Ever tempted to emulate the life of a complete stranger because you fancied the clothes they wore or wanted their blemish-free skin and silky hair? Well, you’re not alone. Instagram influencers have successfully managed to captivate the attention of masses of adoring audiences – and this is making brands sit up and pay attention.
As of recently, marketers have been turning to these 20-something social media content creators who reign supreme on social media (usually Instagram) to help promote their products and business. Marketers attempting to talk to teens and young adults who have lived their entire lives on social media often go down the route of these semi-famous digital natives who hold a seemingly magnetic grasp over their juvenile audiences.
Naturally, brands seem to prefer influencers who have leverage over thousands, if not millions of content-hungry subscribers. After all – numbers are a consideration for any business worth their salt. Thus, marketers go where the masses are, and subsequently offer said influencer rewards such as partnerships, endorsements and sought-after collabs. The flipside? Certain influencers have resorted to taking shortcuts to success, and have managed to fool brands into believing that they are worth more.
With speedy deadlines and angsty clients to satisfy, brands may not always have the most foolproof vetting system in place – invariable allowing for more than a few unscrupulous social media fame-seekers to weasel their way in. Want to protect your brand’s reputation? Here’s how you spot the fake ones.
Working with an influencer who has recently enjoyed a massive upswing in follower count without having actually done anything to warrant for their instant Internet stardom? Hint: It was nothing to do with their individual actions and everything to do with the amount of money they may or may not have doled out in order to “earn” more followers. Sounds unethical, right?
Thank goodness for social media tracking tools which let businesses check if influencers have legitimate followers or not. If a particular influencer reports a sudden, massive spike in followers without having done anything major, such as collaborating with a new brand or putting out popular content, it’s likely that bot accounts were purchased in a bid to inflate numbers. Fake influencers also employ the “follow-unfollow” tactic, where they follow people and immediately unfollow them once the other person has followed back.
Quality of comments
Scroll through the comments section, and see how people engage with the influencer. Generally, comment sections for popular influencers and celebrities consist of people directly asking them questions, tagging their friends, or leaving some sort of feedback related to the post or content.
However, if the comments comprise mostly of generalised compliments – “wow”, “keep it up”, “good job”, it’s probably spam posted by bot account. Other telltale signs of bot activity include the uninhibited use of emojis, or comments by users begging for likes and follows from other people. [If they ask you to click on a link, you should not do so as you may be redirected to a compromised website.]
The “magic number” which brands look out for when engaging with influencers, engagement rates are determined by a host of factors pertaining to type, timing and frequency of posts created by influencers. While exact figures are a well-kept secret by brands, the industry average seems to be between 1-3%.
If an influencer with a massive following (in the tens of thousands or more), end up attracting a paltry sum of like (between 20 and 50) per post or has an engagement rate lower than the aforementioned figure, be rest assured that their followers consist heavily of bots.
For exact figures, tools such as SocialBlade will automatically generate a report card detailing an influencer’s overall ranking, grade, and engagement rates. For more extensive campaigns, brands can also consider tools like Meltwater’s* Social Influencer discovery tool that has more in-depth analytics tools that break down an account’s demographics, interests and other metrics.
Quality of followers
Want to know more about the type of audience the influencer in question attracts? Just study the quality of their followers. While some accounts may be more challenging than others, you can tell right off the bat, if an account is fake. The tell-tale signs include random strings of letters and numbers as account names, hardly any followers, or stock images for profile pictures. Accounts like these be can be bought by the thousands, so if an influencer’s following is impressive, but consists mostly of these types of accounts, they’re probably not the real deal.
Influencers are usually active across other social media platforms, apart from the one they use regularly. Additionally, if they are experts in their field of work, chances are, they would have been featured in the media. Genuine content creators usually collaborate with other people, be it another influencer or brand. Look out for any public events they might attend, such as launch parties, interviews or television show talks. If these “influencers” are virtually ghosts outside of Instagram, alarm bells should be sounding off in your head!
By following these guidelines, you should be able to determine if an influencer is legitimate or not. Fingers crossed the ones you have shortlisted are, and that you get to work with them!
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*Disclaimer – Meltwater is a client of Mutant Communications, but this blog is not sponsored by them