Since influencer marketing became a major discipline within marketing and since brands are increasingly using it as a strategy that can provide a high ROI in their campaigns, a large number of frauds and fake influencers have proliferated.
It’s a fact: not all influencers we find on social networks are authentic. In fact, only 40% of active content creators worldwide are free from various forms of fraud such as buying followers, paid comments, etc.
The main reason why brands “fall” into this type of fraud is the lack of knowledge on how to recognize a fake influencer. To avoid this, it is recommended to ask for references about the influencer, research their audience, ask the professional for data and statistics, and use specialized tools to analyze profile data.
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How do these fake influencers operate?
Each case must be different, but there are three techniques that the lowest level ones resort to that we should all be aware of. Other more sophisticated frauds will use other types of tricks that are more difficult to detect.
Automated bots are a type of influencer marketing fraud. These bots are automated programs for “liking,” sharing and commenting. These users usually use them to increase metrics on their own posts, to give the appearance that they have an active community. However, the engagement they provide is not real.
This is perhaps the most used and well-known method, since it has been proven that it is possible to buy followers for very little money. The fraud consists of buying a certain number of followers in order to make a profile look like it has a community with a large number of followers. It is important to keep in mind that profiles with purchased followers do not achieve a good engagement rate. An Instagram profile with 100,000 followers, but with approximately 10-20 likes per post is a clear example of a fake profile.
Engagement groups are people who join groups with the aim of exchanging likes, comments and follows. In this way, they create the illusion of having real interactions, and although they are real people and not bots, such interactions have no real value for the influencer. Let’s remember that what makes an influencer relevant in social networks is their relationship with their community. Using this kind of groups is a trick that, if detected, is a reason to detract credibility to the influencer.
What are the signs that warn me of a possible fraud?
We must take into account some specific signs of each social network that is used. If it is Instagram, pay attention to the quality of the photos, videos and stories. A fake profile will not invest in quality photos, will not maintain a feed with valuable content or use hashtags according to the subject matter.
If it is YouTube, analyze the number of views, the ratio between “likes” and “dislikes” of your videos, as well as the type of comments from your followers.
A video with a large number of views but few comments is likely to lend itself to fraud. These signals are valid in other social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.
Low level of engagement of the account
If in the influencer’s profile there is little relationship between the number of followers and the number of interactions, it sets off the alarm bells. A true influencer relates to his or her audience through interactions, and this is evidenced by likes, comments, reproductions, shared posts, etc.
Although not all followers react or interact with every influencer’s post, the ratio between the number of followers and interaction on the profile account reflects its authenticity. An average interaction ratio for every 1,000 followers would be between 40 and 50 likes or reproductions per post.
Rapid increase of followers.
Building an active community takes time and a real influencer invests effort and resources to grow their presence. Perhaps going viral or having a sudden spike in popularity can boost the speed at which the number of followers grows, but this is not the norm. Fake influencer profiles don’t need to build relationships or grow their accounts with effort, but can experience rapid growth through the purchase of followers. Therefore, accounts that have been created recently but boast a high number of followers are mostly fake profiles.
The audience has nothing in common with the influencer.
The audience of the profile has nothing in common or the influencer is located in an area of the world that has nothing to do with their followers.
For example, an influencer who is from the UK, but has followers mainly in Russia, Nigeria or Saudi Arabia, etc., is almost always a fake account.
What are the consequences?
Influencer fraud has become an important risk factor for brands and companies that want to promote their products or services through influencers.
Falling victim to a fake influencer can have very serious consequences that go beyond economic loss. Hiring a fake influencer can have repercussions on the company’s reputation and damage the trust of its target audience. If the audience learns that the company has joined a fake account, they may doubt the credibility of the products, services and brand.