I was recently asked to participate in an online summit about money, mindset, and business. After agreeing, the organizer told me I need a big email list to participate--thousands and thousands big. When I told her my list was growing and very engaged, but not that large, the invitation to participate in the summit was no longer there.

Why? Because of my numbers.

Vanity Metrics

Anyone can have impressive numbers. You can buy followers, email lists, likes, comments, even website visitors.

As a lifestyle blogger, numbers are a big part of my business. Brands want to see how big your following is before they decide to work with you.

Unfortunately, all of the questions are about numbers. Just numbers. Instead, they should be about the people behind the numbers because there is a big difference between 1,000 real, engaged, and loyal fans and 100,000 robots.

So, if you're a brand (or someone looking for a person to add value to your online summit) stop looking at numbers. It's time to look beyond vanity metrics to start seeing a possible return on investment for working with online influencers.

Look for quality conversations

A quality conversation is a meaningful dialogue that a follower initiates with the influencer to connect in a personal way.

Dee Doanes, CEO of Dee Doanes Public Relations and Talent Management, said the way an influencer responds speaks volumes. It shows the influencer is working to have that status by engaging with followers.

"The point is that the quality and the quantity are both there for a client or marketer to access if an influencer has real followers," Dee said.

Look at the people behind the numbers

Lena Katz, a content creator, amassed an impressive social media following--for a potato. Because she was able to build a respectable following for a potato proves "nobody is paying attention." The following of 10,000+ was paid for.

"If I swapped out the potato's picture for a picture of a cute girl and filled the gallery with pretty pictures, I could sell sponsorships," Katz said.

Katz also notices influencers who are in the same network have the same followers because they target the same people using the same auto-engagement apps.

"If you're paying 10 influencers with 50,000 followers apiece, you are not most likely getting your message amplified to 500,000 potential viewers. You're having it blasted to 50,000 potential viewers 10 times in a row," Katz said. "Very quickly, the 50,000 will feel bombarded by the same posts coming from 10 different directions."

Look at the follow for follow ratio

Years ago I got into the habit of being too polite on social media. I thought it was proper social media etiquette to follow someone back if they followed you--regardless if you liked their content.

It got to the point that I would log onto Twitter, and I'd have nothing to retweet because I wasn't interested in half the stuff I was seeing. That's when I started hitting "delete."

If you have 100,000 followers, but you're following 150,000 people, you don't appear influential, to me. It just looks like you have a lot of time on your hands to follow tens of thousands of people. But, if you have 10,000 followers and you only follow 100, you're probably a legitimate influencer.

Look off social media

Fact check your influencer. Vivian Gomez, founder of The Maven Firm, suggests doing a simple search off of social media. If there is a buzz about them outside of Instagram or Twitter, they may be the real deal.

Look at the percentages

You need to do math. That's the advice of Rachel Sutherland, a public relations specialist.

"You could have a national beauty brand with more than 16,000 followers on Instagram, but on average, they get 100 likes on a photo. That's less than one percent engagement," Sutherland explains. "Compare that to an account with 5,000 followers that gets around 200 likes per photo. That's around four percent of the audience that is engaging."

That's why you need to do some online homework, that sometimes involves math.