As influencers have managed to monetize their large followings on social media, a new challenge is rapidly facing many brands as they venture into new forms of marketing - influencer fraud. By some estimates, over 60 million accounts on Facebook alone can be attributed to bots.On Instagram, which nearly 40% of brands and advertisers believe is the most important influencer platform, nearly 50% of sponsored posts and ads contain fake engagements, with bots contributing nearly 40% of comments on these posts on a daily basis. It's not just small brands that fall victim to these scams. Corporations as large as The Ritz-Carlton have been hustled by fake influencers, with their campaign reaches targeting primarily fake followers - to the tune of 72%! With this problem pervading the landscape across brands of all sizes, it's important to prevent potential fraud from the very beginning. Here are five ways brands can filter their influencers to make sure their accounts are genuine:
- Audience Quality: This is the fastest and easiest way to gauge how authentic an influencer is. Smartfluence runs an audience analysis on every influencer on the platform, constantly updating to let you know whether the engagement an account receives is authentic, breaking down followers into various categories. Additionally, we also screen influencers before including them on our platform, making sure only highly authentic accounts make it onto our platform to begin with.
- Engagement Ratios: While likes and comments can be purchased just as easily as followers, the ratio between engagement and followers is very important. Many influencers who purchase fake followers tend to stop at the first level, and don't purchase likes and comments on each of their posts as this becomes a costly endeavor over time. Typically, engagement rates decrease as follower count increases, which is why, past a certain point, engagement ratios alone can't determine whether or not an influencer is authentic. It's important to account for the source of engagements too. Many influencers use like and comment pods, where each influencer in the group likes every member's posts in exchange for having their posts liked back. If a large concentration of likes or comments come from the same group of people, unless they are close friends in real life, chances are that influencer is using a pod of some sort.
- Comments: Typically, when influencers buy comments or use comment pods, the comments tend to be very generic and short. Bots that comment need to have comments that apply to most posts, and as a result leave comments like "nice" or "cool" or some variation of the above. Genuine comments tend to be more thought out and lengthy. Again, this isn't a reliable indicator on its own, but coupled with others, it is a great way of determining authenticity.
- Follower Growth: While some influencers might get lucky and experience viral growth, most authentic follower growth takes a long time, and is very steady if it's organic. Even if influencers cross promote and use each other (or sponsored ads) to grow their accounts, typically the growth tends to follow some sort of pattern as Instagram's algorithm picks it up. If a follower experiences a series of sharp jumps but then returns to a smaller growth rate, chances are they purchased their followers.
- Daily Follower/Following Changes: Going off the follower growth metric, daily follower changes are key in examining audience authenticity. The oldest trick in the book for gaining followers on Instagram is follow/unfollow. Influencers will follow a series of accounts on a daily basis, only to unfollow them the next day, hoping that 10% or more will follow back. The followers who were unfollowed most of the time tend to unfollow the influencer the next day, as these are usually smaller accounts. Additionally, most followers that are purchased tend to unfollow too, as bots get regularly shut down, or the individuals getting paid to follow choose to clean up their pages routinely.
A combination of these five methods are critical when evaluating any influencer. While fraud is on the rise, we believe it is very easy to identify it early enough that these costly engagements can be avoided altogether. Smartfluence allows brands to gain all these insights without any additional work on their end, making it a powerful tool in aiding against fraud in the industry.