The biggest problem plaguing the influencer marketing industry for some years now is the increasing number of fake influencers who have emerged on the scene. Fake influencers are someone who does not have a real influence on their followers, and their following is mainly made up of bots and fake accounts. But how do these people manage to get fake followers to inflate the number of followers or increase their engagement rate artificially? The answer is the rise of automated accounts and businesses that let anyone buy these bot followers and engagements by paying a certain fee. Since influencer marketing is growing in popularity with every passing day and millions of influencers are making good money from their content, the issue of fake influencers has also increased manifolds.
For brands, working with such influencers will be a mere waste of time and resources and will pose a significant brand risk. So, it becomes critical for brand marketers to thoroughly vet the creators before collaborating with them not to fall prey to these scams. In fact, some of the leading global brands have accidentally worked with creators with over 50% fake following. In 2020, according to PRWeek, at least half of Instagram’s influencers were engaged in fraudulent activities, while another study by HypeAuditor revealed that 45% of the site’s accounts were fake.
Let us look at some of the most common tell-a-tell signs that will help marketers to determine whether the influencer is involved in any fraudulent activity or are a genuine creator.
Dubious Engagement Ratio
One of the biggest red flags you as a marketer can encounter while evaluating influencers for your upcoming campaigns is the suspicious engagement ratios. You need to dig deeper if you witness an influencer’s engagement rate being too high or too low. For example, if the engagement rate is more than usual, there are high chances that the influencer is engaged in buying fake or bot followers – followers who would just post random comments or like their posts to pump up the engagement but without any relevance to the posts. Comments like good, wow, and emojis in a large number mean that bots are in action. On the other hand, if the engagement is too low, that means the influencer has fake accounts following them who do not care about what they post – they are just there to increase the number of followers. iConnect lets brands select from many vetted influencers who will take their campaigns to the most relevant audience and drive sales. iConnect caps quality following & engagement at a minimum of 70%.
Another point brands need to consider while selecting an influencer is to check the quality of their social media posts. If the engagement or the following is very high, but the quality of the content is not up to the standard to justify that following, chances are that the creator is involved in fraudulent activities. On the other hand, real creators put in a lot of hard work for every post they share with their followers – aesthetically or strong content that resonates well with their followers. That, in turn, helps them to maintain quality engagement and a gradual increase in their follower count. But if you see below-par content with bad aesthetics and wonder why anyone would engage with these posts, it’s time for you to move on to the next creator.
Sudden spike in follower count
For content creators, it takes a lot of efforts to build their following. They need to constantly churn out effective and well-shot content to grab the eyeballs of social media users, who will follow your account if the content sits well with them. Growing follower count is a steady process, and it takes time. If some of your content has gone viral, you might experience a slight deviation in your following. But if you see a sudden burst following an influencer without any meaningful content, it might result from all the bot accounts that started following them after they were paid. Also, if you see a spike in following followed by a sudden drop over an extended period, you should stop wasting your time and take your search somewhere else.
Questionable Audience Quality
Just scanning through the profile of the followers of the influencers you are considering for your next campaign will give you a better understanding of whether the creator is involved in suspicious activity or not. As a marketer, you need influencers whose following complements your target audience and not just a huge following which means nothing to you. Some of the most important things to look out – if the followers are following any other accounts or are being followed by other users, are they engaging with the content, do they have their profile picture or is it some random image, or whether their username looks like they are randomly generated through some bot algorithms. If most of these are true, the account most probably is not legitimate. You can also find these users in the followers’ list of genuine creators, but they should not be in a considerable number. If the number is significantly high, you will end up wasting time and resources if you plan to engage with them.
To ensure your brand is always in a safe environment, marketers should collaborate with influencers who are the right fit for their product, and their followers form the part of its target audience. This way, brands can reach out to potential customers to achieve the desired results while keeping solid control over the brand guidelines. The tips mentioned above will surely go a long way for marketers to identify the right influencers for their brand campaigns.