Are You for Real?: The Danger of Fake Influencers

Think about it…what are the good fake things in life? Fake nails? Sure, they can look good. Fake ID? Hopefully you don’t currently have one, but they were nice when you needed it.  Fake news? Don’t think anyone digs that. So, how does it feel when you are committed to an influencer marketing campaign—both financially and creatively and it turns out a major portion (either influencers or followers) were fake? You don’t even want to know. Here are a few stories to scare you and more importantly, ways to avoid getting duped.

Horror Stories

When it comes to luxury, one name that comes to mind is Ritz Carlton. Service and quality are their top priorities and their customers always expect it. Ritz Carlton expected the best from their influencer marketing campaign, but what they got was fleabag motel status. According to analytics from Points North, an influencer marketing analytics group, an astounding 78% of the Instagram “followers” of the influencers Ritz Carlton hired were fake. And they aren’t alone. Giant brands like Proctor & Gamble and Neiman Marcus fell victim to the same situation. What exactly does that mean? Well, the era of the social bots is upon us, and it’s no joke.

In a shocking expose, the New York Times published this report that found that as many as 48 million Twitter accounts—almost 15% of total users—were automated to resemble actual people. Facebook has subtly admitted to similar numbers of bots on their platform also. So, yes, this amounts to fraud, and a lot of well-intentioned money down the drain.

This however, is no reason to abandon your entire marketing strategy nor to distrust all influencers. To be fair, many of these content creators have an enormous number of followers on multiple platforms. One popular post can result in hundreds or even thousands of new likes, follows and shares. Just as vetting new team members can be a thorough and laborious process for you, the same applies to vetting influencers. Do some go out and “buy” bots to increase their reach? Most certainly. And that falls squarely under the fraud umbrella. But the value that honest influencers can provide should far outweigh the concern over dishonest ones.

Do Your Homework

These influencers are savvy, smart and discerning. If they can’t spot fake followers, how on earth should you be expected to? It’s a challenge, to be sure, and one that could take up valuable time and resources. One way is to hire the experts…they have powerful software and teams dedicated to vetting influencers and their followers. If you’re more of a DIY person, there are a few basic steps you can take to try to spot a bot.

  • Odd/incorrect/foreign language: Creating bots overseas is big business, and most have at least a basic grasp on English language and grammar. Plus, many real followers make occasional spelling and punctuation errors. That said, strange capitalizations, incorrect tenses, and generally awkward phrasing should be a red flag.
  • Single followers saying the same thing across many accounts: They might be careful, but need to be prolific. Slapping the same phrase/comment on many comment threads is a good indicator of automated activity.
  • Generic or default uploaded profile pics: Many bots don’t even have a profile pic…or sometimes use stock photos, or even celebrity shots.
  • Social activity: Poke around any given follower’s activity. If they don’t have evidence of regular social engagement, and are always on various brand/ad pages, you might have a bot on your hands…

Now, any actual user could do these things…but any combination makes it more likely. Want another way to reduce the likelihood of bot followers? Consider using micro-influencers. These content creators typically have a smaller reach, which makes it more likely that they have engaged and loyal audiences. Not only can you trust these people in terms of authenticity, but they also have a much better connection with their followers…bots would stick out like a sore thumb. If you want a more secure relationship with an audience that can truly resonate with your brand, think smaller and mightier.

Thoughts on bots? What would you do to prevent this from happening? Let us know your ideas below!

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