As marketers ramp up spend on influencers and scale their dedicated influencer marketing teams, one pitfall outweighs the appeal of an influencer-enabled strategy: influencer fraud, namely fake followers, likes and comments. According to a new report from HypeAuditor, the issue still looms large, as its findings reveal 22.23 percent of Instagram influencer followers are suspicious accounts.
While there are ways to mitigate influencer fraud, marketers are still falling prey to inflated audiences and fake comments. In fact, 63 percent of marketers have personal experiences with influencer marketing fraud in their past campaigns, according to HypeAuditor’s 2019 Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report, which was updated in June of this year.
Notwithstanding the rise of micro-influencers, it’s standard for brands that work with macro-influencers to compensate them based on their number of followers and engagement rate per post. Yet many resort to shady tactics as a way to grow their audiences overnight. As HypeAuditor’s report shows, half of the comments on influencer content are inauthentic.
Influencers can inflate their stats in a myriad of ways including buying followers, likes, comments and stories views, as well as bulk following and unfollowing—a popular trick to get new followers—and joining comment pods, which involve a group of influencers who agree to engage with each other’s content on a frequent basis.
Wasted spend is the result of influencer fraud. The steps marketers can take to ensure influencers don’t dupe them include analyzing the influencer’s list of followers to detect fake accounts, doing a deep-dive on accounts and comments of the followers who engaged with your influencer and looking for mass growth within a concentrated period of time.
As long as influencers are around, the issue of influencer fraud will remain, but as a solution, smart marketers will know to look for red flags before inking a deal with a bad apple. Ways to streamline the process of influencer fraud detection include working with external partners to help verify influencers and partnering with your data and analytics team to establish an internal vetting process–one that continues to verify your influencer’s activity well throughout the campaign.
The larger the influencer’s following, the higher the chances their engagement is inauthentic. Half of micro-influencers, those who have between 1,000 and 5,000 followers, are fraud-free, according to HypeAuditor. Whereas influencers with over 1 million followers and influencers between 20,000 and 100,000 showed the lowest authenticity rate.
However, mega influencers aren’t always responsible for their inauthentic post engagement. HypeAuditor has found that sometimes it’s the result of spammers who use influencers’ posts to generate millions of views. Spammers do this by posting a comment on a mega influencer’s post and then utilizing bots to rack up hundreds of fake likes on the comment. In turn, the comment becomes the first thing a user sees when looking at the mega influencer’s post.
The prevalence of these bots is something Instagram has been tackling since 2016 when the platform launched a feature that enables users to create filters for blocking content containing certain words. A year later in 2017, Instagram developed a filter that blocks certain offensive comments on posts and in Instagram live sessions. Then came Instagram’s “Restrict” feature. Once you restrict someone, comments on your post from that user will only be visible to that user.
More recently, as part of National Bullying Prevention Month, Instagram announced two new features to reduce negative interactions in comments. One of those features automatically hides comments similar to others that have been reported. Users can view these hidden comments if they wish but Instagram says comments that violate its community guidelines will continue to be automatically removed.
The second feature includes the expansion of Instagram’s comment warning to include an additional warning when users repeatedly attempt to post potentially offensive comments. Instagram says it just started testing this feature in select languages.