger’s Twitter or Facebook followers are legitimate. I turned to the big Mr G (Google) for an answer and I came across a couple of tools:

1. Twitter Counter

Twitter Counter allows you to track growth in the number of followers of any Twitter account and have the numbers presented visually on a graph. In most cases, a growth profile of a Twitter user will look like the below graph and shows steady organic growth over time. Rare cases are brand Twitter accounts that might show a significant jump in followers over a short period of time due to giveaway or social competitions to incentivise people to follow.

On the other hand, if a blogger’s Twitter followers growth curve shows abnormal spikes (see below) without any campaign activities associated during the time, you can immediately smell that something suspicious is going on!

Ironically, you can also potentially buy Twitter followers from Twitter Counter site…

2. Status People

Status People looks at a sample of your follower data, up to 1,000 records depending on how popular you are and assess them against a number of simple spam criteria. Generally spam accounts tend to have few or no followers and few or no tweets. In contrast they tend to follow a lot of other accounts. It was with this tool that John Greathouse published his article Celebrities With The Most (Allegedly) Fake Twitter Followers on Forbes.com that has generated a lot of buzz in the media.

Personally, I’m yet to test the accuracy of these tools. However, I’d advise against relying solely on these tools. Instead, how about go back to basics and use the common sense approach? Compare and analyse all other site metrics and the followers numbers, i.e. does the number of comments per post on their blogs correspond to the number of retweets they’re getting? Look at the level of engagement in their Twitter profile also. For any huge Twitter influencers, it is natural that a lot of interactions will be going on between themselves and their followings (that is why we called it a ‘social’ channel after all!). All of these tests ring an alarm, dig into their followers profile further and see if they resemble a spam account with no tweets and no followers.