influencer marketing | 7 min read

Influencer Marketing: How to Spot the Fakers

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From macro to micro and now nano, influencer marketing is still having its moment. On average 10 to 20 percent of marketing budgets in the UK and the US, are now dedicated to working with influencers. And despite claims the industry is ‘dying’, its projected to be worth $10 billion by 2020.

Influencers bring added value to a campaign by targeting specific audiences. They help to increase brand awareness through creative aesthetic content, humanize a brand with authenticity, increase reach and motivate consumer purchasing decisions. For many industries, especially beauty, fashion and retail, it’s a vital component of the marketing mix and a core strategy of business to consumer brands.

The rise of fake influence

So where's the catch? As the industry grows, so do wide ranging problems around in-authenticity. Last year Unilever, the world’s second largest advertiser, announced their pledge to cut ties with influencers producing untrustworthy metrics. In response, many fashion and beauty brands including Balmain, and more recently SK-II, have turned towards AI and CGI influencers to keep control of their image. Alternatively, it seems other global brands aren’t doing enough to recognize the problem. According to a Points North Group study in 2018, Ritz-Carlton Hotel 78%, Aquaphor 52%, L’Occitane 39% and Pampers 32%, had the highest percentage of fake followers in their influencer’s sponsored Instagram posts, apparently completely unaware of the issue.

It not only reinforces the viability of smaller, more authentic influencers, but also indicates the need for more rigorous influencer vetting processes. Whether you’re a brand or an influencer, you should be creating an auditing checklist. The goal is to determine just how ‘influential’ your influencer really is, before they represent your brand. Do they have good engagement? Does the influencer and their audience align with your brand? And do they have the potential to help you achieve your campaign targets? In this post, we’ll list a short but vital framework of qualitative and quantitative indicators to help you spot the fakers.


Track audience growth

Is the influencer ‘real’? A simple question with no easy answer. When it comes to finding the ‘perfect influencers’, there are thousands of agencies and softwares to choose from, yet fraud and deception still go undetected. How should marketers tackle influencer fraud and how can we measure the real influence of potential partners? Here’s what to do before you sign the dotted line.

Of all the metrics brands look out for, follower count is usually number one. In theory more followers should mean higher engagement as this is what currently dictates the price of an influencer. It’s what spurs the ‘average’ influencer and brands alike, to buy bots and fake their metrics. A marketer can tackle this problem by tracking their follower count activity over time, to identify normal and abnormal patterns in growth. If it’s genuine, you're likely spot a correlation between growth and engagement.

When you come across an influencer with thousands of followers and poor engagement, it won’t take long to weed out deceptive activity, however...deception isn't exclusively ‘digital’. 

Follow their network and interactions

Since Instagram for example, changed their feed from reverse chronological order to an algorithm based model, influencers have felt disadvantaged. The new algorithm displays content from the people a user engages with the most, rather than the newest posts of all the people they follow. In response, influencers have come up with increasingly creative methods to grow their engagement.

One example is ‘Engagement pods’: groups of Instagram users mutually increasing each other's likes and exposure. They’ll find each other through Instagram handles and Facebook groups, making it appear as though it’s organic engagement. Every marketer should do their best to keep up with these latest creative cheats!

One indication of a ‘real influencer’ can be their own network. Look at what other influencers engage with your potential ambassador, if they’ve collaborated, attended the same events, had the same brand partnerships, logical indications that prove this person is reputable. The influencer world is smaller than you think. If other influencers aren’t following or interacting, maybe your brand shouldn’t either.

But news has it, Instagram is changing. B2C’s favourite platform is currently trialing no ‘likes’ where only account holders have visibility of their like count. The aim is for users to view content with less bias, and to tackle the unhealthy obsession with ‘likes’, since studies portray a link to anxiety, lower sleep quality and depression. 

Create an Influencer score card

Create a visual score card of every social platform your potential influencer is using. Look at all major metrics and qualitative observations and refer to it as a risk index to avoid surprises later down the line.

1. Influencer profile: 

- What social media platforms do they use?
- What demographics do they appeal to?
- What topics do they promote (make-up, skin care, clothing, travel, food)?
- What tribes do they appeal to (e.g LGBT+, vegan/ vegetarian, yogies)?

The most important of all metrics is influencer engagement. The rates differ on every platform giving you an indication of what works best where.

2. Rates of engagement:

- Follower count on each platform
- Reach per post/ video/ blog
- Post likes/ reactions per post/ video/ blog
- Average comments per post/ video/ blog
- Average shares
- Average views

3. Digital footprint:

- What brands have they previously mentioned?
- What is the quality of their visual and written content?
- What is the average Sentiment of their post engagements

4. Sensitivity:

- What topics do they discuss (e.g alcohol, politics, nudity, animal rights, religion, science, ethnicity, sexuality, culture, food preferences) and do they align with your brand?
- Which posts have the most negative Sentiment, what topics were covered?

Don’t underestimate manual analysis

It's impossible for marketers to gain accurate metrics without tools and softwares (e.g. the Linkfluence influencer marketing platform). But as we’ve noticed with global brands, it's often not enough when vetting influencers. Find the right balance between software and manual investigation to save the integrity of your campaign and brand.

At Linkfluence we also believe in the power of technology and human expertise. Take a look at our powerful hybrid solution.

AI-powered social data intelligence

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