Here's how organizations can avoid influencer fraud. Source: Shutterstock

Here’s how organizations can avoid influencer fraud. Source: Shutterstock

How marketers can avoid influencer fraud

LAST WEEK, a study claimed that 47 percent of influencers in Singapore were fraudulent. To say that almost half of the country’s influencers either buy followers or engagement or use comment pods is a huge claim – and one you may be tempted to take with a pinch of salt when you realize the source, HypeAuditor is a business that detects influencer fraud.

But that’s not to say this is an isolated incident. A couple of months ago it was also reported that influencer marketing fraud would cost sponsors US$1.3billion this year.

The waste is attributed to social creators with inauthentic audiences. Brands pouring their marketing funds into mismanaged influencer collaborations which are broadcast to bot accounts, rather than receptive, engaged social audiences.

For anyone close to the influencer marketing industry, fake followers are old news. Unfortunately, with large social audiences, they come with the territory.

Respectable influencers will regularly and ruthlessly delete the hangers-on, knowing what a negative impact these inactive followers can have on the performance of their posts and their reputation.

Manually checking new followers and gauging their authenticity is necessary admin for a social content creator – and the only way to keep the value in their followings.

However some influencers still intentionally buy bots to enhance their follower count. It’s something that Instagram and influencer marketing platforms, like Vamp, have been cracking down on for years. To safeguard against it, we have worked hard to secure superior Facebook and Instagram insights, ensuring our data is accurate.

At its best, influencer marketing can achieve a phenomenal return on investment. At its worst, it can waste valuable marketing dollars. To ensure yours are being spent the right way, marketers must priorities authenticity in their strategies, engage a reputable platform – and follow these golden rules.

Look beyond reach 

The practice of buying fake followers came from brands’ obsession with reach. The bigger audience an influencer had, the higher fees they could demand. Attempts to ‘game the system’ were made by those wanting a shortcut to big brand endorsement deals.

It was a flawed plan. As marketers realized engagement (likes and comments) was more valuable than reach, influencers noticed that high volumes of silent and inactive followers were, in fact, causing their engagement rates to plummet. Fake followers can’t mimic the same engagement as a loyal and genuine following. They can’t swipe up to buy.

When marketers make considered choices and don’t simply choose the influencer with the highest following, they stop fuelling the fraudulent system. They are also able to discover the many creative, professional and authentic influencers out there that can deliver results. Not just the wannabes with falsely inflated followings.

Once you begin to focus on relevancy it’s no longer about how many people see the posts, but rather how many of the right people see the posts. That’s when you’ll see solid ROI and sales uplift.

Prioritize quality

While likes and followers can be bought, there are no shortcuts when it comes to quality content creation. The best influencers have honed their skills in photography, videography, styling, illustration and makeup artistry over years of practice. These are the social collaborators you should be seeking.

Choosing the quality of content over quantity of followers doesn’t only safeguard against fraud, it helps your campaign perform better.

The Instagram algorithm identifies content that people spend time looking at and interacting with and shows it to more people.

With the social space becoming more crowded and competitive, average content simply won’t cut it. To stand out and engage your customers, you need branded content that makes a real impact. Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes high-quality content and so should you.

Embrace hidden likes

Instagram’s ongoing trial to hide likes from public view has caused a stir in the press, with marketers concerned it would hurt their campaign efforts. While it’s only being tested in a selected number of countries, for now, I believe it will actually make for a more authentic practice.

Firstly, it will force agencies and campaigns that have pinned their success on empty vanity metrics, such as likes, to up their game. Visible engagement should not be used to justify an influencer campaign. Let’s look at the real, transparent return on investment.

I think it will also place a renewed focus on quality and individuality. Creators will no longer feel constrained by pressure to chase likes and will be free to make content that feels more authentic.

Content that’s braver and doesn’t follow a tried and tested aesthetic. This renaissance in creativity is likely to spark a surge in engagement across the board. Weary social users – increasingly feeling as if they have seen it all before – crave this authenticity. They want to see something new.

Keeping it clean

Brand ambassadors have been – and will always be – an effective marketing tactic. Data has allowed us to become adept in spotting fraudulent accounts. But to preserve the power of the channel, all parties involved must uphold their responsibility to keep the industry clean.

Just as influencers monitor their followings, brands must be just as diligent with their choice of partners. Do your background checks. Make sure that their engagement rate correlates with their following, or enlist the help of a platform.

With more conversion functions from Instagram – like shoppable tags and ‘swipe up to buy’ –  the potential for influencer marketing is huge. Prioritize authenticity, practice due diligence and you can be sure your efforts will be rewarded.