Today’s consumers are a skeptical group. Gone are the days where a marketing team could run an expensive advertising campaign in a magazine and expect easy sales; instead, today’s shopper relies on the opinions of family, friends, and personal heroes.
Enter the rise of the influencer: influencer marketing utilises an individual’s personality and often cult-like following to draw consumers’ attention to certain products. At the moment, it seems to be working. According to one study, some 31 percent of respondents had purchased a product or service after seeing it in an influencer’s post on social media.
Like all things, however, influencer marketing also has its own set of shortcomings and risks. Influencer fraud is one of them, and has tricked countless brands into working with users with an inflated, or even non-existent, influence over an online audience. Even savvy brands can fall into this trap, with fake influencers often posting high-quality images not much different from those of a real influencer. Working with a fake influencer, however, can be hugely damaging- to both a brand’s image and its bottom line.
Here’s how to spot an influencer fraud.
Unusual follower-to-engagement ratio
Bots and fake accounts typically make up the majority of a fake influencer’s following, which means they typically have a low engagement rate for their high follower count. They may have bought thousands of fake followers, but that isn’t translating into actual engagement with their content.
One way to calculate engagement is to divide the number of engagements within the last 30 days by the total number of posts in that time. Then, divide this amount by the total number of followers, and calculate this as a percentage to determine a user’s actual engagement rate.
Assess engagement quality
Some fake influencers will have gone as far as to buy fake engagement, or participate in so-called “engagement pods” to raise their engagement rate. Many fake influencers, then, will pass the first test.
Analyzing the quality of engagement, then, is just as important. Comments like “amazing pic” or mere emojis can be a sign of bought engagement, since they don’t mention anything specific about the content. There is every chance they are comments made by bots.
Be sceptical of sudden follower count spikes
Another good sign of a fake influencer is a sudden spike in their follower count, as this spike more than likely came from a group of bot accounts. Authentic influencers, on the other hand, typically experience a steady increase in followers with minor spikes every so often.
Tools like the Creator Statistics Tool are great for analyzing the follower growth rate of user, or you can choose to keep your eye on a prospective influencer for some time before reaching out for a partnership deal.
For small businesses and startups with limited resources, partnering with a fake influencer can have a devastating impact on early growth. It is essential, then, that brands learn to read the signs, and sift authentic influencers from the rising tide of frauds.
Ronn Torossian is the CEO and founder of 5W Public Relations and leading influencer marketing agency.