By Raja Anjana Kothapalli
The digital marketing world is powered by influencers who, as their name suggests, influence the behaviour and choices of people who follow them. But, do you realize how easy it is for these sometimes so-called influencers to manipulate and advertise substandard products or services? Much more when they exist in a digital environment. These fake influencers are much prevalent on Instagram and many have fallen prey to their tactics. Read on to find out who they are and why it becomes essential to identify them.
Are Influencers Fake?
It is a common misconception held by novices of influencer marketing. Not all influencers are fake. In fact, the majority of them are good influencers. They create engaging content and share a good rapport with their followers. But with the rise of fake influencers, both the public and brands, need to be cautious.
The public should watch who they follow on social media and how they seek their opinion leaders. Brands have to conduct thorough due diligence before hiring influencers. If not the resultant repercussions will affect the goodwill of the brand.
The above image shows that influencer marketing is a happening marketing trend. Authentic influencers are a valuable addition to social media promotional campaigns. They boost the ROI for brands. So it is a must to know who are fake influencers and how to identify them.
Who Are Fake Influencers?
Fake influencer profiles appear like real influencers. They post high-quality content like real influencers. But the main contrast between them is their follower base. Unlike real influencers, fake influencers do not grow in an organic manner. Their followers extensively comprise fake accounts. Created by bots the profiles of these fake followers only generate false engagement. Many brands fall prey to these fake influencers and lose millions. Fake influencers cost the brands not only ROI but time and goodwill.
Are you aware that there are several companies profiting by selling fake followers?
This might appear as a quick and easy way to build a huge follower base. But in the long run, it only means despite having a great many followers you deliver no ROI for your partner brands. As a result, brands stop hiring you. So if you are an influencer aiming to increase followers, it is best to grow via content and engagement.
The Rise Of Fake Influencers
With an exponential rise in usage of smartphones and social media, influencers emerged. The number of social media influencers is seeing rapid growth. As a result influencer marketing started gaining popularity in the last few years. The brands are allocating a good part of their budget to influencer marketing. Fake Instagram influencers devise ways to ‘look’ like real ones. Thus, these brands need to carefully dive into influencer marketing. TapInfluence reports, ‘ROI of influencer marketing is 11 times of traditional advertising’. Current market trends suggest that brands are shifting away from mega and macro-influencers. They are focusing more on micro and nano influencers due to their high reach and engagement. Read this, to know more about micro and nano influencers.
The rise of influence marketing, in turn, led to the rise of fake influencers. Fake influencers give zero ROI and affect the goodwill of a brand. With the rise of fake influencers, many advanced tools are emerging. These tools help brands identify reliable and relevant influencers. Also, there are many influencer networking companies. These companies act as a point of contact for brands to hire the right influencers. One of the many offerings on Hobo Video is to provide a network of micro and nano influencers to partner brands.
How Influencers Fake Influence?
Influencers fake influence in many ways. Few of which are listed below.
1. Influencers And Fake Followers
The most prominent is through fake followers. Fake influencers often tend to buy fake followers. It gives a false appearance of a huge follower base as discussed above. On Instagram, many fake influencer profiles stats look like this:
Until and unless it’s a very famous personality or a verified account, these stats often represent false information.
2. By Forming Alliances
They also form alliances to create an illusion of active engagement by liking each others’ posts. This only results in skewed campaign analytics and loss of time. Influencer Engagement Pods is an example of such practice. Automated Engagement Pods, mainly for Instagram, operated by bots are increasing in recent days.
3. Influencers Promoting Fake Products
In many instances, well-known influencers are promoting fake products. They are either unaware or turning a blind eye. As a result, many influencers have promoted counterfeit products to millions of their followers. You can see fake products being sold all over Instagram by ‘lifestyle” influencers.
4. Through Fake Content
One more way is to post fake content such as phony photographs. Many fake influencers use photo-editing software to post modified pictures showcasing false aura.
5. Fake Influencers- CGI
Another way is through CGI influencers. They are trendy and drive good engagement. But also not real and lag in authenticity. However, they are gaining a lot of attention and becoming very popular. Top brands are using CGI influencers to increase engagement and create excitement.
More About CGI Influencers
CGI influencers are designed using computer-generated imagery. Their social media accounts are owned by their creators. Creators can be individuals, companies, intermediate agencies, or brands. CGI influencers act like real influencers posting photos and videos of their life. For the past few years, CGI influencers are creating hype and becoming trendy. Top CGI influencers generate good engagement from their followers. But around 40% of people who follow CGI influencers are unaware that they are not real.
One of the main setbacks of CGI influencers is the difficulty to distinguish between real and CGI influencers. However, they have many uses such as adaptability, excitement, and brand safety. They can be molded by the creator to match the promotional capacity of brands. CGI models showcased as humans exhibiting all emotions leads to excitement among people.
Lil Miquela is currently the most leading CGI influencer. Created in 2016, she is a teenage CGI influencer from California. In 2017, she launched her music career released several singles and a collaboration. As of January 2020, she has 2.9 million followers on Instagram, 1.2 million on Facebook, and 27K followers on Twitter. She worked with well-known brands such as Calvin Klein, Prada, Barneys, Ugg, and Outdoor Voices. Her creators ensure to give her a social life, work-life, personal opinions, political opinions, relationship, etc. Other popular CGI influencers include Bermuda, Blawko, Shudu, Lil Wavi, and Imma.
How To Spot Fake Influencers?
Now that you understand who are fake influencers, let’s look into the most important question. How to identify fake influencers? As a brand or follower, you do not want to waste your time or money by associating with fake influencers. You have to be aware of how to identify reliable and relevant influencers. But you also have to be aware of how to check fake influencers, especially on Instagram, which boasts of the most influencer driven social network. Moreover, you can read more about to cross check the qualities you should look for in the influencer you choose here.
Yes, brands must find the right influencers for their campaigns. If you know what to look for, it is much easier to identify fake influencers. Here are six ways to spot fake influencers according to Hobo Video.
1. Engagement Rate
An influencer’s engagement with followers can be measured using the engagement rate. It is the percentage of followers that have engaged with the influencer’s content. These engagements include online interactions such as likes, comments, and shares. It is calculated as the total number of interactions generated by the content of an influencer divided by the total number of followers of that influencer, multiplied by 100.
Usually, on Instagram, less than 1% represents low engagement. 1 to 2% represents medium, and 3 to 4% indicates high engagement. 5% or more represents very high engagement. To avoid hiring fake Instagram influencers, it is better if brands practice avoiding influencers with Instagram engagement rates lesser than 1%.
Checking the engagement rate is one of the easiest methods to identify fake influencers. Fake influencers in general have a huge number of followers but barely any interactions. If you notice such a trend on any profiles, then it means that they are buying followers. You can use influencer automation tools such as Kicksta, Agorapulse, or Upleap to generate engagement metrics.
2. Quality Of Engagement
Fake influencers buy not only followers but also likes and comments. Few smarter bots tend to respond with relevant comments. Though such comments fall under engagement, they bring zero value to the brand’s campaign. It is easy to identify such interactions as they are generic comments like ‘good’, ‘awesome’, or ‘lovely pic’, that can fit every kind of post.
The responses can also be irrelevant emoji-only comments. Going through the comments is one way to double-check the quality of engagement. Authentic influencers also receive generic and emoji-only comments. Besides these responses, there will be a healthy mix of relevant responses. Some comments always originate from the same group of people. Often such interactions mean that the said influencer is part of an engagement pod. This pattern coupled with a low engagement rate often means a fake influencer.
In addition to bot-generated generic comments, another way to check fake influencers is to look for irrelevant and spam comments. In some cases, they can just be irritating ‘check out our product’ or ‘follow me for a follow’ comments. But sometimes these spam comments can be a URL with a computer virus, identity scam links, or cyberbullying. But any social media profile is susceptible to such spam comments. So a few such comments on the profile do not imply that it is a fake account. However, be cautious in case of an unusual number of spam comments. You are sure to come across such fake and spam comments on Instagram posts which have over a few hundred thousand comments.
3. Influencer Account Stats
Follower count: Authentic influencers will have more followers than the number of accounts they follow. That too with an ample margin. Outlier influencer profiles excluding newbies serve as an indicator to check fake influencers.
New accounts with an unusually huge follower base: Find newer accounts that have an unusually high number of followers to check fake influencers. beware, it is a sign of a fake influencer.
Few posts but gigantic follower base: The authentic influencers cannot have more than 10K followers with only 10 posts unless they are celebrities.
Followers profiles: One way to find fake influencers is to check for followers with no posts. Other ways are checking for followers with spammy usernames, huge private account followers, etc. Sometimes a follower with no profile picture is also an indicator.
Sudden spikes in the follower count/ engagement: These sudden spikes are also an indicator to identify fake influencers. These spikes are mainly the result of fake influencers buying bot accounts as followers. Such frequent bouts of sudden spikes are absent in the case of authentic influencers.
Content consistency: Looking for consistency in the content helps to identify fake influencers. Generally, active influencers post at least once every day. Sometimes there is a heavy activity on an influencer profile followed immediately by no activity. This can be an indication to check fake influencers.
A steady decline followed by no major rise in follower count: The majority of authentic influencers have a steady follower growth. Fake influencers tend to have steady declines followed by no significant increases in their follower count. This scenario mostly indicates that these fake influencers bought followers a long time back and currently cannot afford to buy more followers.
4. Screening Process For Fake Ones
After trying the basic ways to spot fake influencers, a screening of followers will validate the profile authenticity. Potential influencers have to be further screened through various filters. The screening should be relevant to a specific brand’s campaign. Some of the most often used filters include gender, age, location, language, OS, interest, engagement type, and custom audience to identify and screen them.
Brands can partner with companies offering reliable influencer networks to authentic influencers. Hobo Video is one of its kind social e-commerce platform driven by short videos. Hobo Video has a specialist team that is dedicated to onboard trusted brands. One of the many services offered by Hobo Video is to provide brands with an authentic network of micro and nano influencers. Whenever a partner brand needs influencers for its campaigns, Hobo Video’s machine learning algorithm helps shortlist relevant influencers.
5. Asking For References
When a company is hiring, it is a common practice to ask for references from previous employers. The same tactic can be used to identify fake influencers. The brands can ask potential influencers for references from their previous brand collaborations. Brands can also ask about the ROI on previous collaborations. This helps to observe the influencers’ ability to deliver results. And many fake Instagram influencers might be hesistant and reluctant to provide you with the stats.
Observing these references can help the brands to make a decision. Whether their product is compatible with the content and followers of an influencer. When references are competitors of the brand, altering follower engagement will be hard. Also, promoting anything and everything is the strategy used by many fake influencers. This clouds genuine engagement and appears to be a forced promotion. It reduces the ROI and affects the goodwill of brands.
Sometimes, it is possible to forecast and forestall probable influencer fatigue by asking for references. It gives information on the previous brand collaborations which helps avoid influencer fatigue. Influencer fatigue is a phenomenon when social media users get very tired of repetitive influencer content.
6. Activity On Other Platforms
In their initial days, influencers usually focus on one social media platform. But as they grow organically increasing their followers, followers start turning into fans. These fans begin seeking their favorite influencers on other social media platforms. As a result, the influencers become active on several platforms. This in turn leads the fans to value the influence more. Fans look up to the influencers for information and inspiration. This transforms influencers into strong opinion leaders.
Therefore, authentic social media influencers often have visibility across different social media platforms. Newbie and budding influencers being an exemption. For example, Amanda Cerny is a leading social media influencer. She has a presence on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. At present, Instagram is the most favored social media platform for influencer marketing.
When an influencer is active on one social media platform and almost nonexistent on others, brands need to be wary. This can be a sign to spot fake influencers. It can mean that these influencers didn’t grow organically. Instead, they might have bought followers and/or engagement. Identifying fake influencers whether it is on Instagram or Twitter, or any other platform should be a top priority for brands to maintain their authenticity. This can be one reason why brands hesitate in approaching influencers. Since influencers can drive marketing trends to a larger audience, it is worthwhile to make sure you choose the right influencer for the job.
Hope this article helped you to understand who are fake influencers and how to identify them easily. Use these tips while hiring influencers for your next campaign. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.