Fake Influencers: What’s the Scoop

It’s 2019 and influencer marketing is still (yet unsurprisingly) on the rise.  With a plethora of marketing agencies dedicated to the sole phenomenon of securing influencers for marketers and PR clients alike, influencer marketing is “the next big thing.” In fact, BI Intelligence estimates that “influencer marketing ad spend will reach between $5 billion and $10 billion in 2022.” With this increase in reliance upon influencer engagement and the compounding amount of money being thrown at it comes plenty of people who are more than willing to take advantage of the system.

How can you ensure you are choosing influencers that will deliver the engagement, buzz, and most importantly, ROI for your clients? How can you sort the fake from the real? Join us as we delve into this massive problem that faces all marketers within the industry today, and learn how you can best protect your business, your reputation, and yourself!

Back to Basics: What is Influencer Fraud?

It’s as simple as it sounds: influencer fraud is the deliberate purchasing of followers, engagement, content, you name it – and using these falsehoods to gain credibility among marketers and PR professionals alike. And while some of these are easy to point out (I mean, who really has 300k followers and only one post on Instagram?), the world of influencer fraud is becoming more and more difficult to navigate.

How To Spot It: The Obvious Signs

  • Tip #1: Calculate Engagement Rate

In order to adequately vet an influencer’s credibility, you have to know how to calculate any user’s engagement rate. MediaPost gives a good explanation of how to do this here:

                       Engagement rate can be calculated by “dividing the number of followers the influencer

                       has by the number of likes and comments a post receives.”

Calculating a posts engagement rate is clearly the first (and easiest) step towards determining an influencer’s overall credibility, as an inconsistent engagement rate among a certain user’s posts is a clear indicator of suspicious, perhaps fraudulent activity.

  • Tip #2: Rationalize Ratios

If you’re not so into the math of calculating engagement rates for posts across a given user’s profile, take a look at the bigger numbers themselves. If there is seemingly no engagement across posts, red flag. If the number of followers greatly exceeds the number of likes and/or comments, double red flag. These both are signs of inauthentic or purchased followers.

  • Tip #3: Look at Followers

Can you imagine having 300k+ followers and only 3 posts? Unless you’re Beyoncé, this is just not going to happen organically. If the influencer you’re targeting has a high follower account and a low post count, major red flag.

However, it’s not just the number of the followers that counts with regards to vetting credibility: follower/audience quality is just as well an indicator of how credible the influencer actually is. Another way of getting a better idea of audience quality is by sorting through the comments on each post. A truly authentic following will contribute genuine, diverse comments as opposed to easily accessible, inauthentic emojis.

  • Tip #4: Spot the Bots

Turns out timing is just as important as numbers in determining audience credibility. If all of an influencer’s engagement is coming the exact minute (or second) that the content is published, those are most likely bots. Real engagement, on the other hand, is timely and naturally occurring. Yes, we’re on our phones a lot – but not all the time. Take that into consideration.

What Can You Do To Avoid It?

Don’t fall for false advertising. With the ever-increasing amount of money being thrown at the influencer marketing industry, it’s crucial to not waste that money on influencers who don’t command the engagement they advertise and profess. So what can you do to stop this problem before it starts?

Vetting proper influencers and measuring credibility is an issue of preparation on behalf of the business or agency at hand. It all depends on doing thorough research on influencers. Start by having a strategy in place for sifting through potential influencers and delegating team members to review proposed selections. Check out this article: having a diligent research process “ultimately ensures that brands are being represented in an authentic manner, alongside influencers that will ultimately provide the best ROI for their brand.”

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