The global influencer market has skyrocketed, growing from just over $1B in 2017 to $1.6B in 2018 and is expected to reach a whopping $2.4B in 2019.
Brands are also spending more on social media influencers. Between 2017 and 2019, companies are expected to increase spending by around 250 per cent.
But even though influencer marketing budgets are on the rise, not all the money is being well-spent as brands continue to have difficulty in identifying legitimate influencers, often costing them millions of dollars. In fact, a sizeable share of companies’ marketing budgets goes towards so-called fake social media influencers. Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed claimed that an estimate of 40 per cent of businesses have bought fake influencers at some point.
The Rise of Fake Influencers: Who, Where, and How
While buying followers might sound like a pricey and complicated process, it’s actually cheaper and easier than you think. For example, you can use the BuzzDayz website to buy 15,000 Instagram followers with a single click for as little as $55. You can also take building your fake image up a notch and buy fake likes – say, 250 for a mere $2.49.
For a long time, the issue of buying followers and engagements was kept off the record. The owners of fake influencer profiles took advantage of brands’ lack of experience with influencer marketing and tricked them into paid collaboration.
According to research by an anti-fraud company Sway Ops, a single day’s worth of Instagram posts tagged using the hashtags #sponsored or #ad contains over 50 per cent fake interactions. In addition, more than 15 per cent of influencers who sign on to create sponsored content never actually put together a post.
How to Spot Fake Social Media Influencers
Knowing how to identify fake influencers is absolutely essential to make influencer marketing work for your business.
Here are seven proven tips on how to spot fake influencers:
1. Measure the influencer’s engagement volume in relation to their audience size
If an influencer has a large audience, but only few interactions, there’s a chance he or she has fake followers. To be able to evaluate an influencer’s engagement in relation to their audience size, look at their number of interactions per 1,000 followers. This metric will not only help you understand an influencer’s engagement rate, but also easily compare the effectiveness of different influencers.
2. Check the influencer’s strength of interests
To make sure you’re pairing up with a legit influencer that’s the right fit, look into their strength of interests. In other words, check which relevant interests they’re getting the majority of their engagement on.
3. Look into the influencer’s posting consistency
Fake social media influencers will often publish several posts when they’re first setting up their profile to make it look credible. After that, they either publish content at irregular intervals, or stop posting altogether.
Authentic influencers publish content on a regular basis to engage and grow their audience. That’s why the lack of posting consistency on the influencer’s profile is a major red flag showing they’re either unprofessional or fake.
4. Check the influencer’s follower growth over time
Looking at the influencer’s follower growth over time can be very telling. Genuine influencers will have a steady follower growth as they consistently build their audiences over time.
Fake influencers, on the other hand, are characterized by unusual changes in their audience size. They can experience huge follower surges or dips after purchasing a bulk of fake followers or using mass follow apps.
5. See if the influencer engages in conversations with their followers
The main goal of real influencers is building a loyal, engaged community around a shared interest. That’s why they often engage in conversations with their audience and actively reply to questions and comments from their community.
If an influencer stays silent and doesn’t ever respond to their audience, it’s a warning sign showing they might be fake.
6. Make sure the influencer has a Business profile on Instagram
An Instagram Business profile allows influencers to monitor key metrics, such as profile visits and engagement, and present them to brands interested in collaboration.
An influencer who doesn’t have a Business profile on Instagram is unable to prove their effectiveness. It is also likely that they’re trying to hide their poor performance from brands.
7. Research the influencer on Google
There are two things you need to pay attention to when researching the influencer on Google. Firstly, the influencer might not show up in the search results if they’re not famous or followed enough. Secondly, always verify any information about the campaigns the influencer took part in. This is critical, as previous commercial involvement doesn’t rule out the possibility that an influencer is fake.
How to Find Authentic Influencers for Your Business
Analytics allows you to track the influencer’s performance metrics more in-depth. For instance, you can monitor their follower growth, posting frequency, evolution of interactions, sponsored content or most successful posts – all of which will paint a more complete picture of the influencer’s activity and effectiveness.
Last but not least, make sure that the influencer is generating interactions on content around interests that matter to you. This way, you’ll be able to choose your influencer with confidence and know they’re for sure going to be successful with your audiences.
By applying the tactics discussed – such as looking into the influencer’s performance metrics – you will be able to easily spot the fakes, and always collaborate with genuine influencers that will bring tangible results to your business.
Co-written by Marta Buryan, Content Marketing Specialist