Fake it until you make it, a phrase that up
until a few months ago would have been the mantra for many aspiring
influencers. However, as the influencer marketing industry continues to grow and
the cost of a single sponsored post easily costing in the tens of thousands of
pounds, the question still remains – how do you know that what you’re getting
in return is genuine?
Research carried out last year by CampaignDeus
found that out of the 700,000 Instagram accounts which it analysed, with
followers ranging from 5K – 5M, as many as 12% had shown signs of buying fake
So as the
cost of influencer marketing is increasing, how can brands be sure that their
budget is being used effectively and delivering the right results? The answer?
Figuring out who is cheating the system and learning how to spot any
influencers that are using or buying fake followers to ensure that your next
campaign reaches real people and not just bots….
So what should you be looking out for?
good news is that many social networking sites have already been cracking down
on the issue – by actively removing anything that it deems as inauthentic. Last
year alone, Twitter purged tens of millions of suspicious accounts, while
Facebook (who also own Instagram) began heavily investing in machine learning
tools that would help them to detect and remove any suspicious account activity.
But despite their best efforts, there are still influencers out there
manipulating the system. Therefore, we’ve outline our top tips on what you need
to look out for when vetting potential influencer partners…
Step 1 – Closely analyse their profile
looking at any influencer profile there are a number of red flags which can pop
up at any time. Firstly, look at the persons engagement rate. If they have a
high number of followers, but little to no post engagement then there is a very
high chance that they have previously bought followers. Secondly, scroll
through the comments of a couple of their posts – this is often where you can
spot any programmed bot interactions. Look for generic comments like ‘nice
feed’ and ‘great shot’ as this will indicate that the interactions are unlikely
to be genuine. Lastly, have a brief scroll through the influencers list of
followers to see if they look like real accounts. If there are lots of accounts
with no profile pictures or unusual usernames, then this could be another red
Step 2 – Stick to the stats
widely known that many of the sites that sell fake followers operate the fake
accounts from places like South America and Eastern Europe. Therefore, before
you agree to work with any influencer you should ask for a direct screenshot of
their follower demographics to verify that their audience is both legit and
relevant to who you want to try and target.
Step 3 – Dig deeper with a third-party site
There are a
number of different apps and programmes that claim to have found the ultimate algorithm
to spotting fake followers. However, the truth is that no one platform has the
answer you’re looking for, but they can occasionally help as part of the wider vetting
process. Social Blade is the preferred platform for most, as it allows you to
track user statistics across Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and more.
Here you can find things like influencer’s engagement rate, their average
number of likes and comments and most importantly their daily followers and
following. It’s here that you are looking for any unusual spikes in new
followers or lots of following and unfollowing. The latter strategy often
involves following hundreds of new accounts one day and then once they have
followed you back, quickly unfollowing them to leave themselves with a higher
number of followers. While this technically doesn’t count as buying followers,
it is a way for influencers to manipulate the algorithm and inflate their
stats, which again could indicate that you should approach with caution.
Step 4 – Look for external mentions
painstakingly obvious, a simple Google search of any authentic and
well-respected influencer should produce a series of valuable external
mentions. Look for published articles or interviews with the influencer to get
a feel for their online credibility and history of past collaborations.
Step 5 – Trust your instincts
often get a feel for when something isn’t right, so always trust your instinct
when it comes to working with influencers. Until an industry wide solution
emerges, vetting influencers will rely on brands and agencies being able to
closely understand and manage their relationships with social media stars.
Therefore, if you’re unsure about anyone and have a inkling that they are up to
no good, then keep searching until you find someone that perfectly connects
with your brand.