If you’re a brand looking to gain traction or improve online sales you’ve probably thought about putting some of your ad dollars into influencer marketing, a new multi-billion dollar industry that has popped up in the last few years with the rise of social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. An influencer is someone with a social following of over 10k who can subtly influence their followers to buy the products they’re using, wearing or even eating.
Even if you have no idea what we’re talking about, chances are that you’ve come across a #sponsored post or an #ad on Instagram. Yup, those posts were all in some way paid for (or sponsored) by brands trying to market their products, and influencers are the new medium for reaching people effectively.
Recently an article by Mediakix was published that claimed that anyone can become an Instagram “influencer” for $300 or less by buying fake followers, likes and comments. Their amazing experiment showed that by spending just $300 they could create a big enough account to be offered paid work by several unsuspecting businesses. Needless to say the experiment went viral and is correct in pointing out the potential for fake influencers to do real damage to the industry as a whole.
The experiment cast huge doubt on the practicality and authenticity of influencer marketing and as a result of these abusers, companies will inevitably end up being pickier about who they’re working with. Nobody wants to waste thousands of dollars on a post only to have it reach a bunch of bots or fake accounts, right?
“it might be easy to fake influence, but it’s just as easy to foil if you have the right tools”
While it’s a shame that there are those out there that are willing to deceive brands by inflating their numbers, we’ve discovered that their games are fairly see-through if you know what you’re looking for; it might be easy to fake influence, but it’s just as easy to foil if you have the right tools!
There are some metrics that just can’t be fooled. Armed with the right knowledge, a business should never fall victim to social media scammers.
Fake influencers are generally fairly easy to spot by simply looking at the following criteria:
Fake influencers usually tend to be lazy and impatient. That’s why they bought their following and took shortcuts in the first place instead of actually putting effort into growing their brands, after all. That means they might shell out for fake followers but for whatever reason, stop there, and not purchase likes or comments.
What should you be looking for?
This is the most basic mistake that a fake influencer can make and it doesn’t exactly take a detective to spot these guys a mile off. Fake influencers are accounts whose numbers just make no sense. I’m talking about the people with 50k “followers” getting about 100 likes per photo.
This is the big one. Socialblade is an excellent tool that I use to keep track of my growth and set targets for myself. It’s also a fantastic site for spotting fake influencers. It’s free and it spits out data from the past 30 days in an easy to read chart with numbers of followers, following, and media posted.
What should you be looking for?
A genuine influencer should be gaining followers at a fairly consistent basis. Numbers go up and down depending on how well the photo they posted that day is doing, but for the most part you shouldn’t be seeing any ridiculous highs and lows like the account below. Gained 28,000 followers in one day? I don’t think so (see no.1). And notice that as Instagram sweeps for bots, this person has gone from massive growth to losing followers steadily every day until they chose to buy more followers. Even if these numbers were real, would you want to working with an influencer who was losing 3,000 followers a day (no.2)?
There are thousands of accounts just like this, and as a brand it must be obvious by now that working with someone like this is never going to yield a good return on investment.
When you compare these statistics against an account that’s growing organically, the difference couldn’t be more obvious.
Even the craftiest fake influencer will struggle to get around this kind of damning evidence. Kind of amazing that fake influencers are even a thing when we have tools like this at our fingertips. right?
In the Mediakix article, the author created two ‘fake’ accounts to approach businesses with. If those businesses that were duped had used Socialblade, there’s no way they’d have been fooled. Check out our analysis of @calibeachgirl310 (one of the accounts used):
Somebody please tell me if you think that a spike of 10k followers in less than a week (twice!) on an otherwise downward trending chart is likely to be legitimate? Hmmm….
Fortunately Mediakix was only doing this to make a point, but can you imagine if this was a real scammer? Not having this knowledge could cost a company thousands of dollars, and that’s why it’s so important to understand the ways we can do our homework!
This site is pretty straightforward, although not always very accurate. Simply type in the name of the suspected fake influencer and it will “calculate” the ratio of real to fake followers based on a small sample size of 150 followers. With such a small sample size, it’s easy to see why these results should only be taken seriously in the context of the other tests.
FOHR prides itself on setting a new standard for influencer platforms by demanding transparency and saying no to fake influencers. There is a rigorous screening process before an influencer is declared “authentic” and given a badge on their profile. Check out what a verified profile on FOHR looks like:
This isn’t necessarily a way of catching a fake influencer; but it’s definitely another way to figure out if someone’s real!
This one goes without saying.. if the quality of the content doesn’t stack up against the number of followers or the number of likes… there’s usually something funny going on..
Yes maybe this isn’t exactly travel blog material, but trust is such a huge part of what makes travel blogging and instagramming possible that we couldn’t let this issue go by without saying something.
The social media industry is based on a foundation of integrity and trust. So many businesses we’ve spoken to have already been the victims of scammers looking to make a quick buck, and it reflects so badly on the industry as a whole when stories like this are passed around. Honest Influencers and bloggers that are doing things properly really don’t deserve to lose opportunities because of a few bad eggs, and we realised that perhaps education could be our biggest weapon!
So when we read the article about ‘anyone being able to become a fake media influencer for $300’, it made us sad. Sad because it just doesn’t have to be that way..Social media could be so much more impenetrable for cheats if only the victims could be given the right tools!
It is true that there are people abusing the industry, but there are many, many ways to catch those cheats out. We couldn’t let the industry be tarnished without responding with some of those critical tools we’ve discovered, and we feel like at the very least, we owe this post to the businesses we’ve worked with that’ve been so good to us over the past few years.
To any businesses out there trying to figure this all out, we hope this helps! And to anyone we’ve just outed with these tips…sorry, not sorry 😀
Check out some of our other posts on blogging and making money while traveling!