Influencer marketing is here to stay, regardless of travel and in-person events. Influencers provide a trustworthy connection with their fans, which brands can use to foster better connections with their audience. With the rise of YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, ways to trick the system have emerged on the side. Buying fake followers and likes to boost one’s optics as an influencer have previously plagued the space, and can result in poorly executed and unproductive campaigns. But is influencer fraud as big of an issue in 2020? As brands and influencers look prioritize authenticity and genuine connection, the answer lies in the data.
Is Influencer Fraud on the Rise?
In recent years, reports of purchased followers, bot accounts, and various other transparency issues have been on the rise. In 2019, the calculations showed that fraudulent operations cost big brands such as Samsung, Diageo, L’oreal, and eBay, an estimated 1.3 billion dollars. Eliminating influencer fraud isn’t as simple as vetting influencers better. While Twitter and Instagram have deactivated millions of accounts, this is merely a temporary solution to a problem. And so far, it hasn’t changed much in 2020. Companies selling fake likes and followers keep coming up with new tactics to circumvent social media platforms’ security. As such, the mechanism of registering fake followers and distributing likes is hard to trace and differentiate from actual users.
Innovation on the fake followers’ side matches innovation on the side of the social platforms – so what can brands do? Moving away from vanity metrics and focusing on why influencer marketing was impactful in the first place offer helpful places to start.
How to Protect Yourself From Influencer Fraud
1. Look Beyond Vanity Metrics
Likes, follows and subscribers can be good indicators of an influencer’s success, but ultimately, these are vanity metrics. As many social media platforms focus on the discoverability of content and craft algorithms that make followers irrelevant, finding influencers who have proven results and proven content will help return the best investment. Using influencer marketing platforms to determine engagement rate and track the previous success of an influencer will come in handy when discovering new influencers and deciding if the ROI exists to reengage an influencer you’ve already worked with.
Another example of ways brands can track influencers better is by creating custom pages to showcase influencer content on their website. One brand doing this is Kira Grace, which highlights all the influencers and ambassadors on their own page to drive traffic to. This helps them evaluate the success of their influencers easily.
2. Check the Authenticity of an Influencer
How does one actually measure authenticity? A simple place to start is by determining if the products and messages they’re already promoting are realistic and relatable. A fitness influencer who has dedicated their entire life and brand to fitness likely didn’t arrive there by using a diet supplement for two weeks. Additionally, brands should look to see if the influencers have been working with other brands to determine how promotional and product-driven the influencer is. Too many products can make the endorsement seem less valuable.
Authenticity is critical in influencer marketing. As it turns out, customers connect with relatable and realistic people who look like them. Prioritizing influencers who reflect your actual customer base proves successful for many brands. One great way to do this is to evaluate your existing customers as influencers, as they’re the most authentic fans of your brand.
3. Work With Micro and Nano Influencers
Macro influencers start to lose their authenticity. Small scale influencers are known to bring in great results, which may be because micro-influencers (10-50K followers) are more niche-friendly than stars with millions of fans. Micro-influencers are often more relatable to regular people than high risers. This can be seen as an advantage if a marketing campaign is to be used on a specifically targeted audience, rather than risking broad strokes with megastars who have gathered a wide variety of followers. Having loyal followers can bring a much better influencer ROI (return on investment) than taking risks merely because of the popularity of a given star. This should always be traced by asking influencers for data that shows user engagement regarding a specific campaign.
Influencer fraud might not be leaving anytime soon, but brands can be smarter about their influencer strategy to get ahead of fraudulent activities. Looking to your actual customers and tools to evaluate deeper metrics for influencer success will prove successful in the future.
Thomas Glare is a marketing and tech enthusiast from Yorkshire, UK. His first marketing projects were for a German online-casinos. He has worked in the online marketing industry for over a decade and publishes weekly articles on the media world’s newest trends. These can be found on his social media and on various online publications, read by thousands of his followers worldwide.