How To Avoid Influencer Fraud in 2019
It might be 2019, but brands and marketers are still having big problems when it comes weeding out fake influencers from legit content creators.
American marketing company Captiv8 discovered that up to 11% of all engagement on influencers marketing campaigns had, in fact, been “faked" – meaning the influencer had taken some measure to falsely inflate their following and/or rate of engagement on social media.
Talk about a lot of money wasted on false engagement.
“Brands often struggle to differentiate genuine engagement from automation, leaving them with little choice but to cross their fingers and hope for the best,” Captiv8’s Co-Founder Krishna Subramanian said (@captiv8).
According to Subramanian in 2017 brands spent $2.1 billion (approx. 7.71 billion dirhams) on influencer-sponsored posts on Instagram or 6.6 million posts at an average price of $325 (approx 1,193.77 dirhams).
“On average, more than 11% of the engagement for these posts was generated by fraudulent accounts. That's nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in wasted marketing dollars.” - Krishna Subramanian, Co-Founder of Captiv8.
The study shows niche market categories like “Fashion”, “Entertainment” and “Travel” boasted the highest numbers of fraudulent influencers while “Food”, “Pets” and “Traditional Celebrities” were amongst the lowest.
Indonesia was home to the highest rates of fake influencers (22%), followed by Venezuela (19%) and the Philippines (15%). ("This link is likely due to where the companies that offer these services operate; they likely operate in similar countries hence the high concentration," Subramanian said.)
What is influencer fraud exactly?
There are a number of ways influencers can "dupe the system" and fake higher rates of engagement (and followers, and comments) on their social media accounts
UK-based Influencer.com, an influencer marketing company that connects brands with content creators, defines influencer fraud in a very specific way.
"We consider influencer fraud to be any form of inauthentic community growth or engagement. This might mean an influencer - or a creator as we call them at Influencer - is buying [fake] followers, using automated apps or bots to increase their following, or paying for likes, comments and/or views," Influencer CEO and founder Ben Jeffries said (@benwjeffries).
"It may even mean that a creator is part of a ‘comment pod’ where groups of creators commit to all commenting on and liking each other’s content, in order to increase engagement and trick the algorithms into pushing content out further."
Jeffries notes that influencer fraud is more common on some platforms than others.
"Unfortunately, this is particularly prevalent on Instagram," Jeffries said.
"Instagram is the favourite platform for influencer marketing and, therefore, creators are more encouraged to behave fraudulently in order to increase their reach and thus, the amount they can charge brands for content."
How can brands avoid being duped by fake influencers?
If you're looking to allocate a chunk of your marketing budget to influencer marketing, it's best to work with professionals when sourcing content creators for campaigns.
"A third-party verification platform, like Captiv8, lets you assess potential creator partners for brand safety and ensure that they aren’t participating in fraudulent activity," Subramanian said.
"You can also request metrics and compare them to the benchmarks in this report. Either approach can be an important step to ensure effective campaign performance and optimal ROI."
There are also a number of steps brands can take to spotting a fake follower on Instagram.
"I truly believe that 2019 will see fundamental changes in influencer marketing, which will lead to a huge reduction in influencer fraud." - Ben Jeffries, Co-Founder and CEO of Influencer.
Social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Twitter have all been working to rid their platforms of bot accounts and false engagement tools.
"At the end of 2018, we saw the big social media platforms commit to stamping out fraud," Jeffries said.
"Instagram announced it would remove any accounts [from the platform] that it deemed to be fake and threatening, anyone who they believed was using bots or inauthentic community growth methods with suspension,"
"This is certainly a step in the right direction and we will see how it plays out over the course of this year," he added.
Subramanian agrees but is keen to stress the onus of finding and working with legitimate content creators (who boast real followings and engagement) lies with the brands.
"[Social media platforms] will continue to 'purge' suspicious accounts but that is not a long term solution," he said
"The solution is for brands to have a reliable way to verify talent for all of their campaigns."
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.